Wednesday, May 9, 2018

It's the Thought That Counts

Yesterday, Google made some announcements that made us think about the school's mission to turn boys into "men of wisdom and moral integrity." We're going to talk about the technology first and then how it applies to what we do for the boys.

The tech giant announced updates to its Android smartphone operating system. Among other changes, Android will beef up its use of artificial intelligence (a topic for another post). But it was a much simpler, less potentially nefarious feature that stuck out to us. The feature allows you to set an "app timer" that will "nudge" you when it's time to end your time with a given app. Google is making an attempt to give you "control of your digital wellbeing" and "to help you with your life, not distract from it."

Is the app timer a nice thought for a smartphone feature? Or is it more like a swat to the nose with a rolled up newspaper?
Thought is exactly the point. By creating the app timer, Google is offloading some important thought to the phone. Smartphones have already made themselves useful by taking on tasks that used to be cumbersome or just plain impossible without their help. Because we ask phones to do these tasks for us, we're less practiced and sharp in the moments when we have to attempt them without a phone. But with the app timer, Google is asking the phone to do something much more significant: manage our self-control.

Is it a big leap to imagine that depending on a ping or a "nudge" from a smartphone to stop perusing Facebook will weaken our self-control in other areas of life that don't ping or "nudge" us? Google's thought is that the app timer will make us less dependent on our smartphones, but what if the opposite is true? What will happen when a nudge-dependent user of the app timer sits down at a slot machine that's not kind enough to offer a nudge?

Obviously, you can make a similar argument about what boys will do on their own when parents and teachers aren't around to keep them on track. Just as phones can't directly help boys in every life situation, neither can parents and teachers. But how likely is it that a man's self-control will kick in at a crucial juncture in life because he remembers a wise aphorism or witty lesson from his app timer all those years ago?? Not likely.

For those moments we still need the Coach Laniers, Ms. Hollifields, Dr. Baileys, Mr. Moxleys, Dr. Fullers, Coach Euverards, Moms, and Dads. Google can never replace what we do for the boys.

The app timer is a nice thought, Google, but it is the thought that counts...and we'd like to do it ourselves in this case.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Merits and Demerits

Brace yourself for a confession: there was some complaining here yesterday.
Monty loved iron, but irony was lost on him.
After hearing that the annual induction ceremony for The Cum Laude Society would take place in assembly, a few students wondered aloud why we needed such a ceremony. Weren't these inductees just the kids who naturally got good grades? Why do they get extra recognition for something that comes so easily to them?

Maybe these complainers had a good point.

Judging by the people society normally puts in the spotlight, these inductees have hardly done anything worthy of earning it. They don't say or do anything scandalous. They don't make a spectacle of themselves everywhere they go. They don't abusively berate anyone who disagrees with them. Why are we paying attention to them anyway? Instead, why can't we just put the the guy who was doing "unauthorized firefighting" in Coach Pruitt's biology lab in front of assembly for a big round of applause? He's the one who deserves some recognition, right?*

Wait, have we been confused? Is heaping praise and attention on people who humiliate themselves not the right thing to do? Is laughing at an almost comically tone-deaf and demeaning tweet not OK? Have we been giving medals to people instead of sending them to demerit hall (metaphorically)? 

Who actually deserves our attention and admiration? Who merits it? What about people who work diligently and honorably for success and inspire us to follow their lead. What about a student who routinely visits his teacher for help during theme week. What about a boy who refuses to succumb to confusion about conic sections. What about a kid who works his tail off to earn good grades. What about students who earn a spot in an international academic honor society like Cum Laude. What about those people. How about them?

Plus, "demerit" isn't even a verb.

