The School Man
I once heard from a School Man now passed on,
That there was no higher distinction. He said,
“A School Man becomes inseparably connected
To a place. Schools, and especially gender
Specific boarding schools are institutions that work
To make people whole. They take boys and
Form, craft, shape, inspire, encourage, and show them
The way to becoming full rounded complete men.
In these places where relationships are central
There are teachers and then there are School Men.
Both are important, both are needed, but there
Is a tangible noticeable difference that is clear
At first sight and remains in the vision of memory.
The School Man’s blood takes on the colors,
And so at Blue Ridge bleeds blue. He is just
As affected by the place as he is of the place.
He is a man who has cried in public, yelled,
There, too, in all of yelling’s finest forms:
Cheering, correcting, cajoling, in anger, in love,
In frustration, in excitement, and done so
All in the same day, which is pretty much each day.
Everyday the School Man laughs, too, sometimes
At the same time as the tears are falling
And the loud yelling voice is echoing through
The halls and valley and the minds of the students,
Because in working with young men, only one thing
Is essential: Passion. You have to feel things deeply.
You have to care. You have to lead with your heart
Because boys can see through anything else.
You have to be genuine: that human combination
Of stern and fun, strict and accommodating,
Distant and approachable, like a father, like
The Father. You have to love what you do,
And love the people you do it with, partners
In education, the students and your colleagues,
And by loving, I mean putting them first,
Sacrificing, without them even realizing it,
Knowing that more can be accomplished
When credit is not sought for in the equation.
You have to know a little something about
Everything, and you have to be able to do
Everything because everything has to be done
By someone, else no one would ever do it,
And nothing would then ever get done,
So the School Man steps in, and feels at home
At all things. He teaches all subjects, realizing
That all learning is essential and connected.
He coaches because sports make sense, and
Through them relationships are made deeper.
He sings because music makes life bearable.
He directs plays because in becoming someone
Else, we learn about how others are like us
And different from us. We learn from the stage
That by escaping into the world of story and song,
We can come to know more about the real world,
The mundane world, scary, threatening, and imposing
Than we ever thought possible, that statements
Made in that artistic realm pierce through walls,
And leave an impact. Much of teaching is acting,
Playing roles, performing, and the School Man
Knows he can do it all, can be the devil’s advocate,
Can give the half-time speech, can trump up
The emotion and still come across authentic
Because what never wavers is that giving heart.
A School Man is as formidable as the buildings,
As full of life as the tallest oldest oak, as inspiring
As the winds that whisk through the valley, and
As burned firmly into our minds as the view
Of the mountains, as the trees are set on fire
By the dropping temperatures of late autumn.
Little by little the color, bright as the blazing sun,
It reflects, creeps down from the heavens,
And so does the impact of lives touched radiate
Out from every young life impacted by his presence.
A School Man is one with the school, embodies
The mission, the identity, and fills the place
In our hearts, we who remember how he touched us,
As the school touched us. If the school is Alma
Mater, our nourishing mother, then the School
Man is the father, planting and cultivating life
Through his love for what he does, knowing
Always what he does it for. And so the School
Man lives forever in our hearts, in this place,
And in the world made better through his
Simple and humble, tireless efforts, one boy,
One day, one relationship at a time, all unique
And all individually crucial. You always know
A School Man when you see them, when you
Hear from people the stories of their life spent
In giving it completely." We remember one today
That we have now lost, but in our memory,
In this place, in all hearts that bleed Baron blue,
He will never not be, for there is no doubt
That Frank DeAngelis will forever be just that,
Simply put: A School Man.
~ Rev. Peter T. Atkinson