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Prep Reunion 2007

Keynote speaker
Walter Fields G’68, former math teacher

Good evening Reverend Fathers and Brothers, my fellow teachers, ladies and gentlemen, and men of Assumption Preparatory School! I understand there's a lot of Monks here this evening? Assumption Prep Monks?

I must say, gentlemen, that you’re all looking a little older, ah… more mature than when I saw you last. As for myself, I’ve lost some hair, and I’m a lot older, although I like to think of myself as being in the old age of my youth.

In the 1960s, the young lives of some of you crossed with my life. It’s good to see you again. This is a grand and wonderful gathering. Joyce and I are very pleased to be with you this evening. Congratulations and thanks to those who worked to bring this reunion together. All of you here are truly a band of brothers ... in Shakespeare's words, “ We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”

I won’t go on about Shakespeare’s version of the Battle of Agincourt. Some of you know that history better than I do. And if the truth be known, it was a victory for the English over superior French forces. Some of us may not like to hear that, but some good came out of it. England and France were at peace, at least for a few years.

Now, my son strongly suggests that I not speak to you about the war, politics, the economy, religion, nostalgia, sex, or food. And I should refrain from any dumb math jokes. Some of you were painfully subjected to those jokes these many years ago. They served a purpose at the time – they kept some of you awake. My son suggests that I stick to topics that I know something about like Moxie, my beverage of choice, or the Red Sox. Any Moxie drinkers here? Any Red Sox fans here?

You’ll hear no more this evening about Moxie or the Red Sox. My mission tonight is to recall what was special about education at Assumption Prep, the students, and the men who taught there. For it was people that made Assumption Preparatory School special – people, not buildings and books. It was the faculty and the students living an experience together – all for one and one for all.

My fellow teachers in the mathematics department were special. Tom Severance, Don LaPointe, Bernie Tremblay, Fr. Ildephonse, Charlie Bibaud, Fr. Al, Fr. Ulric. Some of those fine men who taught ME and taught WITH me no longer walk God's earth with us. May they rest in peace.

Oh, ... perhaps we weren't the greatest educators on the planet, but the amount of knowledge that existed among these men was amazing. And I know from nine years of being with those men that all of us, religious and lay faculty alike, tried our darndest to give to our students the best that was within us. We did this in different ways but with common goals – to give each student the best preparation we could for higher learning, to instill what we hoped would be a lifelong love of learning, to encourage the use of each individual's talents in the service of others, and to deepen each student's understanding and love of God and Holy Mother the Church.

As I look back, I’m not sure how I wound up at Assumption Prep. It was pre-ordained, I guess. When I was very young, we lived next door to the Dufaults in Athol. I have an early memory of attending a performance of The Mikado at the Town Hall in Athol, one of Fr. Ulric’s grand Gilbert & Sullivan productions of those days. In my high school years, John Dufault was my French teacher at Athol High School. And John is here tonight!

When I arrived for my first day of classes as a new and very green young teacher-wanna-be, I was given a schedule, a box of chalk, a text book, a desk in the math office, a pat on the back from Fr. Ildephons, and best wishes from my fellow educators who did anything they could to help me when I asked for assistance.

I know now that Most importantly – We were given the freedom to teach! Our day was not cluttered with non-teaching duties, unless we so chose. I was given three classes and four the following year. We were blessed with a tradition of learning and discipline. Oh, there were days when I wondered if I was reaching anyone...if anyone was learning anything at all! Every teacher has those days. There are teachers here this evening who can relate to that!

Assumption Prep School was a special place in a special time...and, since mathematics teachers spend most of their class time on their feet, those wooden floors in the classrooms, were easy on the feet and legs. If you’ve ever had to stand for long stretches on concrete floors, you may know what I mean.

It was my pleasure to be your mathematics instructor and your mechanical drawing instructor. I remember getting the word back from some of you who went on to engineering studies in college that it would have been advantageous to them if they knew some fundamentals of mechanical drawing before college studies were taken up. And so I was given the go ahead to teach a course in mechanical drawing. This was in the days before CAD. We had fun with it – it was a non-credit course – but we learned some principles of drafting and how to read a blueprint.

Remember the discipline. Both students and faculty were disciplined. Not that any of us had any choice in the matter. That was the way it was. For me, coming to Assumption Prep after Holy Cross followed by duty with the U.S. Air Force on the East German border, adapting to the discipline at The Prep was easy. The Cross has never been a party school. In my day in the 1950s it was more like a monastery…with strict discipline and a Dean of Discipline to enforce it, a nearly all Jesuit faculty, Jesuit prefects living on every dormitory corridor, obligatory Mass every morning with attendance taken, strict rules on lights out and leaving campus, and of course no ladies allowed…except at Homecoming when mothers were allowed to visit their son’s rooms. A lot of room cleaning went on the day prior to Homecoming! The Jesuit Ratio Studiorum, their rule of study, was in full force! Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam! So discipline had been part of my life long before I arrived at the Prep.

In part because of the discipline, we teachers adapted and developed a strong camraderie at Assumption Prep…just as you men here tonight did when you were students. The expectations and the discipline were not easy for some of you, I’m sure, but you are the better for it. Here you are today, and no worse for the wear. Life at The Prep was preparation for the real world, not a total preparation but certainly a good beginning.