The Cum Laude Inductees
* Don't worry. The "unauthorized firefighting" incident occurred way back in the 90's.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Preparing Now for Now


Now, as the country wrestles with disturbingly permissive and prevalent disrespect for women, MBA's mission has never been clearer or more necessary. It's tempting to think that the all-boys atmosphere would exacerbate this cultural problem. However, if we make full use of it, the all-boys environment here actually affords us the opportunity to address the problem in a powerful way.
Baked right into the MBA experience is a culture of accountability among students. The Honor Code depends solely on students' expectations of each other. It's a positive kind of peer pressure. Similarly, the elements of competition that drive the boys on the field and in the classroom create an expectation that everyone should achieve, or at least pursue, excellence. That same kind of influence occurs in social settings. As the boys learn how to act around girls (and in the world at large), they hold each other to a higher standard.
In addition to the elements of accountability and positive peer pressure, the boys also have several sources of support. The advisory system allows boys to build rapport with their advisors through daily interaction. These relationships establish trust and provide the right opportunity for discussing, solving, and/or preventing real problems. Prevention is the sweet spot. However, because boys are actually timid when it comes to truly expressing themselves in mixed company, many of these discussions would never arise in the presence of girls. 

By putting all the pieces together, MBA can steer boys onto the right path. The powerful, lifelong connection among alums and what they learn here should keep them on it. The accountability and support stays with them.

More about a school designed for boys.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Your MBA Story

At MBA thousands of boys have become brothers linked by a lifelong pursuit of excellence.

You have what it takes to become a great man. Though the path to that goal never ends, you can learn to stay on it. MBA builds the traits that you can hone throughout your life: empathy, resilience, honesty, courage, integrity, honor, humility. The school’s culture of brotherhood ensures that you will have friends to help you in this lifelong pursuit.

A classical education equips you to tackle anything you want to learn with confidence.

Your mind is the key to unlocking a future of possibility. Guided by MBA’s approach to classical education, which we have shaped over the last 150 years, you can learn how to learn in preparation for future challenges and opportunities. Both what and how you learn at MBA will help you continue creating and choosing paths of opportunity long after you leave The Hill.

After educating boys for 150 years, we know how athletic training strengthens body, mind, and character.

You can develop what it takes to overcome obstacles in your path. Through MBA’s varied extracurricular programs, you can strive for physical fitness, practice teamwork, and experience healthy competition -- each of which yields benefits far beyond life on The Hill. Practicing perseverance, grit, tenacity, and commitment in the challenges you accept at MBA, you will prepare yourself for future success.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Jack Capizzi '18 Welcomes Prospective Students

Good afternoon and welcome…

I am Jack Capizzi, a senior at Montgomery Bell Academy. As I look out at today’s
crowd, I realize that I have a lot in common with many of you, and, with some of you,
our interests are different. When my parents first asked me if I would like to look at
MBA, I was nervous. I did not share the same level of enthusiasm that many of my
current classmates had when they applied. I was afraid of leaving a school with all of my
friends, a school where kids never left and often remained from Kindergarten to Senior
Year. I did not want to leave the school that I knew or, better put, the school that knew
me. Whether this is your first time on MBA’s campus or your family has attended MBA
from generation to generation, I hope to give you a few glimpses of what makes this
place so caring, distinctive, and compelling.
I remember sitting on my bed at home, thinking of a plan to halt my parents’
encouragement of MBA—a plan that would allow me to hide from my fear of change. I
would shadow a 7 th grader for a day and then let my parents down easy, saying that I
had given the school a chance but it really wasn’t for me. It is fair to say my plan failed
miserably. On the drive to tour MBA, my preconceived notions of the school led me to
think that it was a place made up of khaki pants and polo shirts, a place where the
students were identified by whatever sport they were involved in. I now realize how
naïve a 6th grade boy can be.

What stood out to me on that day in November of 2011 was a sense of community
like no other one I had ever experienced. Behind every polo shirt or pair of khaki’s was
a boy not unlike myself—complete with unique interests, passions, talents, and
insecurities. I can think of no safer, supportive, or encouraging place in which a boy has
the opportunity to explore his interests, face his fears, and expand his knowledge than
here at MBA.

When asked to speak today, I wrote down a list of talking points to cover: the
distinguished alumni of athletes, artists, politicians and entrepreneurs—the opportunities
MBA has such as the Wilson grants or Warner Exchange—and of course our facilities,
everything from our dining hall to our observatory at Long Mountain. But to focus on any
one of these would be doing you all somewhat of an injustice. It is MBA’s community of
faculty and students committed to the same goal of pursuing academic excellence,
personal growth, and support of one another that make this school unique, that make no
day on the Hill the same.

