Hail, the Conquering Hero!

Boris2I am thankful for Joe Boris, a history/sociology teacher at State College Area High School. He is retiring this year, after 40 years at State High. The number of students he’s touched is in the tens of thousands and there isn’t one who knows Joe at all that doesn’t love him. Or at least will admit to it.

He was one of the most popular teachers back in my day (I graduated in ’80) and his reputation with students and colleagues alike has only grown stronger over the years. He has always put the students first…OK, maybe second after his wife.

His “trick” for connecting, motivating, challenging, and changing students’ lives? Trust. You knew you could talk to ┬áhim about anything and he’d listen. He’d give you wisdom if you wanted it…or ┬áneeded it. He’d help plan out a prank; he’d figuratively hold your hand if you pushed the envelope too far and needed to face the music.

He is a man of faith. Faith in God. Faith in his colleagues. Faith in himself. Faith in his students–and be sure to know that if you went to State High, you were his student, whether or not you actually took any of his classes.

I can easily say that my life is richer for having known him.

We’ll miss ya, Joe! Enjoy the garden!

A Pre-Mortem Tribute–Because we should honor folks BEFORE They pass

I am thankful for the opportunity to visit my high school alma mater today for Alumni Day.

In many ways, the school was much the same. In some respects that’s very sad. Some of those classrooms haven’t been renovated since they were built in the ’50s.

In other ways, it simply demonstrated the cycles of life, that every generation must learn the lessons of life in its turn–hopefully taking cues from those who have gone around the block before lest they repeat the same mistakes.

There were some significant changes, born of history and the Forbes of our culture: armed police officer in the lobby, security cameras blinking in every hallway…

But what hadn’t changed in the least were the memories I have of wonderful experiences there.

The icing on the proverbial cake was being able to spend just a few minutes with a local icon, a teacher of now 40 years at that school. A man much beloved by the students while lives he has touched–by his count now over 50,000 of us.

Much beloved because he so obviously cares for his students. And they know it. We knew it then (some 30 years ago) and the kids today know it now.

We didn’t/don’t mind that he sets the bar high. Rather we admire him for challenging us. We didn’t/don’t mind when he calls us to task when we didn’t/don’t make the effort. Rather we thank him for making us live up to our potential, which he consistently believed/believes is so much greater than we did/do.

It is sad that he is, after threatening to do so for years (decades?), actually going to retire.

Obviously, no one can take his place as Memory Keeper (Memory Maker!) of my alma mater. It is sad that no one seems willing to take up his mantel regarding school spirit–he has sponsored and promoted more rallies and gone to more games and shows…he invested himself in the lives of his students–in our lives.

And we are so much the better for it.

I am thankful for Joe Boris. Extraordinary teacher. Mentor. Exemplar.

I know, I know–I can hear him saying (in the words of Monty Python)– “But I’m not dead yet!”

No, and I thank God you’re not. For it gives me the chance to express my gratitude for what you’ve done for me and so many others over so many years. I have reached a age in my life when I have not spoken up in time and have learned that important people have passed on without knowing what a wonderful influence they had on my life and I didn’t want that opportunity to pass me by again.

I’ve posted similar thongs on my FB wall/timeline, but somethings ate worth repeating.

Thanks, Joe. My life has been enriched and I am a better man for having known you.