Friday, October 10, 2014

Classic Ryan Rivalry Lore

On a Friday morning in the Fall of 1964, a grim purple cloud had descended upon The Hill. The cannons gracing the front of campus had been painted an offensive shade of bright purple. Sometime in the dead of night students from Father Ryan had spread the vile color where it did not belong. The MBA student body, milling around in front of the besmirched cannons, vowed to avenge the insult on the football field that very night....but they didn't even have to wait that long.

At that time, the front of campus had a semi-circular drive that came up through the Totomoi gate from West End Avenue, in front of Ball Hall, and back down the hill to another gate at West End. Just a few minutes before classes began, a convertible packed far beyond its recommended capacity rolled through the Totomoi gate. The car's occupants were cloaked in that same hideous purple. They had come to admire their handiwork and to gloat.

As soon as the car came into view at the Totomoi gate, the student body rushed toward the interlopers. Brugh Reynolds '65 took off like a man possessed. Except he went in the opposite direction. Apparently wanting no part of what was sure to be a brawl, Reynolds ran toward the other West End gate.

Working out the math, the driver of the convertible soon realized that the Big Red vastly outnumbered him and his passengers, so he put his foot on the gas and kept on grinning. However, that grin faded when the car reached a closed and locked gate.

Standing by the gate with arms folded in triumph, Reynolds watched as the student body descended upon their cornered prey.

Headmaster Carter came down the hill to defuse the situation, and the Big Red also triumphed on the gridiron that evening.

Have your own Ryan Week story to share? Let's hear it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Camaraderie on The Hill...and on Bigger Hills

Jim Uden '93
In September, Baker Eadie, Frazer Buntin and Jim Uden (all in the Class of 1993) were part of a group that climbed Grand Teton in Wyoming. The group has done a different trip every year for the past 10 years. They have kayaked the Salmon River in Idaho, Canoed the Yellowstone River in Montana, hiked through the 10th mountain division hut system in Colorado, snowmobiled in the upper peninsula of Michigan, driven jeeps in Moab and Telluride, sailed in Exuma, and climbed Grand Teton in Wyoming. Over the years, several other MBA alumni have been part of the trips: Austin Koon, John Bass, Shannon Durrett, and Shooter Stein.
Frazer Buntin '93

Baker Eadie '93

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sam Bellet '15 Addresses the Freshmen at the Annual Patch Ceremony

Hello, my name is Sam Bellet, and after attending MBA for six years now, I’d like to share with you some advice I wish I had received when I was sitting where you are today. Two of the biggest challenges you will encounter at MBA are keeping a sense of identity and being confident in your character. You probably won’t encounter these challenges in some huge event in your life. These struggles will most likely come in the form of little everyday setbacks. My goal today is to prepare you for these situations. The next four years of your life will be the most important in determining who you are. Again, the forming of who you are won’t come in one fell swoop, it will come little by little, but you should still keep in mind that even the smallest decisions in your everyday life can add up and form who you will be.

Most of you are well grounded in regard to character; you wouldn’t be at MBA if this were not the case. One of your biggest challenges won’t be knowing what’s right or what’s wrong; it will be gathering the confidence to do what’s right. You all have a strong moral compass but that doesn’t mean you will not be tempted in your day-to-day life. When you are faced with situations where you have to make a choice, the biggest deception you need to watch out for is the idea that your friends want you to act one way or another. Right now you are, maybe without even knowing it, trying to figure out what’s acceptable in the eyes of your friends. What I came to terms with throughout high school is that these guys aren’t watching you to see whether or not you are cool, they are watching you because they want to know how they should act. Friends subconsciously set standards for each other, and the moment someone does something stupid, that action lowers the standard for what is ok to do. So basically, don’t think that your friends are constantly rating you on a scale of one to cool. Be mindful that your actions have just as much of an effect on them as theirs do on you. Be confident in your character and don’t be afraid to act the way you should. All of you probably know Cole Euverard, some of you may know him as the quarterback, or that guy on the high-five a microbe video. Well, Cole is probably one of the most likeable guys in our grade. Probably anyone in our grade you ask will say that they love Cole. And the most remarkable thing about Cole’s popularity is that he is simultaneously one of the most virtuous people in our class. Cole is a living example of someone who is well-loved simply because he is confident in who he is and will never compromise his character for anything in the world. He doesn’t have to prove he’s cool by going to parties or doing stupid stuff, people just respect him for who he is because he’s proud of it.

