Memories Are Made of This: Scholars and Athletes

Football 1922
The 1922 football squad

Here is the tenth installment of recollections from D. Bruce Lockerbie.

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The Stony Brook School, at which we arrived in 1957, became a different institution by the time I retired  in 1991, and I’m sure today’s Stony Brook is even more different in many ways. In the previous “Memories” essay, I attempted to account for the imbalance I perceived between academic accomplishment and athletic achievement—a disparity of which I was a part and which I now regret. True, I had my academic opportunities to contribute: I was privileged to initiate Advanced Placement English, introduced to the Class of 1962, as the first of Stony Brook’s AP courses; I succeeded Marvin W. Goldberg as President of our chapter of The Cum Laude Society; and–perhaps most notably–I was presented with “The Golden Screw Award” by the Class of 1973, emblematic of my being the toughest teacher (whatever that means). Nonetheless, if there were such an imbalance, I don’t want to support it further by failing to recognize that some of our best scholars were also athletes–as well as those who were not, including some who, in their adult maturity, have gone on to earn acclaim in their professions.

Dan Hickey, ’04, our athletic director and editor of stonybrookbears.org, has assiduously compiled records that are a gift to Stony Brook alumni. But the trouble with any list is that it invariably omits someone deserving; so I’m not making a list of names, just indicating by one example or another the scope of Stony Brook’s scholars-and-athletes, some of whom have already been inducted into the School’s Hall of Fame.

Let’s go back to the beginning: The School’s first alumnus was Gilbert Pierce Inglis, the lone graduate in 1923. Son of a Presbyterian pastor in Newark, New Jersey, he had already completed public high school and was prepping for Princeton University, where he was admitted and majored in English. At Stony Brook he had played on coach Clyde Mellinger’s teams, but at Princeton, Columbia Law School, and the Union League Club (of which he was president) in New York City, his sport was bridge. One of his greatest contributions was the precedent he set at Princeton, where a Bible course was then required; but his acuity in biblical knowledge exempted him and other Stony Brook alumni who followed him from taking the Princeton course for as long as that diploma requirement lasted.

I knew only a few other early students at Stony Brook, each of them scholar-athletes in the best sense of that phrase: Thomas Brohard ’25, who after studies and competition at Grove City College, returned to teach and coach wrestling at The Brook; Kermit Jones ’27, as well as William B. Minuse ’27, a day student from East Setauket, and Cary N. Weisiger III also ’27, from St. Louis, Missouri. Kermit Jones became a Presbyterian pastor and father of two alumni, Peter ’60 and Steven ‘65. Bill Minuse was a celebrated local historian, as well as a stalwart parishioner at the Caroline Church of Brookhaven (Episcopal), where we also worship. Cary Weisiger ran on Stony Brook’s first winning team at the Penn Relays and continued to compete in college. Following seminary studies, he became pastor of Presbyterian churches in Pennsylvania and California. He is well remembered by a scholarship given in his name at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. He passed his athletic genes on to his son and namesake Cary Weisiger IV, who became one of the USA’s early sub-four minute milers.

In the next decade, Stony Brook’s scholar-athletes included Robert P. Glover ’31, a pioneer cardiac surgeon, who competed in football, basketball, baseball, and track at the School and in several sports at Wheaton College. His classmate, John Warren Hershey ’31, may have been the School’s best all-around athlete. While at Franklin and Marshall College, he earned the civilian Medal of Honor for his bravery in tackling an escaping felon. Hershey’s brother-in-law, Floyd Johnson ’32, also played the ball-sports at both Stony Brook and Davidson College, then returned to teach and coach in 1937—and was married to the all-time Cheerleader in Chief, Eleanor Johnson, a fixture on the sidelines for over four decades.

In the 1940s, there are too many qualified persons to cite them all. I choose to name only one: Jacques Andre Istel ’45, who expatriated from France at the beginning of World War II, and somehow arrived at The Stony Brook School, graduating as salutatorian of his class. From here he went to Princeton with his classmate and friend Donn Medd Gaebelein ’45, then to the United States Marine Corps, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1950, he began parachute jumping as recreation, but saw beyond his personal thrill to envision both a military reconnaissance and recreational use. He first competed as a parachutist in 1956, winning the World Championship in 1958, and thereafter began instructing others at his base in Orange, Massachusetts. I recall his telling me how difficult it was to obtain insurance for his instructors and clients. Lloyds of London had no precedent and so settled for six times the rate of a premium to cover a circus aerialist. In 1965, he was elected President-for-Life of the International Sport Parachuting Association.

