This summer, former head of upper school and current government and economics faculty Mark Pugh invited several retirees to join him at his home for an evening of fellowship. A tradition started in 2019, these retired faculty and staff members gather to reconnect with beloved colleagues. Because of the pandemic last year, the annual dinner was rescheduled for 2021 making this year’s dinner especially heartwarming.
Pugh, an educator and administrator at Lipscomb Academy since 1981, wanted to create an opportunity to reassemble former educators for their enjoyment and his and in turn, provide a sacred space for reflection and rekindling relationships.
“This event has quickly become one that we build our summer around. To see these friends getting together and catching up with each other and their families is so uplifting. Most spent their entire working life molding and shaping students into young adults. It was a beautiful evening, and one we hope can continue for years,” said Pugh.
Two dozen retirees attended the dinner including 94-year-old Leslie Wyatt, typing and accounting faculty for 40 years at Lipscomb Academy. Together, these retirees represent almost 800 years of teaching experience.
To show appreciation for the retirees’ service, Pugh asked former students and colleagues of these retirees to share how their lives were shaped by the teachers at the dinner. Many volunteered with responses of gratitude towards academy retirees. With their permission, some of those student and colleague memories are listed below.
As current academy faculty John Green stated, “On April 29, 1962, JFK gave the following quote at a dinner honoring Nobel Prize winners of the Western Hemisphere: ‘I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.’ I believe this quote could also be said about the collection of minds here tonight. However, I would take the quote a step further and add the fact that you dedicated your lives to imparting your knowledge on eager and sometimes not so eager students making this an even better collection of minds...and hearts. Job well done and may you continue to be blessed, just as the students were whom you taught.”
“Dear friends, each of you is such a treasure to me. At times, when walking through the halls and past your classrooms, I think of you and the profound influence that you have had on me, your colleagues, and thousands of students. And I miss you - your advice, your encouragement, your laughter, your guidance, and your presence. Positions can be replaced but people can never be replaced. Thank you for your friendship and the countless things that you have done through the years for so many. You continue to be a blessing.” -- current academy staff Phil Sanders
“Here are some things I remember and am grateful for. Mike Sullivan's chapel talks. Charlie Hale's talk about two rivers in Switzerland. Martha Riedl's elaborate practical jokes while she stayed in the background looking like the ultimate professional. Donna Brasher's oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Sharon Tracey teaching all of us the proper safety precautions when using a cutting board. Janet Smith saying she let students know they had her trust by walking out of the room while they were testing. Coach Mac's laugh in the hallway. Sid Millson's ability to connect with kids in the hallway between classes on a daily basis. Ernie Smith's phone ringing repeatedly during faculty meetings. Leslie Wyatt's ‘hands on home keys.' David Morris seeming to spend 24/7 at school preparing for the next day's classes. Dona Howell keeping the library organized and welcoming. Richard Jones's way of listening to your concerns and making you feel like your opinion really mattered to him. Mike Roller setting a world record for the longest chair kick at Waverly. Libby Simons who Coach Mac called the ultimate "school person" doing the work of 4-5 people all by herself. Keith Nikolaus's embrace of some wild future predictions, many of which have now come true. But most of all, coming to school each day and feeling like I was blessed to be working shoulder to shoulder with members of my own special family.” -- current academy faculty Tim Taylor
“Recently, I was asked to reflect on small moments throughout my time in school that were particularly formative or meaningful. As I began jotting down specific instances, I was immediately brought to tears. I had never taken tangible inventory of your influence, and as I wrote down those small moments of impact, so many of your faces filled my mind. Coaches who made me feel, seen, and known, math teachers who sat with me after hours, English teachers who first recognized my voice and validated it, office secretaries whose friendly faces were consistent in the midst of teenage insecurity. I imagine teaching is similar to many things in life like parenting or paying taxes -- you have no idea what you're talking about until you're the one actually doing it. I had no idea how challenging, exhausting, and even discouraging this profession would be before it became my daily reality. I get it now, and my gratitude for you has only multiplied. The extreme humility required in showing up to this career brings me to my knees almost every day. I hope you feel a sense of remarkable accomplishment standing where you are, looking back on your work, for you have loved hundreds of fragile souls into being just like you loved mine. And that is the truest, grittiest, most beautiful work of Jesus I can dream up. Thank you.” -- former student and current academy faculty Savannah Pickens