The second danger in high school is the thinking that everyone around you goes through life with no trouble at all and any mistakes they make don’t faze them. If you get discouraged during high school, which you will, realize that your friends go through the exact same difficulties in their life. The true men here at MBA are those who realize that, when they are discouraged, the easy way out is not always the correct way. Last December, after losing ten pounds and a bunch of wrestling matches, I went into the doctor and discovered I have type 1 diabetes. Luckily, I had received the same advice I just gave you, and I did not let this get me down. I was able to recognize that, although maybe in different ways, other people have problems just as bad as mine. What separates each one of us is how we deal with these problems, and those who get caught up in how bad they have it will be the ones who fail. So ,whenever you feel like maybe you should just lay down and give up, keep in mind these words from Dale Carnegie: “Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” Just remember that your problems will make you stronger as soon as you realize that these setbacks are nothing but setbacks.

Lastly, I want to express to you guys the importance of identity, especially at a place like MBA. When I first came here, I was following in the footsteps of my five older brothers. This was very irritating for me because everyone I met who knew of my brothers immediately placed me in this category of the “Catholic wrestler.” Although I do not deny that I am both of these things, I remember being so upset that people didn’t think twice about who I was after I told them that I was a Bellet, because, if you know my family well, you know that all of us are so much different from each other. As I progressed through MBA, though, I realized that identity is not so much about what other people think you are as it is about what you know you are. I encourage you never to settle for what people call you or presume you to be. You determine that for yourself. This doesn’t mean that you have to get up at assembly one day and announce to everybody who you are, it just means that you should live your life as you, not as somebody else’s perception of you. As a senior, I still encounter this temptation to change the way I do things in order to look more like something I am not. Thankfully, I get sick of putting on an act like that very quickly because you can’t be comfortable constantly making sure you appear to be somebody you are not. Be resilient in your day-to-day life, focusing less on your setbacks and more on solutions, and soon enough, you will be confident in living life as yourself, and people will begin to respect you for who you are. The more you block out discouragement, the easier being yourself will be. While living in this way, you should also help others to do so and recognize those in your class for who they are. When you walk out of this building with your patches on, look around and see that others are wearing patches too. Others have difficulties they are encountering, others are forming their identity, and others are going through MBA, just like you. So I want to challenge you to try and recognize each one of your classmates for who they truly are. Most of the classes before you did not really have a sense of unity until senior year came around because, until then, nobody realizes what I’m telling you now. So, if you ever catch yourself assuming that one of your classmates fits some category of people, clear that idea from your mind and really try to get to know him.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Totomoi & Donutoi

With every new Totomoi induction, we find it helpful to remember what an honor it is to join this fraternity, but we also don't take ourselves too seriously. Read on...

Totomoi: Integrity, Loyalty, Service

Totomoi inducted its first members in 1954. Headmaster Sager and two alumni from the class of ’50 founded Totomoi to recognize juniors, seniors, faculty, and alumni who had shown outstanding leadership in academic achievement, athletics, service to the school, and community service. The honorary fraternity inducts only about 10 members each year.

Perhaps the most distinctive of all MBA traditions, the Totomoi induction ceremony, or tapping, occurs twice a year. A current member winds his way through Assembly, looking for the next inductee. No one but the tapper knows who will be inducted, so the tapper makes his route as circuitous as possible to build suspense. Years ago one tapper even ascended onto the catwalk thirty feet above the crowd. After zeroing in on his target, the tapper identifies the inductee with anything but a “tap.” Often the sound of the “tap” reverberates throughout the entire Davis Building. Voila, the inductee has just joined Totomoi, the most prestigious fraternity on campus.