In a previous “Memories,” I told you about the halftime entertainment on October 8, 1960, when the world’s greatest parachutist jumped from a plane 5,000 feet over Long Island Sound and guided his ‘chute to land on a tablecloth spread out on the 50-yard line on Fitch Field. Unforgettable! But Jacques Istel never forgot what Stony Brook had meant to him as a boy escaping the German invasion of his homeland. During 1984, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, he led a delegation from Sainte-Mere-Eglise, the first village to be liberated, including its mayor, to the USA and included a day at The Stony Brook School so that the French visitors could see where he had been educated. He has been awarded the Legion of Honor, France’s highest recognition, and in 2010, The Stony Brook School acknowledged him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

A few years ago, while visiting with our daughter Ellyn ’78, and her husband at the Normandy beaches and villages, Lory and I entered the parish church of Sainte-Mere-Eglise. An organ recital was in progress, celebrating the rehabilitation of the instrument. We listened, then waited for a commemorative plaque to be unveiled. When it was, we were delighted to read, in bronze, that the principal benefactors had been “Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco” and Jacques Andre Istel. He and his wife Felicity now reside in the California community which he founded, named for her, serves as mayor, and claims to be “the center of the world.”

In the decade of the ‘50s, one of the dazzling students was James Montgomery Boice ’56, who also ran on Coach Goldberg’s teams. Enrolled at Stony Brook upon the recommendation of Donald Gray Barnhouse, a board member for whom Barnhouse Hall is named, Jim Boice excelled as a student; in FEG’s opinion, Boice was one of the most challenging thinkers in his years as teacher, especially when the text was St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. As valedictorian, Boice went on to Harvard College, then Princeton Theological Seminary, receiving his theology doctorate at the University of Basel, where he was tutored by the famous Karl Barth. He joined the editorial board of the magazine Christianity Today, and in 1968 became pastor of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, serving for 32 years until his death in 2000. Boice became the principal voice of a biblically Reformed theological movement; he also founded a unique Christian high school in Rittenhouse Square, now known as The City School, adjacent to the Curtis Institute of Music. Teenage virtuoso musicians enroll at both The City School and Curtis Institute, attending morning classes for their principal academic instruction (including rigorous Bible classes) before going to their afternoon music instruction at the conservatory. For a number of years, Stony Brook alumnus, rugged football lineman, and later admissions officer Seth Cohen ‘84, was head of The City School. So the Boice-and-Brook legacy lives on.

Two names stand out to represent the 1960s, Ralph A. Lingle, Jr. ’60, known as Robin, and David V. Hicks ’66. From Robin Lingle’s arrival in September 1957 to his untimely death in 2006, he represented the ideal in combining a keen intellect with physical strength and moral fortitude. No doubt enough has been written about his amazing athletic career as a champion runner (Ivy Prep Schools League, Eastern States, Big Eight Conference, NCAA, British All-Comers), perhaps not enough about his academic accomplishments as a student (a master’s degree in electrical engineering) or his record of teaching physical science; but most important was his example of indomitable faith even in the face of impending death. Shortly before his passing, we celebrated his life at the Three Village Inn. As the evening closed, Robin took the microphone, expressed his gratitude, then led us all in singing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” None of us present will ever forget the soaring sound of his voice and the words, “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”

David Hicks ’66, led his family members as students, (brothers Scot ’72 and Todd ’74, and sister Sara ’86), followed by brother Douglas as a teacher. I remember David’s intellectual curiosity and eagerness to learn. He played point guard on the basketball team, but upon matriculating at Princeton, he rowed on the crew team. In 1970, he became our first (and only to date) Rhodes Scholar. Lory and I were his guests at Oxford, enjoying a memorable lunch at The Trout on the River Isis. He became an officer in the US Navy and taught at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, before joining Donn Gaebelein at The Westminster Schools of Atlanta. He has headed a series of “Saints” schools (St. Andrew’s, Jackson, MS; St. Mark’s, Dallas, TX; St. Paul’s, Concord, NH), along with Darlington School in Georgia. He is a notable educational reformer and his book Norms and Nobility has inspired founders of modern classical schools.

By the 1970s, when we discovered that boys have sisters whose presence might enhance our School, we began to experience competitiveness in the classroom, as well as on the fields of play. To help create interest in a new sport on our campus, Peter Haile and John Holmes organized a match between the field hockey team and the faculty. I had never held a crooked stick and tried to swat a ball; nor have I ever been hit as hard in the shins as I was that afternoon–and by a faculty daughter named Marna Beth Holmes ’73. Like her father (a mathematician and rugby player at Trinity College, Cambridge) and brilliant brother David ‘82 (honored as New York State Family Physician of the Year 2007), Marna was both a high-achieving student and an athlete, later captain and MVP of the lacrosse team at Ithaca College.