The student body is made up of a variety of talents, interests, personalities and
perspectives. The lines are blurred between academics, sports, arts, and forensics,
allowing any student to pursue seemingly diverse interests with ease. In my brief time at
MBA, I have served on the student council alongside members of the lacrosse team,
seen artists join debate, heard football players recite their own poetry for the creative
writing club, and watched from the wings of the theater as runners on the cross-country
team performed lead roles in a play. With the support of faculty members and their
fellow classmates, students can pursue different academic and extracurricular interests
with ease.

In ninth grade, I joined the debate team. My debate partner and I enjoyed success
and, for a time, I thought I had found my place here on the hill. As the year progressed,
however, I realized that my interests spread beyond the debate podium. I did not want
to quit the activity; however I knew that my interests incorporated a creativity and
expression that was left unsatisfied by debate. Confused on what to do, I sent my Latin
teacher a brief email explaining my dilemma and, within an hour, I was sitting in his
office talking about my plans for sophomore year. Instead of continuing to debate, I
would join the Mock Trial team and try out for each of the year’s four plays. Without this
one teacher’s empathy of my position and determination to help me, I never would have
discovered the activities that have since defined my contribution to MBA.

The first day of Mock Trial practice my sophomore year, I saw that I was on a team
of debaters, runners, newspaper editors, and actors. We all came together for a similar
passion that transcended our seemingly inconsistent backgrounds. It was at that
moment that I first glimpsed the web of activities and involvements that strings each
student to one another, forming the bond of brotherhood. It is with the support of such a
web that I can be myself at MBA and my friends can too.

I would like to leave you all with an image. It is not uncommon for me to attend a
football game with some of my best friends. I have already mentioned my role in Mock
Trial and Theater, however, when I am at these games I am cheering for our team
beside friends that are members of the Honor Council, baseball players, and heads of
Model UN. On the football field, the starting Center is a lead editor for the school
newspaper and the quarterback is the Student Body president. My classmates on the
field display a commitment to their team that mirrors their willingness to help one
another on a math problem or in studying for an exam.

This brings me to my final point. No two students at MBA are the same. Through our
different interests, passions, and personalities, we are able to create an impenetrable
bond that links each of us together. I urge you all to recognize that you too, are like no
other student that has walked up the front steps of MBA for his first day of school. If you
are willing to accept the challenge MBA provides, you will become part of MBA’s
community. If you are willing to accept the challenge that MBA provides, the school will
return you with the opportunities, relationships, and experiences necessary to stimulate
your mind and further your development in becoming both a gentleman and a scholar.

Thank you.

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Little Help?

Lately the news around here has been all about the 15 National Merit Semifinalists and 17 Commended Scholars, so let's round out the picture a little bit.

This morning at the faculty meeting we discussed all of the students with failing grades at the mid-quarter. Most people are surprised to hear about this tradition, but it's one that makes MBA a remarkable place to learn. Here's why...

Let's say Tommy is having trouble in his IPS class (not an uncommon struggle). After the faculty meeting, Tommy now has a whole support system ready to help. In addition to his IPS teacher, all of his current and former teachers and coaches will be rooting for him and offering him encouragement. Because we've been doing this for a while now, teachers know just the right way to broach the topic. There aren't any grating, indelicate confrontations: "So, Tommy, I hear you're failing IPS!" Instead, the support arrives in a considerate way, one that fits the student best, because teachers truly know their students here.

Of those thirty-two scholars mentioned above, I'd be willing to bet at least one of them was failing a class (probably IPS) at some point in his MBA career.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Gut Check

Let me start here: I made a mistake. (I'd be making another one if I didn't admit that right away.)

