Remarks at Hall of Fame induction dinner

Brighton Schools Alumni Association
Hall of Fame
June 2, 2017

I want to thank the Brighton Schools Alumni Association for this unexpected recognition and I want to speak briefly about two of my Brighton teachers.

As I mentioned in the video, the late Elizabeth Hart taught a senior writing seminar called “Critical Reading and Writing.” We had to write half a dozen papers and on each one, Miss Hart typed long notes of sometimes wry criticism. (My cousin and novelist Lisa Rubiner, who is here tonight, also took Miss Hart’s class and can confirm this.) I remember one assignment in particular where we had to critique an advertising slogan. I chose the insecticide, “Raid,” and the slogan, “Kills Bugs Dead.” The words “kills” and “dead,” I wrote, reinforce each other, and then I wrote: “Sandwiched between ‘kills’ and ‘dead’ is the word ‘bugs.'” On my paper, Miss Hart wrote, “The word ‘sandwiched’ may be technically correct here, but I doubt your readers would appreciate being made to think of a sandwich while reading about dead bugs.”

I think if there was one moment when I first realized that picking the right word can be an interesting challenge, and that writing is a craft, that was it.

Then there was Bud O’Dell: my sixth grade teacher, eighth grade teacher, and JV basketball coach. The thing about Mr. O’Dell is this: within a week or two of the start of sixth grade, somehow I came to feel that he knew me, cared about me, and had confidence in me. And I grew to have so much regard for him—his intelligence, humor, and dedication to teaching—that for the rest of that year and for every school year after—in fact, for all of my life up until and including this moment—I’ve wanted to live up to his confidence.

Long after high school, Mr. O’Dell and I stayed in touch. In fact, about ten years ago, my classmate, Rabbi David Katz, and I visited Caspar, Wyoming where Bud and his wife, Jessie, had retired. That was not a side trip, by the way. David and I flew from New York to Caspar specifically to see our former teacher. I last saw Bud two summers ago in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he and Jessie then lived. Sadly, Bud died last year. He was 87.

I hope all Brighton students are as fortunate as I was to have teachers like Elizabeth Hart and Bud O’Dell.

That Brighton alumni have gone to the trouble to create this Hall of Fame as a way to recognize alumni for career achievements is really very nice, and I’m surprised and grateful to be a part of it.

Now, I’m not a psychologist, but one thing I’ve learned during the past five years of research for my new book on attachment theory—and, really, we all know this intuitively—is that the things that in the long run actually cause us to be happy are generally not about work or career; instead, they’re about relationships: with children, with family, and with friends.

And so tonight I feel most fortunate to be surrounded by so many family and friends.

I want to recognize first one of the people who nominated me: Wendy Roxin Wicks. Wendy’s here with her husband, Gary. I trust her nomination was entirely objective and not influenced by my having been her high school boyfriend.

And I want to recognize my three kids—Sarah and her husband Zach; Valerie, her husband Oren; and Ben; my grandson, Andrew, who is sleeping at the table; and my granddaughter, Maya, who—we hope—is asleep with a sitter at home.

(By the way, if anyone’s in the market for a Tesla—either the car or the solar roof—Ben can set you up; see him after class.)

I also want to recognize Marie; my brother, Robert; my cousins Carol and Dan, and all the long-time friends who have joined us this evening.

I’m sorry my parents and my sister, Jane, couldn’t be here; that would have made the evening complete.

And with that I’ll close by again thanking the Alumni Association for this unexpected honor, and especially—especially—for creating such a happy occasion when we can get the family and so many friends together.

©Peter Lovenheim, 2017