Monday, May 31, 2010

To my high school alumni association

The alumni association of university school, my high-school alma mater, meets in the faculty lounge of the former school building July 10 for the annual alumni meeting. On this Memorial Day, I honor these memories:

This July 10 will be my first alumni meeting since I retired and moved back to Worthington, where I moved in 1951. Now, Steff, I see that the theme for this year’s meeting is sports.
How ironic. I won a letter in wrestling in 1961. The sweater shrunk in the wash while I spent my senior year in Norway, too small for me to wear, small as my deserts for the sports letter.
By the time I finished one year in the ninth grade on the football team, I was on the bench primarily afraid that in the huddle or on the field, someone would step on my foot. By the time I went off to Norway with my parents in lieu of being at uhs, I had spent three years of agony as a wrestling team member. In practice, I could take down a champion several weight classes above me. In a meet, I mastered the art of being strong enough not to be pinned most of the time. When I wrestled a champion from another school I simply imagined that I didn’t want to give him any reason to take losing out on me should we meet in a city alley. My coach was frustrated. Why did I wrestle so well in practice and freeze in meets?
A decade later, I got let go from my first teaching job after I walked into my first criminology class of 200 in January 1971, telling them I was giving them all A’s because I don’t believe in grades. University School gave me the courage to renounce competition in education--to acknowledge that I am loath to win at others' expense. University School gave me space to recognize and live my own political deviance.
Last year. in retirement. I moved back to Worthington with my wife, Jill Bystydzienski. We live here because she was hired four years ago as outside chair of women’s studies at Ohio State. We have been married 36 years. Jill has been to Worthington since we met. She will of course be with me July 10.
I am aware that 2012 will be my class’s 50th anniversary; I’d like to help organize a reunion. Meanwhile, in the spirit of John Dewey and democratic foundation at which u-school was built, I want to acknowledge that University School gave me the courage to acknowledge that I am unsuited to manhood and competition as we know it. U-High, you gave me space to form my own identity, and helped me land in a place where I could honestly live. What a gift, thanks!
Hal Pepinsky, ‘62

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