One of our favorite activities as a family was attending the Muny Opera in Forest Park. We usually sat in the free seats in the back, except for the time Jacob Lashly, the Muny President, palmed a couple of tickets to me after church.
Never an athlete in high school, I enjoyed science, music, and mechanical drawing. I was an alto saxophone player in the high school band. I participated in a city-wide architectural drawing contest and placed third. The grand prize winner was Jerry Sincoff, a classmate of mine who was later a well-known architect. Several other fellow students later became famous. Jason McManus became Editor-in-Chief of Time Magazine, Leslie Parnas is a world-class cellist, the late Malcolm Frager was a superb pianist, and Maureen Arthur went on to show biz in Hollywood and Las Vegas.
I attended Monmouth College and majored in chemistry and education. At one point Dr. Garrett Thiessen, one of my professors, hired me to illustrate an article he wrote for the Baker Chemical Company publication: The Chem Analyst, and I was thrilled when he gave me a copy of it after it was published. I was a member of the intercollegiate rifle team, and team coach for a while. I also directed the junior choir in a local church, and sang in the college's mens' quartet and the college choirs.
After graduation I accepted a graduate teaching assistantship in the Chemistry Department of Iowa State College (now ISU). Here I was one of 60 chemistry instructors of the freshman chemistry classes (required) and I did some research in chelation.
I was married that fall and my wife, Liz, accepted a position with the Dairy Science Department of ISC. We still remember the experimental ice cream flavors and cheeses she occasionally brought home from work. We both sang in Bob McCowen's church choir.
We left Ames after one year and I began the chemistry teaching position (I was the first full-time chemistry teacher) at Sterling High School in Sterling, Illinois, a career that lasted a third of a century.
While at SHS I also taught algebra, biology, physics, and BASIC computer programming. During the summers I attended a variety of institutes for science teachers, sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The first was in Marquette, Michigan at Northern Michigan College (now NMU), where I eventually earned a Master of Arts Degree in the Teaching of Science. Other summers were spent at USC and SFSU.
In 1973 SHS purchased a brand new Digital PDP-8 computer. This was the first high school in northwestern Illinois to have a computer on site, and we were absolutely overwhelmed. The cost was around $11,000 and it had a Teletype input/output, BASIC (Edusystem-10) on punched paper tape that required 45 minutes to load, and a "permanent" magnetic memory of 8000 bytes! The debate of whether or not we could justify such an expense was quickly resolved when we ran a short program that saved our major taxpayer about a million dollars on a construction bill.
An interesting set of circumstances brought me into close association with several Nobel Prize winners. Arthur Holly Compton, physics laureate, was the Chancellor of Washington University when I studied German there. While I was a student at USC, William Fowler was a guest lecturer in our nuclear physics class. When I was at SFSU we visited the Ernest O. Lawrence Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley. Our home in Sterling is just a few miles from Morrison, Illinois, where Robert Andrews Millikan was born. He was the first native-born American to win a Nobel Prize, and the greatest physicist of his time. The year my second daughter graduated from high school, Paul Flory was awarded the chemistry prize. Dr. Flory, with whom I corresponded, was born in Sterling and lived in the same parsonage where one of my best chemistry students later also lived (BK). Dr. Donald Cram, the author of the textbook I used my second summer at Northern Michigan College also won the chemistry prize and was nice enough to reply to my congratulatory note. It was he, who had the same name as a carpet cleaner in Los Angeles who mistakenly received the prize notification, and was a guest on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson as a result. Lastly (so far) when my second daughter graduated from college the commencement speaker was Glenn Seaborg , the idol of every chemistry teacher, who afterwards shook my hand like we were old friends. Seaborg grew up in Ishpeming, Michigan, just a stones-throw from Northern Michigan College.
Millikan, Flory, and President Ronald Reagan were all born in Whiteside County, Illinois. Can any other county in the nation top this?
I have enjoyed a variety of experiences outside the high school classrooms:
And some once-in-a-lifetime experiences: