I wrote this June 12 to my fellow graduates of the Milwaukee Country Day School (MCDS), 60 years ago. It has since become the University School of Milwaukee through merger. It is an extraordinary class of 28 men. Among them are eight earned doctorates, at least four lawyers and a scribbler. Twelve of the 28 will gather in Milwaukee next weekend.
I am gratified by how many have chosen to make our get together two weeks hence: Bob Schmidt, Carl Backus, John Carpenter, John Hazelwood, John Oster, John Mason (our parents sure liked the name John), Larry Church, Ron Susnar, David Barrow, Steve Garlick and Bob Miller.
Our experience together at MCDS clearly had lasting impact. If not, this enormous turnout (12 of 28 in our graduating class) would be simply a fantasy. (The memories of deceased or disabled classmates–Bill Wallin, Ned Nicholson, Tom Gorder, Ted Husting, for four–walk with us.)
My strong, emotional connection to the collective “you” springs from coming of age together: My first academic stumbles–that’s you Latin-meister Harvey Ramaker. My out-of-control, first-love experience — that’s you Vicki (Krause) Mayer. My member-of-a-winning-team-exhilaration–that’s you football genius Ken Laird. My endgame, academic confidence–that’s all you splendid Country Day faculty and staff.
Ours was an essentially placid and settled time. WWII was behind us. The 60s cultural revolution awaited us. Our vocational, community and family paths were mostly circumscribed. We embraced standard callings (medicine, law, business and academy) and traditional domesti expectations (one spouse, for the duration.)
Our accomplishments, in that frame, border on the spectacular– eight doctorates, by my count…at least three jurisdoctors…a large handful of successful business leaders…and one news guy, me. We can claim two graduates of Princeton, three of Yale, two of Harvard, and one each of Dartmouth, Amherst and Duke. Affirmative action in the 50s meant the Ivies looking beyond their borders all the way to the Midwest and beyond for recruits. Lucky us.
On a personal note, my journey on the traditional road crashed after college. I sabotaged a family-implanted vision of being an MD with my stronger attachment to the tools of a quasi-social scientist and passionate observer, namely journalism tools.
Most of you know my subsequent story: Washington reporter, newspaper editor/publisher in the Carolinas and Florida, writing teacher at the University of South Florida. My insane, first marriage broke up in 10 years. While producing two spirited and very bright children (another two came in my second marriage), it also led to an ungodly, protracted and expensive divorce.
I look forward to listening again to your stories of mostly rises and a few cleansing falls.
I am struck by how many of our early personas have persisted for what will soon be eight decades. Dr. Robert Miles Schmidt, the fidgety and precise field general at quarterback. Bob Buettner, tackle, effervescent lover of life. John Hazelwood, tackle, tart-tongued and insightful analyst (“Country Day was Athens in the classroom and Sparta on the playing fields.”) Charles Walter (Alexander Hamilton) Backus, guard, stolid traditionalist, analogue holdout and opera devotee. Dr. Steve Garlick, class enthusiast and cheerleader. Dr. David Kieft, guard, deeply cerebral, master of the pithy exclamation.
Our 60th reunion promises to be heart-warming and brain-draining. I seriously doubt (but could be proven wrong) we will need anything larger than a coat closet for a 70th.
I can hardly wait, as evidenced by this screed.
See you in Milwaukee.
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