Thursday, June 8, 2017

Region Proud

“The Calumet Region represents the best in America.” Judge Gonzalo Curiel
 Judge Gonzalo Curiel addresses Bishop Noll graduates; Post-Trib photo by Meredith Colias
Muriel with Rev Kevin Scali and Noll Pres.Paul Mullaney; NWI Times photo by Jonathan Miano
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, who became famous when then-candidate Donald Trump questioned whether Curiel could rule fairly on cases about Trump University and matters of immigration because he was Mexican- American, gave the commencement speech at Bishop Noll High School.  Born in East Chicago and a 1971 Noll Graduate, Curiel told students:
              [The Calumet Region] is a melting pot made up of people from all over the world. It was a community where I had Greek friends, I had Polish friends, I had Puerto Rican friends, and I had African-American friends.  We were all the same.  None of us was any better than the other.  And that’s the aim of the American dream, to bring all of us together.  To give equal opportunity so that we can stand together.  We can raise our families and become better.
              You are primed and ready to make a difference in this world of ours.  Carry on and focus at the job at hand.  There will be people that taunt you or disrespect you for how you look or where you are from, or where your parents are from.  Pray for them.  Don’t let them get in your head.
              I’m grateful for the chance to have attended this school, most notably to have grown up in this community, which is so rich and diverse.  There are not a lot of places in the world where you can look around and see such diversity as we have here, and I count this as a blessing. I’ve learned so much, and it’s helped me to be able to respect everyone I come across and realize that at the end of the day, we are all just human beings and that ultimately, our goals are to serve each other.

Last year, the Northwest Indiana Times solicited guest columnists to enunciate what they admired about the Calumet Region.  I wrote about Gary being a tough environment, especially for those struggling to find work and raise families, but that in the past the city has afforded opportunities for a host of athletes (i.e., George Taliaferro, Alex Karras), actors (Karl Malden, Avery Brooks), musicians (Pookie Hudson, Michael Jackson), entrepreneurs (Vivian Carter, Andrew Means), and other notables (including astronaut Frank Borman, operatic tenor James McCracken, and Nobel laureates Paul Samuelson and Joseph Stiglitz) who have achieved success elsewhere.  Even more impressive were those who stayed and became community pillars, such as the recently deceased historian Dharathula “Dolly” Millender and Coach Claude Taliaferro.  
Jee Su (Susie) Choi (above), a Math teacher at Lighthouse College Prep Academy in East Chicago, wrote this moving essay:
        When I was 21, I moved to Chicago and had my first real job interview.  I was interviewing for a high school math teacher position in East Chicago. I was very confused, “East Chicago? There’s a city in the middle of Lake Michigan?”
      After I got the job, I had to buy a car to make the hour trek to the Region. I also had to learn how to drive. My first solo drive was my first day of work. I still remember that drive. I was so scared. My clammy hands were clenched onto the steering wheel at 10 and 2. However, it was during that drive that I saw the factory smoke stacks against the amber sunrise for the first time. The beauty almost made me forget that I was driving for the first time.
     It has now been four years of waking up and making the drive to Northwest Indiana.  Home is where the heart is, and my heart is with the students I have had the honor of working with. I know that Ernesto will one day live out his dream to change the world for the better. Isabel will become someone who helps others. Davion will use his intelligence and quick wit to woo future clients, instead of annoying his teachers (in the most charming way possible).
    These are just a few of the kids I have had the privilege of getting to know. They have helped me realize my desire to become a lifelong educator, and molded me into who I am today. They have shown me what love really is.

In Steve McShane’s class to share more hints on making interviews a shared experience, I told the students to introduce themselves, clearly explain their purpose, strive for anecdotes (such as memorable duplicate bridge hands and partners), and create an atmosphere of trust and empathy.  I read this passage about interviewing LGBT steelworkers from Anne Balay’s “Steel Closets”:
Often, I get people talking by sharing experiences I had as a mechanic, and I encouraged them to continue by flirting, and caring.  I liked most of these people immediately, and I let them see that.  And their stories moved me, shook me up, and redefined heroism for me.
I ended by reciting the Post-Tribune SALT column Jeff Manes wrote about me eight years ago, with Steve reading Jeff’s lines, adding a word about the importance of editing the material gleaned from the interview.  When a student started a round of applause, I quipped, “Give that man an ‘A.’”

