Thursday, October 3, 2013

"A Teacher Affects Eternity; He Can Never Tell Where His Influence Stops." -Henry Adams

Here's to You 

Here's to Me, 

Here's to Alpha Xi!

I just returned from a magnificent weekend in Clarion, PA!  Fall in the Northeast not only consists of lovely cool days, and clear skies, but no one can deny the beauty of the backdrop, the scenery that surrounds us in the Pennsylvania hills and the gradation of color each tree leaf takes on as it is kissed by the sun.

I don't know how I can put into words the overwhelming feeling of love I have for each of these women--women, up until a year ago I had not seen in decades...yet from the moment one squeal of joy is sounded by greeting one another...and the memories pour out throughout the weekend, I realize...part of this overwhelming love comes from the fact that these are the women I truly really grew up with...discovering myself, my gifts, my flaws, and each of us having a great deal of respect for one another.

I discovered three years ago that my sorority sisters had been gathering the week before homecoming for about 20 years!  It happened that a sorority sister took a composite picture and ran through maiden names on Facebook...that's where I discovered the reunion.

You can say what you will about social media...I personally love Dave Ramsey's perspective on social media..."Don't compare your everyday life to someone else's highlight reel."  This is true for all aspects of just see more of it on Facebook, Instagram...keep everything in perspective.  But it was through social media that I found the women from college, who helped shape me into the person I am today!

Many of my sorority sisters are educators.  I had planned to be an teacher when I was a freshman in college, but changed my major 4 times--but graduated in 4 years!  Teachers are my heroes.

I want to repost a blog I wrong back in February of 2011.  After hearing the working and retired teachers discuss the challenges they face today, I want them to know they make a difference!

So Alpha Xi Delta sisters--I wrote this initial blog after celebrating a mentor and teacher of my husband's when he celebrated a significant birthday.  While this was for him in Feb. 2011, this is for make a difference...just as you made a difference in my life over 30 years ago.  I am a better person for having known you in my 20s...and I am incredibly blessed to know you now!

I Lasso Alpha Xi's who are teachers
I Lasso those Alpha Xi's who are in other careers...with love!


"A Teacher Affects Eternity; He can never tell where his influence stops."  ~  Henry Adams

Have you ever had a teacher, a mentor, a person who had an impact on your life--helped form you into the person your are today?

One of my favorite books is Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom.
Like Morrie, there are teachers who do more than teach a this book, Morrie is dying, yet continues to be the teacher...he taught life lessons to one particular student.  There is a quote in the book that has stayed with me, especially during the 12 years I served as a Board of Trustee for Coppell Independent School District.
The quote came from Henry Adams,
"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops".  Teachers are truly my heroes!  The most profound illustration of Henry Adam's quote I can really speak to did not happen to me, but rather it happened to my husband Joe and our son, Adam.

Joe grew up in a suburb of Buffalo, New York...Williamsville!  In third grade he started to play the trumpet.  As he moved through the school system there was a middle school/high school band director who changed Joe forever.  His name--Frank Del Russo or Mr. D.  He was a task master...he pushed and pushed his band students to strive to always do their very best.  He insisted on doing everything the right way--always.  He didn't just expect this from his students, but Mr. D expected it from himself.  Mr. D also loved these students.  His love and compassion spilled over into every interaction he had with his band, color guard students.  

As I mentioned, Joe played trumpet.  So fast forward twenty some years...Joe always kept his trumpet out, because Mr. D told him if the trumpet is in the case, he would be less likely to take the time to get it out to just play.  By now, Joe and I were married with three elementary aged children.  One evening, Joe came to the dinner table in a bad mood.  After we said grace over our food, he stared at each of our children one-by-one and asked the question in a very serious tone, "Who put the DING in my trumpet bell?"  There was silence.  Then from the left side of the dinner table our only son Adam, a little third grader at the time, spoke up in tears..."Daddy, I just want to play the trumpet!  I am sorry I dinged your horn!"