As tiny as the mistake was, getting called out for it stung more than expected. Why did it sting so much? Because I made the mistake while doing something kind. Expecting a "thank you" for the kind gesture, I actually got several messages about the mistake. It was not a good trade. My indignant gut wanted to respond, "Sure, there's a mistake, but what about this other great thing??!?!" Even though I just revealed that petty gut reaction right here, I somehow managed not to blurt it out angrily in the moment.
"Good thing nobody else heard that!"
Controlling an ugly gut response can be a useful skill. It's one that the boys have a chance to learn here (and one I can definitely keep working on). Two of the school's recent themes for the year have been humility and resilience, which are essential for quelling and transforming impulsive gut reactions. Even if the school hadn't spotlighted these two traits, the daily experiences here offer the opportunity to cultivate them.
Hypothetical Humility and Resilience Cultivation Scenario: 
You just scored a 92 on your biology test, your highest grade yet. Coach Pruitt even emits an exultant whoop when he returns it to you. Then you notice that you forgot to answer a question according to the directions, and it was a really easy question on genotype vs. phenotype!! You could have earned an extra 3 points! Instead of getting down on yourself for making the careless mistake or arguing with the teacher, you acknowledge it (humility), take the appropriate confidence from your high score, and resolve to perform better next time (resilience).
Scenes like that happen here all the time. The MBA culture encourages that kind of response, a response that yields growth, a response that helps the boys become the "young men of wisdom and moral integrity" in the school's mission statement.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Lasting Impact of Dr. Paschall

I had been a math teacher and coach in the Chattanooga area for 20 years when I decided to take a job in the business world. I became unhappy with that decision and decided to get back into teaching and coaching, but I wanted to work at a good private school. Someone told me to get in touch with Dr. Douglas Paschall of Montgomery Bell Academy. I sat down and wrote him a letter, never thinking I would ever really hear from him. Several days later I was called to the phone at work, and the caller identified himself as Dr. Douglas Paschall of MBA. I almost dropped the phone. He proceeded to tell me that I probably didn't know him, but that he certainly knew me! He went on to tell me that after attending Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar his first professional job was at UT Chattanooga as an English instructor, and it was my senior year there playing basketball for the UTC Mocs. He said he saw all of my home games and that he wanted to talk to me about a job at MBA. I had two young boys, and I was thrilled at the prospect. Twenty two years later I retired from MBA and both my boys also graduated from the the school. Writing to Dr. Paschall was the best decision I ever made in my life, and I am so thankful for everything that has happened to my family because of it! Dr. Paschall was a wonderful man, and he changed my life forever!

submitted by Mr. Pat Woolsey

Dandelion Day

During my grandfather's tenure at MBA, they celebrated a day during the spring called Dandelion Day. On Dandelion Day, people would typically enjoy the outdoor weather, however, when my grandfather was a freshman, the Russell brothers decided to have their friend Ned Overton put dandelions in his belly button, lay next to the flag pole, and then took down the flag and hoisted up Ned's pants to the top so that they could billow in the wind. 

submitted by Ruff Maddux on behalf of his grandfather, Wentworth Caldwell '58

Miller's Fall a Thriller Not a Killer

In 8th grade, my grandfather, Wentworth Caldwell, had a class with Mr. Pennington. Mr. Pennington's class was the on the second floor of the Ball Building which had some windows that were pretty high up. At these windows, there was a ledge that one could potentially sit on. Richard Miller, a classmate of my grandfather, was a very fidgety boy who would often walk around the room and even sit on this ledge. One day, Richard walked out of the classroom and laid down below this window and had some of his friends yell to Mr. Pennington that he had jumped or fell off of the ledge. Needless to say, Mr. Pennington freaked out and rushed downstairs and outside only to discover that Richard was losing his mind laughing because he was laughing so hard.

submitted by Ruff Maddux on behalf of his grandfather, Wentworth Caldwell '58

AFC Championship > School

Some seniors cut class for the AFC championship parade. Days later their picture appeared on the front page of the Green Hills News. Charlie came home for lunch that day. I gave him a copy and he took it back with him to school. About that time my phone rang and it was Mr. Regen calling to tell me Charlie had cut class. He would get demerits and Saturday School. I told him I knew and that Charlie was on his way back to school with something to show him. Mr. Regen said, "I am looking out my window and Charlie is running through the parking lot waving something over his head." It was the Green Hills News with the said seniors proudly smiling on the front page; faces painted, Titans flag flying, jerseys and all!