That led me to confess an embarrassing moment 40 years ago when a former student asked me to speak to her senior history class at Lew Wallace during Diversity Week.  When I arrived, I learned to my dismay that the principal had got wind of my visit and scheduled me to address the entire student body at a Friday afternoon assembly.  What wasn’t made clear to me was that, following my speech, there’d be fun entertainment, including ethnic music and dancing.  I had planned on talking about individuals from Gary of Slovak, Mexican, and Polish ancestry, and end with an African American. When I paused briefly after the third person, some wise guy began slowly clapping, egging on others amidst general merriment.  Thinking back to my rowdy behavior at Friday assemblies, I quickly concluded my talk. At the end of the festivities, the principal praised the students’ behavior except, he added, toward Dr. Lane.  Only then did I feel embarrassment.

Dee van Bebber and I finished first in bridge Tuesday despite my misplaying the final hand on defense against Dottie Hart and Terry Bauer, costing us a trick.  When I explained why I did what I did, I admitted that it was a lame excuse.  That led me to mention a line I used at Bucknell while working at Women’s Cafeteria.  Everyone hated being assigned Sunday mornings, and the manager was unforgiving if you failed to show.  One time, after a fraternity party, I overslept and prepared to face the music. When asked what happened, I said, “I couldn’t find my shoes.”  It was such an idiotic excuse, the manager started laughing and didn’t fire me.
 William Allegrezza
William Allegrezza’s “Step Below: Selected Poems, 2000-2015,” contains these lines from “Between the Story and the Shore”:
i have said that to live we must
be ravenous with doing, not be stuck
with eyes locked on the burn, but now
overwhelmed the silence has me in dream.

Allegrezza’s “Flight Pattern” would be a good intro for VU’s “Flight Paths” project.  The poem goes:
                      moments in flow
          borders           turning
          among multidirectional rays
in creation
          of space
                      with words modeled continuously on
          that piece together
                      in patterns
with currents
          that are not in and out
but passage through

Allegrezza’s “Upon Reflection” goes:
you told
me that flowers

line, and love

to happiness, but you

In Rome Miranda posed in front of Trevi Fountain, built in 1762, which appeared in the Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” (1960) as well as “Three Coins in the Fountain” (1954).  Alissa and Josh, back from the Dominican Republic, closed on their first house, on the west side of Grand Rapids.  Top priorities include a backyard fence for the dog (Lil Jerry) and central air.
 Margaret Skurka

Honored at IUN’s Retirement reception were Margaret Skurka, Neil Goodman, Arlene Adler, Melvin Wells, and Anna Rominger.  Longtime director of the Health Information Technology program, Skurka fought hard and successfully when a previous chancellor wanted to move the two-year programs to Ivy Tech.  When Goodman, in California and unable to attend, was hired in 1979, four years after Skurka became an adjunct, there were two division chairs named Feldman, Sidney in Business and Herman in Arts and Sciences.  They were nor related and, in fact, were rivals for funds and faculty positions.  Both, however, sought to hire those likely to make Northwest Indiana their home rather than regard their tenure as a career steppingstone.  That Goodman grew up in the Region appealed to Hi Feldman, and his Region roots ae evident in his sculptures that grace the campus. 

I knew Business professor Anna Rominger, hired in 1992, when she was an attorney whose forte was conflict resolution and mediation.  That skill perhaps accounts for her advancement in the ranks of administration, culminating in having being asked to delay her retirement and serve as interim Vice-Chancellor of Academic Affairs.  Over the years, outside vice chancellors have come and gone – some excellent, others not so good – but the ones I most admire were IUN faculty such as Bill Neil, Lloyd Rowe, and Mary Russell, who took the position, like Anna, out of duty as a service to the university. Anna’s husband Joe nodded when I mentioned that Anna delayed her retirement out of duty and thanked me for emphasizing her skill as a conciliator.  Ken Schoon credited Anna with putting together the IUN choir and said he’d extracted a promise from her to return in December for the holiday party. After Pat Bankston’s third trip to the podium, I almost told him that one more would tie Jean Poulard’s record but kept quiet fearing he’d misinterpret the remark as sarcasm. 
posted by former teacher Jim Spicer

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