Donutoi: Glaze, Sugar, Chocolate

In 1998 four student council members (Mike Martin, Michael Higgins, Michael Griffin, and Wilson VornDick (aka Wilson and the Mikes)) identified the need for another honor society on campus: Donutoi. Prior to the founding of Donutoi, school fundraisers sold only plain glazed donuts. The visionary Donutoi founders pioneered the sale of chocolate glazed donuts–a powerful development that would send sweet ripple effects to current and future generations of MBA students. To announce this development, the founding members of Donutoi held a solemn ceremony. In an homage to their older brother society, Totomoi, they presented a chocolate glazed donut to four distinguished (and lucky) boys at Assembly.

Thanks to these two fraternities, MBA is a better place.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Google Glass Review

Google Glass
By Ben Barton '14

Bell Ringer Features Editor

Since its inception about 15 years ago, Google’s mission statement has always been “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” In a famous interview, Eric Shmidt, Google’s president, concluded that after much study, it would take Google approximately 300 years to collect all the information in the world. Google has taken a colossal step towards its mission with the creation of Google Glass.

MBA has recently acquired two pairs of Google Glass. “We saw a great opportunity for students and teachers to experiment with this new technology,” commented Elijah Reynolds, the master and keeper of these devices. “A few teachers have already used Glass to create content for their classes. We also want to use them for virtual campus tours and other marketing purposes.”

MBA applied for the devices through the Google Glass Explorer program and paid $1,500 for each pair. The Glass will eventually be available for checkout, though no process has been decided upon at this time.

I was given the opportunity to try a pair out for the purpose of writing this article, and was extremely impressed. The design and interface is fairly confusing at first and does take some getting used to. The Glass has very few physical “buttons,” only an “on” button and a button that takes a picture. In addition, the side of one of the temples of Glass doubles as a scroller, which one uses like a mouse pad, and and a button where one taps to select. This method and voice recognition are the two main ways one navigates Glass. Glass comes with an earbud extension, and attachable Robocop-esq shades to cover one’s eyes, if the user so chooses.

When I went to turn on glass, the word “GLASS” appeared in front of my right eye for approximately ten seconds. To activate the glasses, you say “OK Glass,” and this brings you to Glass’ main menu, which contains the following options: Google, take a picture, record a video, get directions, message, call, video call, listen and show compass.

I went on to experiment with a couple of these features. The Google feature blew me away. Glass requests a question in its Google feature, so I simply asked, “OK, Glass, what is Montgomery Bell Academy?” After a few seconds, my vision was inundated with a cover flow of pictures of MBA, information about MBA from various linked websites, and its location on a map. I then asked, “OK, Glass, how do I make a sandwich?” I was presented a list of sandwich recipes and cookbooks to navigate, in addition to a few videos of, you guessed it, people making sandwiches. The voice recognition got every word.

The camera function was also fun to play around with. There are three ways to take a picture or video: to say “OK, Glass, take a picture,” to use the camera button, or my personal favorite, to blink slowly, which also causes Glass to take a picture. Videos had the same interface. Through the message function, I could dictate messages to send to contacts. I could also get directions using Glass, which puts the user in what is practically a world turned into an interactive Google Maps.

Still, Google Glass is not yet perfected. Operating system functions are difficult at times. Pictures and video may not be to the quality of higher end cell phones that users already use. In addition, the GPS navigation can be a little slow.

To counter these imperfections, though, Google Glass has the benefit of being a software-intensive device. Google took a page out of Apple’s 2007 playbook by creating a device with few physical buttons, allowing them to have an enormous amount of possibilities for expansion through upgrades.