I came to appreciate Assumption Prep School even more after my nine years of public high school teaching that followed the closing of The Prep. Weston High School, where I taught after the Prep closed, has received national recognition for being one of the best high schools in the country. And the Weston Public School System has always paid very well and attracted the best teachers as a result. Assumption Prep School did not have that kind of money, BUT The Prep had a HEART and a SOUL and a grand tradition of learning!…. and judging from what I'm surrounded by here this evening, that heart is in good health and still beats, while the soul remains with us a reminder of what once was and what will always be with us in memory and in spirit...Remember...

I left the classroom after 18 years and took engineering positions for another 18 years with several high tech firms in New Hampshire. Using mathematics in the real world is quite a different experience from teaching it in the classroom. Those of you who’ve been there and done that can understand. After retirement, I returned to part-time teaching, my first love. Teachers are rarely thanked and just as rarely ever look for thanks. A mathematics teacher's reward is “seeing the light go on” when a student grasps a new concept.

Athletics were another important dimension of life at The Prep. Whether you played the game or cheered from the sidelines, you were one of the Monks. Who can forget Charlie Bibaud's basketball teams? And though The Prep was most noted for teams skilled in handling the big round ball, there were the other sports as well in which we held our own.

Like you, I can recall everyday events, occasionally interspersed with earthshaking events such as the assassination of our President John Kennedy at 12:30 PM, November 22, 1963 in Dallas, TX. Fr. Maurice came to our classroom door – algebra I, I think. I went out into the corridor and closed the door behind me. What Fr. Maurice had to say hit me hard. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the first presidential candidate I was old enough to vote for – the Camelot days had come to a horrible ending. I returned to the classroom and tried to tell the class what had happened. I can’t remember exactly what I did in those moments, but we went down to the chapel.On a much happier note, there are other memories …basketball games and dances in the old gym...on occasion, walking through a couple of dorm corridors after the evening meal and stopping briefly here and there to chat...working with the Explorer Post...coaching baseball with Bob Flagg who taught me a lot about the game that I used later for nine years, coaching at Weston High School. Anyone remember those ground balls and fungos out in the parking lot in March with snow still thick on the ground?

I remember very well my first geometry class with students from the Class of '65 who kept me honest during my first year of teaching. The classroom was in back of the library. The most difficult exercises in a mathematics text were usually the "Optional" exercises, and some of these guys would do those exercises even if they weren't assigned! Anyone remember what a syllogism is? Or how to form the converse, inverse and contrapositive of a proposition? I was young and inexperienced, but you broke me in fast. Thanks again to the Class of '65 for breaking me in AND – for inviting me to their 40th reunion.

I remember Bernie Tremblay advising me in the Teachers' Room when I approached him with questions – then there was Tom Severance in the Math Office, always there to help me out. I remember the occasional round of golf, make that trying to play golf, with some of the faculty members, and Charlie’s B.’s notorious ball marker that we called "the Chris dazzler."

There was my now departed friend, Don "Boom Boom" LaPointe who helped me along the way. Remember why you called him that? Then there was John Conte from the history department – on a lunchtime walk – telling me of how, in his history classes, he was emphasizing the importance of taking an active interest in politics and then how his history students asking him why he didn’t run for public office. And you who live in Worcester County know the rest of that story.

Then I remember that fateful day …. The day we were told that The Prep was closing. I remember sitting in the Teachers' Room with other some of the other teachers – we were all stunned – it was hard to say anything for it was the end of a great institution and the end of an era. But of necessity it was a new beginning for us, the faculty. We had to find jobs!

That's just a few of so many memories. With the passing of the Assumption Preparatory School, a "WAY OF LIFE” had passed, but today the memories still live...and you all are here...and you are remembering.

Recently Assumption College named a new president. Like many of you, I wanted to know something about this new president. Who is this Dr. Cesareo (Chez-a-RAY-o), anyway, and how do you pronounce his name. A phone call to the college quickly solved my pronunciation problem. Then on the College Web site a letter from the Office of the President caught my attention.

Dr. Cesareo says in this letter, "Many institutions of higher education today have lost the true meaning of education, which should not [just] be concerned with training students in a set of skills, but rather with the formation of the whole human person. In so doing, the educational experience becomes truly transformative as the student achieves his or her full human potential."

Although Dr. Cesareo is writing about the college experience here, I think that to a certain extent these same ideals applied at Assumption Preparatory School as the good fathers and brothers and lay teachers tried over the years to carry out the vision of Fr. Emmanuel D'Alzon. Indeed there is more to an education than learning a set of skills. That's job training. Necessary? Yes, but only a part of a true education.

You as students at Assumption Prep were privileged to experience a rigorous academic curriculum interwoven with opportunities for spiritual growth as exemplified by the Augustinians of the Assumption and their motto ... Adveniat Regnum Tuum. You experienced a community of faith with the Assumptionists that was academically challenging and personally enriching. You lived in an environment that emphasized character formation in the classroom and on the athletic field. You were fortunate to experience a setting that allowed both teachers and students to live with, and learn from, each other. You made friends who experienced what you were going through. And now, you have returned – you have come back to be with those who shared those years with you. You have come back to remember.

Could Assumption Preparatory School survive in today's world? That's a topic for another day. We live in a world still as real today as ever, and the need for such an education as you were privileged to receive is today greater than ever.

And so...many thanks to those who worked on this Reunion Committee and thank you for inviting me to share my memories of Assumption Prep School with you who are here this evening. If any of you have any mathematics questions, please see Mr. Bibaud afterwards. God bless you all, you Band of Brothers. If you’re so inclined, please say a Hail Mary for Joyce and me. I'll say one for you.

And let us recall the title of our Assumption Preparatory School yearbook"Memini" let us all...remember.

For more info, contact Melanie Demarais at 508-767-7146

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