These past few months as interim Director of Development for Bosque have been among the most enjoyable and, at times, the most challenging of my 50 years working in education and cultural event fundraising. Interestingly, the time here—discovering Bosque’s history and aspirations and exploring the school's personality and purpose—has often brought to mind, my father.
During his career in education, he was a teacher, coach, principal, and eventually superintendent of the largest suburban school system in Dayton, Ohio, with tens of thousands of students from kindergarten to 12th grade.
I remember how stunned my family was when, in 1970, Dad announced that he was resigning his job in Dayton to “go home” to become superintendent in Red Cloud, Nebraska. Red Cloud, a village on the Kansas-Nebraska border, had 300 K–12 students; it was where he had first entered a classroom as a teacher in 1946. In 1971, I visited my folks in Red Cloud, where their house across the street from the high school hosted a seemingly endless parade of students, faculty, and parents. Mom and Dad knew every family . . . these were the children and eventually the grandchildren of Dad’s students and teams from the 1940s.
I watched from my newly-minted career as a university administrator in Massachusetts and New York as Dad “reformed” the Red Cloud schools. Foreign language offerings expanded and Latin returned. Orchestra was added to band and choir. Boys were finally allowed to take home economics and girls could take woodshop classes.
Expulsions were replaced by hours spent on Dad’s school custodial crew, where, as his own high school janitor, he could spend time with troubled students. He coached girls’ basketball and track and was “the sub.” The only time a substitute teacher was hired was when two teachers were out!
He revised the dress code to read “You Must Be Dressed,” and in the main hallway of the high school, he prominently placed the Curtis photograph of Chief Red Cloud with a brass plaque reading “The White Man Only Made Us One Promise He Kept. He Said He Would Take Our Land—and He Did.” Both moves were controversial—but he said, “Let’s just concentrate on what’s important here.”
I last saw my Dad at Halloween in 1982, smiling as he stood in some Webster County farmer’s pumpkin patch surrounded by the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders he’d driven there on “the” bus, picking their jack-o-lanterns-to-be.
There are times lately, walking through the Schoolhouse, or across the campus bustling with students, or in a meeting where Bosque’s aspirations AND challenges are in conflict, when I have the good fortune to see Bosque as I think Dad would have—and I better understand my own feelings for this place and its people.
He would have respected Bosque’s courage to hold its students at the core of its mission and to take the risk of being more a rambunctious, nurturing family than a staid and serious institution. He would have admired Bosque’s determination to provide young people the space and the dignity needed to establish their individuality. And he would have cheered on Bosque’s determination to explore and discover new approaches to teaching and learning that better serve the students, the families, and the educational communities of the 21st century.