submitted by Sarah Ann Ezzell

You Just Got Sacked

John Smithwick (class president) started a Mrs. Lowry English class with the following: Mrs Lowry, why don't you ask Rhoads what happened this weekend. I had gotten into a little bit of trouble and was fairly vague in response to Mrs Lowry when she asked me what had happened. Even with my vague response, she knew I had not been doing the right thing. I sat on the front row, in the middle. She walked up to me - stood right in front of me and said, "Rhoads, do you want to graduate with the rest of your class. You are on the five yard line. You just dropped back and you got sacked." She then went on to remind me that I was a representative of MBA and should act accordingly. I learned my lesson, but will always remember as will my classmates Mrs Lowry telling me I got sacked.

-submitted by Rhoads Hall '89

Flip for Your Vote

Good ole Michael Lacey backflipping me in front of the student body during election speeches.

submitted by Trevor Patton '15

Unload the Bus!

On the way back from a debate tournament in Georgia, our four person extemporaneous speaking team, chaperoned by Mr. Tate, stopped at a fast food restaurant late at night. After entering the restaurant, Mr. Tate paused, looked back out the door, and yelled “unload the bus!” After seeing our confused looks, he motioned for us to lean in and whispered “now that they think there’s a lot of us, they’ll throw on a new batch of fries. It’s the best way to guarantee they’re hot”. At the time, we thought he was crazy, but when our food arrived ten minutes later, we agreed that he knew what he was doing. Mr. Tate always gave helpful advice, and his coaching often extended beyond debate to include important topics like how to maximize our dining experiences.

submitted by Sam Hurd '14


Coach Lanier during almost any class: referred to us by our last name + "s", we called him sire, he would make weird noises, he would disappear for 10-20 minutes at a time during tests, best teacher out there.

submitted by Jake Macey '13 

Happy Birthday, Mr. Gioia!

My senior year, some guys in Gioia's advisory found out it was his birthday. It was an assembly day, so we decided we'd try to sing him happy birthday in assembly. I was sitting close to the end of a row, so I started a "We're gonna sing happy birthday to Gioia. Pass it on." whisper down my row until most of the seniors had heard the plan. We found a good pause when Gioia was speaking and started singing. Other classes joined in (even though they didn't know to whom exactly they were singing). The song went well and Gioia appreciated it (I think), but the best part was how red his face got while 700 boys sang him happy birthday.

submitted by Will McFadden '13

Ms. Kit

Many of my fondest memories on The Hill came from the many hours my friends and I would spend in Mrs. Lechleiter's office during our free periods. We would talk and joke around, work on our homework (according to Mrs. Lechleiter, the answer to all our math problems is always 4), and of course eat candy and play with her multitude of toys and puzzles. I also really enjoyed the opportunities to greet prospective students and their parents as they came into the admissions office. We would be able to add valuable insight into life on The Hill from a student's perspective. Not only was it a great way to spend our free time, but I feel like that time has influenced me for life after MBA as well as left a lasting impact on The Hill.

submitted by Will Granbery '11

Backless Shoes? Back to Demerit Hall.

My brother, Lee White, wouldn't stop wearing backless shoes, so nearly every day John Fredericks would raise his hand in Mr. Tillman's math class just to announce Lee's shoes. Constant demerits.

submitted by Webb White '04


We read A Separate Peace by John Knowles in 8th grade. I recall a few details: prep school, a tree branch, and a club that the main characters started called The Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session. I remember that last fact because my friends and I founded the Super Suicide Society for the People Who Throw Fruit on the Street aka SSSPWTFS not too long after reading the book. The SSSPWTFS had one purpose: during the lunch hour, we would take (biodegradable) food – primarily, fruit – down onto the MBA front lawn. When there was a break in the traffic, we would hurl pieces of fruit onto West End. We would then watch in anticipation as cars sped by. As soon as a piece of fruit got hit by a car and, usually, exploded, we would erupt in joy. Needless to say, it was amazing. Alas, though, the SSSPWTFS got too adventurous for its own good and was investigated and ultimately taken down by the Administration after we were caught off-limits conducting an initiation ritual by Kingfisher Creek in the rain. During the subsequent interrogation, the junior school headmistress thought more nefarious activities were taking place. Once we explained what was actually going on – “You know, fruit. On the street. We throw it there.” – that cleared everything up.  

