Skip to main content

Going Home

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.

childhood picture

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.

Cliff and Richard

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Tribute to Trustee Richard E. Voigt

Richard E. Voigt Memorial July 13, 2018
​Remarks by President Emeritus Cliff L. Wood I love/loved Dick Voigt and was honored when his beloved Elisabeth asked me to speak this morning.  Elisabeth, you know you were the love of his life and that he adored you, “his great beauty.”  That’s a sentiment shared by many of us—you are beautiful in every way.    I remember Dick telling me when he knew he loved you.  He had returned to Germany to visit you in your hometown and you were together at a bar.  He looked over and there you were, elegant and sophisticated, leaning against a grand piano, another love of his.
I first met Dick in 2005 shortly after I came to RCC and when Dick was appointed Trustee, a position he held at the time of his passing.  A few days after Dick’s appointment, he called and invited me to lunch before I had a chance to call him.  I was impressed by his warmth and generosity of spirit, and my feelings have never changed.  Dick told me that as a Trustee, his job was to supp…

Goals and Gold

My goal when I came to RCC in May of 2004 was to create a student-centered environment that put students and their learning and success at the center of the institution. I knew that for that to happen, there had to be transformation and change. And, since teaching and learning are the primary mission of the College, I knew that first we had to look at how we teach and how our students learn. Early in my tenure, I established the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), and now, after more than ten years, CETL has thrived, and each year it has provided an array of programs to help and encourage our faculty.

In addition to CETL, over the last several years, the State University of New York (SUNY) has charged its community colleges with looking at how they teach, especially in the areas of English and math, and to re-think remediation. RCC has emerged as a leader in both of these areas, and SUNY cites RCC as a model for its new math program called QUANTWAY and our developme…

A Special Holiday Gift from the Riversville Foundation

On Tuesday, December 6, RCC and BOCES administrators gathered for a luncheon with this year's student recipients of the Riversville Foundation scholarship awards. The Riversville Foundation was founded in 2006 by Barton Biggs, a former partner at Morgan Stanley and founder of Traxis Partners, a hedge-fund based in Greenwich, CT.  Biggs, who died in 2012, believed in the power of education, and particularly the importance of a college degree. While Riversville has primarily worked with four-year institutions, beginning in 2014, the Riversville Foundation began a collaboration with Rockland Community College. This year, full one-year scholarships were awarded to 21 RCC students, a commitment of more than $95,000.

Under the direction of the Riversville Foundation's Executive Director, Bruno Casolari, a former Director of Resource Development at RCC, the Foundation has awarded more than $135,000 in need-based scholarships to more than 25 Rockland Community College stud…