It was at that very moment that Mr. D's love, and influence on Joe back in 1960's-- reached into the future and touched our son.  Our son graduated from Baylor as a trumpet performance major and is (prayerfully) headed to grad school for trumpet performance in the fall.

In October of this past year, Joe and I had the pleasure of hearing one of his band-mates, Carol Wincenc, perform at Bass Hall, in Fort Worth,Texas.  Carol Wincenc, a former student of Mr. D's has since become one of the most respected flute players, having appeared as a soloist with the world’s finest orchestras--and a Juilliard professor.  After the concert we met up with Carol.  As Joe and Carol were reminiscent of their days in "Bill's-ville" Joe happened to mentioned to her that in February Mr. D will be 80 years old.  She exclaimed, "We must do something for him!"

So at that moment, Joe the pilot became Joe the event planner!  
I love technology...because, between emails and email or connection to a few former middle school/high school band students led to others spreading the word of Joe organizing a luncheon in honor of Mr. D's 80th Birthday.  With the help of Mr. D's beautiful wife Claudia--Joe had a co-conspirator to pull off this event. 

Eagle House, Williamsville, NY

Well, last week, February 12th, 50 former students of Mr. D's gathered from all over the USA to the Eagle House in Williamsville, New York, to pay the highest honor a teacher can receive...students from the class of 1966, 1967, 1968 and one from 1969 came together to show Mr. D that his love, example of persistence, drive for excellence touched each of their lives.

Throughout the private room of this local watering hole, blue and white crape paper -- Williamsville school colors draped the room. Large photos of the former band students, a young band director covered the walls.  And what were once vinyl record albums of a young group of middle school/high school musicians were digitally loaded onto an iPod for background music for this festive event.

Mr. Frank Del Russo

Mr. D
The moment arrived.  Joe, who has always kept in touch with Mr. D, called him two weeks prior to mention that he had a Southwest Airlines overnight in Buffalo and wondered if he could take Frank to lunch.  Frank mentioned to him, "You know that's my birthday?"  Joe said, "No, I thought your birthday was on President's Day?"  Well, Mr. D told him, "No, my birthday falls on Lincoln's birthday...but I would love to see you and have lunch".  

So with the stage set...the crowd gathered, the band music playing...and...

The beloved band director from over four decades ago got the surprise of his life!

Joe, Frank, John, Suzi

Dan Teplesky, Denny Brown, Roy and Linda Larson
Claudia, Frank and their children, Kathie & Joe Gautille

One by one each student shared a personal memory of what Mr. D meant to them. The reoccurring theme of many whom shared was that Mr. D gave each of them love, confidence, compassion, persistence and the pursuit of excellence--and in turn they were able to pay it forward...pass it on to other students, family, friends.  Something else was shared, Mr. D gave a great deal of credit to the teacher/mentor of his--Herb Ludwig, who he credited for teaching him how to be the best possible teacher he could be...once again, a teacher affecting eternity.

Carol Wincenc, the one who proposed the idea to honor Frank unfortunately had to be in California for a master class and was unable to attend the surprise luncheon...but by phone she had 50 flutist play Happy Birthday to Frank.  

He received one other call, from Holland, yes...the of his students, April Eaton Brolsma made sure she called during the luncheon!

Not surprising that Frank married a lovely English Literature teacher, who has also touched the future.

Kathie, Joe, Claudia and Frank

Not many people get to see how they are lifting others, making a difference...I am so happy that this group of students made the effort to trek across the country to tell a wonderful 80 year old man that he made a difference in their lives.

A movie I have always loved...and actually was one of the reasons I thought I wanted to be a teacher (but I will save that story for another day) is To Sir with Love.  "Sir" took a tough group of students in London and taught them life lessons.  While Sir was initially despised for his tough disciplined approach to teaching...the video, the song at the end of the movie explains that Sir also touched eternity!  

I dedicate this entry to Frank, Claudia, our daughter Sara (3rd grade teacher), our son Adam (who teaches private trumpet lessons) and ALL of the educators that went into the profession to make a difference in the lives of their students!


I Lasso the love of teachers who are making difference
Frank Del Russo!

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