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Friday, April 15, 2016

Alumni of Highlands and Their Books

FTM file. 
By John Deering

I was sitting at my desk in the office at Highlands when our secretary, Alene Anderson, came in and said, “I do not have a purchase order for these books.” Of course, it was a NO NO! to order anything without such document.  I looked at the dust cover on the books and saw “Berlekamp“  printed across the dust cover. Elwyn Berlekamp HHS-‘58  had sent me  two copies of his first book, Algebraic Coding Theory published by McGraw- Hill.  It was the first of many that were to come my way.  Elwyn, one of the early developers of computers, had taken his three degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Later in life he became interested   in mathematical games – The Dots and Boxes Game – Sophisticated Child’s Play, Winning Ways for your Mathematical Plays and The Mathemagician and Pied Puzzler.

Many books written by alumni of Highlands have been sent to me through the years.  In fact, Catherine [Zastro] Onyemelukwe visited with us   just a few weeks ago and brought us Nigeria Revisited. She was here to present her book to some Cincinnati bookstores.

Another fairly recent one is High Style – by Jan Glier Reeder -- HHS ’63. It presents costumes in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art.  These photos are absolutely beautiful plus.

Two more are The Explosive Short T and Leadership Fitness by my friend and colleague Homer Rice. HHS ’45.

Then there is Holly Days Café and Other Christmas Stories by Gerald Toner -- HHS ’68. These are great stories that we review each Christmas.

Some of the books I have are of very serious topics.  Billie Wright Dzeich --HHS-’59 has written in collaboration with her  U.C. colleague,  Linda Weiner. This one  points out  sexual harassment on college  campuses in The Lecherous Professor.   Here they have  presented the “first book-length examination of sexual harassment of female students.”    It is hard to believe that such behavior goes on in the United States – or anywhere else, for that matter,   but I too have seen instances of this behavior at the college level in my teaching.

Another English professor   who has been so successful is David McCracken --HHS-’57. Wordsworth and the Lake District, a Guide to the Poems and Their Places. He has traveled often to England to research the life and works of William Wordsworth. If you are   wondering why I am writing this, the answer is easy: they are our alumni of Highlands. They were there in our classrooms and we are proud of them. I have no doubt that such students are still there and will also make their teachers proud.

Now, here is one by a “young” lady who did not graduate from Highlands, but she is unbelievably successful anyway.  Kathryn Kish Sklar’s family moved from Fort Thomas while she was still in high school. She is currently a professor at a New York University.  Ann and I went to U.C.  to hear her speak as a guest a few years ago.  Two of her books are Catharine Beecher, a Study in American Domesticity and Florence Kelley & the Nation’s Work – the Rise of Women’s Political Culture, 1830-1900. “Many of the social, economic, and cultural issues the first four decades of Kelley’s life were shaped by the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species in 1859, the year of her birth.” Interesting? Absolutely!

Here is another, A  Walk in Search of Meaning – Discovering God’s Pathway through Nature  by Dick Watkins – HHS ’57. In the preface, Dick says, “This collection of memoirs and essays is that for over thirty-seven years I have had a passion for observing and learning God’s world of nature.” We can empathize with this totally. During the years Dana and Mark, our two sons, were growing up, we traveled and camped – well, all over the place. After they were grown, Ann and I continued camping and “paddling” frequently in Canada. We had our boats or our canoe on lakes everywhere. Well, almost everywhere.   Dick’s book really  touches us. He quotes Aristotle:  “In all things of Nature is something of the marvelous.” How about our being on a Canadian lake under the Milky Way? Yea! That’ll play!

Let’s end this with Bob’s Story. Bob Stegeman is of one of the most prominent families in Fort Thomas.  Bob has told me that the business of the family was great, but he wanted to teach and he has done that. That has been his life. I have a habit of putting yellow “stickums” onto the pages of books that I enjoy and want to refer back to sometimes. In looking through Bob’s story, an autobiography, it has many “stickums” in place. Interesting? Absolutely.

Am I proud of having been a part of the lives of these people? You bet I am and so were my colleagues with whom I taught many years.  Let’s face it. The Fort Thomas schools are great because the families of our students have been great. However,  Congress and the State Legislatures will continue to “prescribe”  panaceas  for education from  new math or common core; but schools are as good  as the communities that support them – not just with financing, but with enthusiasm and encouragement for that which the teachers and administrators are doing to teach our  kids! The authors of these books were great kids and so were their families.

Even though I have not taught for a long time, I sense the Fort Thomas families are still great. Are there exceptions? Of course there are, and there always have been exceptions -- but not many.  How many lives have my colleagues and I touched?  Two thousand maybe?  I wish I were still there teaching great kids from great families.  I loved to meet with Blue Birds – every day for years. They have written such nice comments in each of these books. All these books will soon be in the library of Highlands.

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