submitted by Stuart Burkhalter '99

Watch Your Back

There are many (stories), but the two that come to mind are first getting demerits from Mrs. Bowen for putting my backpack in the hallway under the water fountain, attempting to circumvent the hallway-obstacle warning, since it was tucked away under the fountain. It took me shaking her hand, which was painful, and 3 demerits to recover.

The second is being a senior not he football team called out to dress up like a cheerleader for the Pep Rally, only the uniform was literally a girls cheerleading outfit split down the back so I could slip it on like a smock. Not sure I had the form most cheerleaders had at the pep rally!

submitted by Bo Bartholomew '92

Disco Dan

Dan Herring was affectionately referred to as Disco Dan primarily because of a picture in an early '80s yearbook. As proctor of the study hall in the old Wallace Building (a distant memory now, where the dining hall now sits), there was a stage at one end where Mr. Herring sat at his desk lording over the study hall occupants. He ran a tight ship, and would simply hold his one finger up to keep order, the threat of demerits implicit. At the other end of the study hall room (which was an old basketball gym, I was told), were lockers. In the days of tape recorders, someone cleverly left the tape blank for 15 minutes, then from the tape recorder and one of the lockers came the music of the Bee Gees, Stayin' Alive, the ultimate disco song. Mr. Herring's finger instantly rose; we were all wide-eyed in disbelief and fear of guilt by association. After a minute or so, he rose, and walked off the stage toward the back to the lockers, but the perpetrator had intentionally cut off the timing of the recording of the song so that the tape recorder stopped and there was no way to identify the offending locker. Mr. Herring turned and simply said, "one of these days", while holding up his finger.  

submitted by Brooks Smith '89

Frozen Ferrets etc.

Boy, where to begin with the MBA stories? I guess I was your typical jock in high school, I spent my days giving atomic wedgies, purple nurples, and twisty sisties, and my nights crippling opponents and winning glory on the football field. Did you know a ferret can survive being frozen solid, so long as you thaw it out within an hour? Weird.

Anyway, I'll never forget the time senior year my buddies and me accidentally read from the "book of the dead" in Hamunaptra and that brought Prince Imhotep back to life. Hijinks ensued as he began to collect parts from the living to regain his full power.

Well, after getting some help from warrior magi (and no help at all from the Davidson Academy Bears!) we managed to subdue the monster and send him back to the Egyptian Underworld. I hate mummies.

So, even though all of that is pretty boring to kids nowadays with their Snapchat, it meant something to us. Also Senior prom was great; however it definitely was not as intense as 1998's Hell in a Cell where the Undertaker threw Mankind off of the top of a steel cage and he plummeted 16ft before crashing into an announcer's table.

Go Big Red!

submitted by Mick Foley '88

What Hunt Nichols Did

I am currently checking with legal counsel in regard to the statute of limitations on some "key elements" of my story. Unfortunately, if our beloved school retains the retroactive authority to issue demerits or revoke my diploma hanging in my office, I will be unable to share any of the details about what I witnessed Hunt Nichols do.

submitted by  J. Banks Link '88

Don't Get off the Boat!

In 1986 (my senior year), the class was studying "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad. Mrs. Lowry seemed well advanced in age and somewhat feeble to a group of 18 year old seniors. However, she could control a classroom with nothing more than a stern glance.

The book "Heart of Darkness" is about a man's journey up the Congo River to the inner station at the center of Africa. As with all literature studied at MBA, the story is full of symbolism: the river symbolizes life; the jungle symbolizes danger; the boat symbolizes safety from the jungle; etc.