Google has already proved time and time again that it is one of the most innovative companies in the world, so I expect extremely impressive things to come for Google Glass. Google Glass has the potential to be a curious, multi-tasking student’s best friend.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Poetry of a Boys School

Certain regular occurrences on this boys school campus might surprise you, but not in ways you would expect (you’d be surprised by your surprise, if you will). Here are just a few examples of what you might see and hear at any given moment (from least surprising to most surprising):
  1. a conversation about who will be the next Titans football coach
  2. a PIG tournament in an advisory meeting
  3. hearing bits and pieces of William Blake’s The Tyger emanating from every study area in Massey
  4. a sophomore spending his study hall outside reading Thoreau
  5. juniors addressing each other with, “Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote” and expecting some kind of response
  6. a student asking if he can read literary criticism about Kafka‘s The Metamorphosis when he finishes the novel--outside of class
  7. a freshman writing a Bell Ringer article questioning the wisdom of our donut fundraisers
  8. students discussing the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire–outside of class
  9. students having a heated debate about the fiscal cliff–outside of class
  10. a student asking if he can compose a “grammatically correct rap” about Bernard Malamud‘s The Natural to perform at the end of class

Boys just don’t do many of those things (certainly not #3-#10) in other schools. There’s a special brand of camaraderie that develops among the boys here. They’re not afraid to speak up in class; they appreciate the talents and interests of others; they can be themselves.

Friday, January 17, 2014

An English Gentleman in Big Red’s Quad

Each year MBA plays host to exchange students from around the globe. Boys from England, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, China, and Colombia climb The Hill to spend a few weeks here. After his time with us last year, a student from Eton College in England sent Headmaster Gioia a note including his overall impression of MBA. This note comes to mind now, because we've all been thinking about Mr. Tate after the Billy Tate Southern Bell Forum that was here on campus recently. See the last half of the note for a great example of Mr. Tate’s boundless influence and generosity:
Dear Mr. Gioia,
MBA is quite a school. When I first arrive it was impossible not to be impressed by such a substantial, well-equipped campus, the warm welcome and, of course, pizza every day. Having been lucky enough to stay with you for two weeks, I can say that these impressions were just the first indicators of a truly special school. The teachers within those walls showed what could be done when unfettered by the rules of national exams we enjoy in Britain: I enjoyed an interview with a Vietnam veteran and the construction of a ‘cool words list’. The boys behind that tried to make me feel right at home whilst I was on an unknown continent, and I made good friends in my two short weeks. At Eton, we rarely even know when we have exchange boys; they tend to become just another tailcoat. Yet, whenever I happened to be squinting at a campus map, perhaps held upside down, someone would always step in and show me the way. Beyond daily pizza, MBA had many great quirks: Who can beat non-stop Shakespeare and Krispy Kremes at break? Although, I can’t mention everyone here, I am truly grateful to MBA for giving me such a great experience. 
One man I must mention, however, is Mr. Billy Tate. I’ve never been the keenest sportsman, so I decided to join the debaters after school each day. The extemporaneous speaking program was great, and began to give me the confidence to speak commandingly on any topic that was thrown at me. The progress I made was only possible because Mr. Tate took so much time to help an eager British exchange student bearing only a range of bad habits picked up from excessive Parliamentary debating across the pond. Indeed, on the afternoon before he would pass away, he took over an hour and a half to talk me through how I could transfer my new skills back to British formats, and make the most of what I learnt in those two weeks. He was truly inspiring, and I am fortunate to have known him. Without his guidance it may be more challenging, but I hope the extemporaneous speaking program does manage to continue on as he would have wished, from strength to strength. 
Mr. Tate epitomized the Southern charm which would make my stay so enjoyable. When school finished, the Cole family continued to ensure that I got the most out of my time in Nashville; I was so lucky to get the chance to spend two weeks with them, and be welcomed into their family. Nashville is such a vibrant city, and I can’t think of a better place in which I could have experienced America. I truly am thankful to have had such a fantastic experience.
All the best,
Toby Tricks