Seventy Looks at Seventy

April 15, 2021

As my dear and abiding friend Rick Sigler reminded me in September, “Well, old man, I am now younger than you.” Old man, indeed. He has reminded me of this fleeting fact every year for the past forty years. It is a statement he can make each September because his birthday comes one month later than mine. Otherwise, we are the same age for eleven months of the year. As standing jokes go, it has somehow weathered the ravages of time. But this year is a momentous one for me. I have turned seventy and am engaged in my final year of working for St. Anne’s Episcopal School. Ironically, the school has also reached the ripe old age of seventy as well. Seventy years have come and gone since Sister Irene put into action Mother Noel’s inspiration to start a school. 

When I first walked on the grounds of St. Anne’s on a hot, sunny August day in 1975, I felt I was entering a secret garden filled with roses, grapevines, and majestic trees. It struck me that this was a place imbued with peace and beauty, a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city that surrounded it. The campus and its buildings contrasted vividly with the austere brick buildings where I had attended school in Illinois. My initial interviews with Headmaster Walker and Mother Irene went well, giving me hope that I might be hired as a teacher at St. Anne’s. My dream came true two weeks later when I received a telephone call from Mr. Walker informing me that the school wished to hire me. My first assignment would be to serve as a team teacher working with the fifth- and sixth-grade teachers, Rose Minutolo (later Kelly) and Violet Sondles, and I could not have asked for two better mentors. I learned more from these two ladies than all my education courses combined had taught me.

Thus began my career as a teacher at St. Anne’s. After one year of team teaching, I was asked to help in the creation of a middle school program, beginning with a seventh-grade class of just five students. A year later the school added an eighth-grade class of twelve students. These developments meant that an English curriculum had to be designed for the latter two grades, and that became my mission during those early years.  I relished the opportunity to share my love for language and literature, including the great works of fiction and poetry which were cherished by Mother Irene. In addition to the academic fare, athletic teams were soon incorporated in the middle school program, and I found myself coaching soccer, basketball, and track. It was a busy and exciting time. As the enrollment of St Anne’s began to increase, I realized that we were blessed in vital ways: we were guided by a legacy of enduring values; our teachers enriched the lives of our students; we received excellent leadership from capable administrators; our parents invested themselves wholeheartedly in promoting our cause; and the School began to attract exceptional students who contributed mightily to our success as a school. 

I am overwhelmed when I consider how much of my life I have devoted to my work as a teacher at St. Anne’s, how many thousands of papers I have graded, how many marvelous students I have known, how many great colleagues have come and gone, how many magical moments inhabit my memory. I would not trade these times for anything. As I contemplate the experiences of the past forty-five years, I feel profoundly grateful and privileged to have been a part of this noble enterprise. The seed planted by the Sisters back in 1950 has burgeoned into a prodigious tree of life, whose roots are deep, whose trunk is sturdy, and whose branches reach to the heavens. Long may it stand.