In the middle of a lesson in mid-sentence and to everyone's surprise, Mrs. Lowry steps on top of her desk with amazing agility and raises both hands. She says in a commanding voice: "Boys! Whatever you do, don't get off the boat!" With assistance from one of my classmates, she steps off the desk and continues the lesson as if nothing happened.

I've stepped off the boat at least once or twice in the last 30 years as certainly nearly everyone has. But Mrs. Lowry's lesson is still crystal clear, like it happened just yesterday.

submitted by Jay Schmitt '86

Ode to Mrs. Bowen

I was afeared of her ages before she had me raking leaves on the hill to work off her demerits. The legend of June Bowen, militaristic 7thgrade English teacher, had preceded her.

But the truth behind Mrs. Bowen turned out to be more complex than the folklore. She was tough and fair and intimidating and hilarious. With her infamous in-class grammar contests, she fostered competition and a demand for perfection. I vividly recall diagramming sentences in my restless sleep (hopefully not while in her class).

Because of Mrs. Bowen, I can’t help but cringe when I hear the split infinitive at the beginning of each Star Trek episode, “To boldly go where no man has gone before.” That is just poor grammar up with which I will not put!

But Mrs. Bowen didn’t just cultivate lifelong grammarians. She mass-produced proper grammarians. Yes, Mrs. Bowen’s discipline ushered me to demerit hall on many a Saturday. There, I learned a myriad of didactic vocabulary words but mostly just raked a boatload of leaves.

Many years later, I broke free from the bondage of school, teachers, parents, bosses, or any authority whatsoever. Yes, I purchased my own house.

As I strolled to the mailbox on that first autonomous day, my next-door neighbor introduced herself. “Welcome to the neighborhood. I’m June.”

Holy moly, it was Mrs. Bowen! If I yawned without covering my mouth or left my shirttail hanging out, would I once again be relegated to raking leaves on Saturday? I felt that familiar shiver of afearedness!

On the contrary, Mrs. Bowen (no way I was calling her “June”) turned out to be a dear friend and extraordinary neighbor. She probably hadn’t changed much since I was in 7th grade, but 20 years had changed my perception of her. She was brilliant and witty and sarcastic and wonderful.

She called on me for small favors every once in a while, so I wasn’t surprised when I saw her name on the caller ID that day. I agreed to come over to help her with a diagram. Only after I got off the phone did the terror hit me. A diagram? Are you kidding me? This lady wrote the book on diagramming sentences. That’s not an idiomatic expression - I mean she literally wrote grammar books. I hadn’t had fitful dreams about diagramming in 20 years, so how in the world could I not look the fool? This time, she really, really afeared me!

I searched in vain for my old “Rulebook” to jar my grammatical memory before fretfully knocking on her door. As I crept into her living room, I saw ceiling fan parts strewn about the floor. Next to the clutter, you may have guessed, were the ceiling fan instructions in the form of a diagram.

I have never been so relieved and overjoyed to put together a ceiling fan in all my life. I filled her in on the diagram miscommunication, and we both belly-laughed until tears ran down our faces.

These days, I envision Mrs. Bowen, red pen in hand, sending even the finest souls to rake leaves on an even bigger hill in Heaven. I also fancy thinking she would be pleased with the way she influenced my life. Although I graduated Mrs. Bowen’s course with flying mediocrity, I think I have applied more of what I learned in that class than any other.

I married another hopeless grammarian and enjoy a career as an outdoor writer and editor. I have my own red pen, although it’s in the form of a computer editing tool. I daily use a superfluity of didactic vocabulary words. And there are plenty of leaves to rake in the outdoors. But I must confess, she still afears me a little.

submitted by Gil Lackey '84

The Little Things Matter

In the 7th grade, on my second theme for Mrs. Bowen, I had no points taken off on the body of the theme. On the outline, however, I had numbers where I should have had letters and letters where I should have had numbers a total of 13 times, and she counted off 5 points every time. To top it off, I used what she deemed the wrong sized paper clip on the theme, and that cost me an additional point, so I made a 34. I never made either the outline mistake or the paper clip mistake again. I also never forgot that 34.

submitted by Lyn Robbins '83