This Month From Cliff-November 15, 2012
November 15, 2012
Cliff L. Wood
You can go home again, and I did just that the first weekend in November when I traveled to Dallas, Texas, to attend my 50th High School Reunion. I was born in Dallas and graduated from William M. Lipscomb Elementary School, JH Long Junior High School and Woodrow Wilson High School in the heart of Big D. These were all great public schools that opened doors for many students and provided all of them with a good education. I kept thinking about that as I enjoyed the most special feature of this reunion: it was the time I spent with two lifelong friends, best buddies I met more than 60 years ago. In the past they might have been called bosom buddies, my homeys, or BFF’s but to me they were Richard and Billy Ray with whom I celebrated all rites of passage and to this day, except for my wife, they know me better than anyone. They know my fears, my insecurities, my dreams and my regrets, and still they are my best friends.
I met Bill Ray in the first grade. His mother Sue was my Cub Scout Den Mother. In fact, I spoke to Bill (always Billy Ray to me) a few months ago and he told me that Sue, at ninety-two, had to be moved to a nursing home which was a block from where I grew up. I told Bill if he was not coming to the reunion, I would go by the nursing home and see his mom. Then, two weeks before the reunion, I sent him a note to see if we could spend some time together. He responded that he was in the Ukraine monitoring the elections there. He also said he had received emails from his wife and brother telling him that his mother had died earlier that day. The funeral would not be until November 3 because he was out of the country. So, when I visited Dallas for the reunion, I also attended the funeral of Sue, a funny, warm and wonderful Den Mother.
Richard was a year younger and a class below me. We met at my grandmother’s church near my boyhood home and became fast friends. As high school students, we led the Junior High Youth Fellowship. The church’s education director thought we had way too much fun. On this special trip to Dallas, Richard and I toured the old neighborhood and included a photo-op at my elementary school, which is still well maintained.
I tell you about my friends because I am very proud of them and while all three of us have very different views on issues like politics and religion, we have in common many of the same values as well as a shared memory – and our values and our various successes all started in our public school experiences.
My friend Richard holds a PhD in Political Science from Perdue University and started his academic career at George Washington University. For twenty-eight years he was Dean of the School of Urban Affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he still teaches. Over the years he held special appointments as a Senior Research Fellow at Yale University and the LBJ School of Public Policy. He was also a Senior Researcher at Queens College in Belfast, Ireland. Notably, his textbook on American government is used at hundreds of colleges across America.
Meanwhile, my friend Bill Phillips (Billy Ray) is a graduate of the University of Nebraska and there began a career in Journalism. He was part of a team at the Nevada State Journal that won a Pulitzer Prize. His career in government began in Nevada and then he moved to DC as Chief of Staff of the Republican National Committee. He served under President George HW Bush as Deputy Director to the Secretary of Education and then as Deputy Director of the Office of Personnel Management. Bill then moved to Tennessee as Vice Chancellor of Government Relations for Vanderbilt University and was, for several years, Deputy Mayor of Nashville.
I tell you all of this (and I admit with great pride) because Billy Ray, Richard and I are children of parents whom Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation.” Our success is that as children we had a great public school education which opened enormous doors for us. That is what I know is needed again in this country if we are to reclaim our place in the world. We need great public education at all levels.
SERVICE AFTER THE STORM
While many were home after Hurricane Sandy there were members of the Rockland Community College family who were on campus insuring that everything was in place and that the campus was safe so the College could reopen at the earliest possible date. A special thanks to Interim Vice President of Finance and Administration, Rondell Walker; Director of Communications, Tzipora Reitman; Director of Public Safety, Bill Murphy and Business Services Director, Dennis Callinan who coordinated RCC’s Storm Watch.
Also a big thank you to the following employees who were on site caring for the campus:
Ken Bachert, Watkin Fevrier, Wayne Dalton, Vincent DiStefano, Mathew O’Gorman, Alain Lajoux, Timothy Lang, Frank Circelli, Waldyn Cuevas, Orlando Sanchez, Daniel Barnaby, Yvon Majeus, Jillian Riley, Sean Broderick, Ivan Lebron, Donald Hagen, David Peterson, Yves Jean-Baptiste, Fernando Quinonez, Timothy Murphy, Paul Marrone, Nabil Ghobriel, Thomas Dombrowski, James Fiske, Gary Martino, Peter Grady, Inmaculada Trotta.