Friday, June 29, 2012

The Long Goodbye

Photo Courtesy of The Hill School
From left, Newstell Marable, president of the Pottstown Chapter of the NAACP; Johnny C. Corson, vice-president of the Pottstown Chapter of the NAACP; Kay and David Dougherty; Johnny M. Corson, Hill class of 2011 and current student at Boston University; Nile Watkins-Frazier, resident of Pottstown and student at Montgomery County Community College; and Tiannia C. Bowman, co-founder of Hearts of Harmony, a local organization that helps inspire girls and young women

Blogger's Note: Thursday afternoon, I received this from The Hill School:

"On Thursday, June 28, Jonathan C. Corson, Hill parent of Jonathan M. Corson ’11 and vice president of the local chapter of the NAACP, presented David Dougherty with a plaque thanking him for his and The Hill’s commitment to diversity and for hosting several Pottstown community-wide Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrations.

The Hill also has supported the programs and growth of Pottstown’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, among other diverse local churches and organizations.

Jonathan also shared commendations provided by Pennsylvania State Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr. and Pennsylvania State Representative Tom Quigley.

David and his wife, Kay, are retiring from The Hill on June 30 after 19 years of service to the School."

I offer my congratulations to David and Kay, who are, for one more day at least, two of my favorite people in Pottstown.

There are some people you like for what they do, there are some people you like for who they are and then there are those rare few who you like for both reasons.

Over the years I've reported on The Hill for The Mercury, these two have been unfailingly kind and gracious.

Kay even went so far as to write me a thank you note for our coverage of their final graduation last month. Not many people do that any more.

Her note was kind and gracious, as was the simple act of writing and sending it, which is a pretty accurate way to describe Kay; although I suspect there is more than that going on under the surface.

This is my favorite photo of David and Kay, taken at this year's
graduation by Mercury Photographer Kevin Hoffman.
In my estimation, one would be unwise to underestimate someone who became a math teacher at a time when women just did not become math teachers.

I had intended to write an appreciative blog post about the couple after the graduation -- and even before Kay sent her note -- but time got away from me as so often happens on the news treadmill.

Happily, the NAACP's most excellent decision to recognize David and Kay for hosting the many Martin Luther King Jr. events gives me a second chance I will not pass us.

(The Dougherty's and I have thanked each other enough over the years that I've joked we should form our own mutual admiration society. That said, they only have one day left in I WIN!)

I was lucky enough to be among those invited to their farewell dinner earlier this year at the Center for the Arts, which also served the equally important purpose of welcoming the Dougherty's successors, Zachary Lehman and his wife Amy.

As several glasses of wine convinced me to tell David that evening, I have always enjoyed attending Hill School graduations because of the frequent eloquence of the speakers.

But famous though they often are, they were oftentimes out-shined by David himself, who I consider to be one of Pottstown's better writers.

This is not just because he knows his way around the English language, which he does, but also because he uses it so intuitively.

I was particularly struck by this at the last graduation when a dozen or so students were on the stage to receive the various endowed awards the school presents each year.

As he introduced each student, one might expect to hear bland platitudes about the award and a simple recitation of the student's accomplishments, but not from David Dougherty.

In each case, I was amazed to see, he had written something insightful, elegant and no doubt accurate about students he quite obviously knew better than "just in passing."

The example I had the foresight to write down applied to one of the graduates, a girl whose name I'm afraid I don't recall.

Of her, he said: "she abides comfortably in the shadow of her own humility, peering out occasionally to shine."

"Who says things like that at a graduation?" I thought to myself.

David Dougherty does.

Not only was this beautiful writing, it effortlessly conjures up that young woman in your mind, even if you've never met her. You know people just like her.

Now multiply that times 12 or so.

Not only did David write a commencement address which worked in tandem with Kay's remarks, he had also taken the time and made the effort to write a literate, individual tribute to those award winners.

This was not language ever likely to be published, or to win acclaim on a regional or national stage. This was written for the benefit of a few people, primarily the student, friends and family, but received no less effort nonetheless.

I'm sorry, but that is a class act.

It also seems so effortless when he shares the final product.

But as he explained in his address, David got kicked out of college and learned a thing or two about effort. That's what makes it all the more remarkable to me.

It is also one of two examples of his bravery I would like to share.

During that good-bye/welcome dinner, David weighed unflinchingly into some thoughts on The Hill's involvement with the central learning campus proposed by the school district.

This was the project The Mercury dubbed the "Mega-Campus," and an issue which ended up dividing rather than uniting Pottstown's disproportionately high number of factions.

On their way out the door to retirement, few community leaders would dredge up one of their failures. But Dougherty did so undaunted, because, as he said to the graduates, to forget one's failures would be to forget the lessons learned from them.

So I'm pleased the NAACP recognized their efforts, not because the Doughertys need another plaque on their wall, but because it reinforces the fact that they accomplished something very rare in Pottstown -- very few people dislike them.

When you work in a community as small and as diverse as Pottstown, that's no small feat.

Not for that reason alone, I will miss them.

No comments:

Post a Comment