For the ‘80s, two more female scholar-athletes must be named. First, Laura Whitney ’82, who arrived as a seventh grade daughter of Foreign Language Department chair Irmgard Whitney. Her two brothers Mark ’78 and Andy ’79, were already on their way to New York State Championships and national recognition. What could a mere “baby sister” with a ponytail do? Only win championship titles of her own. Which she did year after year, while at the same time excelling in the classroom.

While the Whitneys’ venue was the cross country course or running track, the Wycoff family, coached at Stony Brook by their father Roger, were denizens of the pool in Swanson Gym. Brian ’79 and his brother Roger, Jr. ’84, and their sisters Anne Marie ’85 and Lisel ’88, were all United States Military Academy cadets–itself attesting their strong scholastic mettle. But Ann Marie’s collegiate accomplishments exceeded those of any other Stony Brook athlete, including multiple individual NCAA championships, twice named “Outstanding Female Swimmer,” 19 All-America citations, and election to West Point’s Hall of Fame.

As the unknown author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes, “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about…” (Hebrews 11:32, NIV). I leave it to the list makers to fill in other names and titles. But I did promise to mention some of those who were not athletes but who starred in the classroom and in later life and have brought honor to our School. Again the list is far too long for this space, but here are four worth knowing.

Richard Rovere ’33, longtime political writer for The New Yorker, described himself as a loner in Hopkins Hall. He did little to enter into the claustrophobia of boarding school life, but he was observant of its foibles, a trait he honed as he contributed his “Letter from Washington” for more than thirty years. At a New York City gala celebrating the life and work of Pierson Curtis, Rovere graciously thanked PC for making it possible for him to earn a living by teaching him how to write. One of his narratives is “Wallace,” an almost non-fiction account of a notorious troublemaker–not Rovere himself!–at Stony Brook whose pranks included dumping sugar into the fuel line of Coach Mellinger’s car, causing it to stall en route home from a winter match; another was dumping a bag of flour into the organ pipes in Hegeman Chapel so that when the first chords were struck, a great cloud blasted over the chancel.

John Dudley Woodberry ‘51 is the foremost American scholar in Muslim/Christian relations. He came to Stony Brook at age 13, having been a student at the Chefoo school in China, where he was confined in a Japanese military prison. His story is more than fascinating; it is a saga of God’s grace in using his knowledge and gift for language both for evangelism and international diplomacy. For instance, during the 400+ days of Iran’s holding American hostages, he provided counsel to President Jimmy Carter and other negotiators. He is Dean Emeritus of the Fuller Theological Seminary School of World Mission.

Among my own most erudite pupils, I name Thomas H. Luxon ’73. The presence of Tom Luxon, whose parents Herbert D. and Doris Luxon were our colleagues and neighbors, and others like him in my classes prevented me from ever fearing the dull edge of boredom with teaching. He and a few of his peers–John Morris Clark ’62, George B. Wirth ’65, Sara Morrison ’78, and Kim Schwarz ’87–kept me honest in my preparation and delivery of the lessons about texts we read together. Now a professor of English at Dartmouth College, Tom Luxon’s scholarship on John Milton and John Bunyan has gained profound respect worldwide–and he remains kind enough to send me a book or an amusing critical comment from time to time.

Grosvenor House, where Stony Brook’s head of school and his family reside, has been home to more than a dozen daughters, beginning with FEG and Dorothy’s two girls, and now the Crane family’s four. The adult women have already distinguished themselves as a caregiver for special needs children, a theologian, a cyber-security specialist, and a concert pianist. But none has quite reached the heights of anonymous influence and power as has Sharon R. Soderstrom ’78, who stands out among all other Brookers, male or female, as the epitome of “Character before Career.”

Graduating as valedictorian of her Stony Brook class, she completed her degree at the University of Virginia in three years, then went to Washington. With little or no interest as a participant in sports at either school or college, she is now “coach”–if not indeed also “captain”–of one of the most important teams in the bloodiest of all sports, American politics. Sharon is Chief of Staff to the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, the Honorable Mitch McConnell. As such, she helps to determine the most important decisions the Republican hierarchy makes, including which bills are to be debated and which committees are to be scheduled. In 2015, Washingtonian magazine named her among the most important power-brokers in DC. As the highest ranking staffer on the Hill, her long record of service includes working for Senators Trible and Coats, and Leaders Lott, Frist, and now McConnell. But don’t ask Sharon to disclose any inside info. Not even her sister Cheryl ’80, gets that news!

As Dean Martin sang, “Memories are made of this”—and these are mine over 60 years.

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Seal

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