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Mission: Accomplished

A RETURN TRIP HOME, A REUNION, AND A REALIZATION 40 YEARS IN THE MAKING. By Tom King ’78 In June 1978, I walked across the Field House stage to receive my high school diploma. John Mitchell, Headmaster, shook my hand and assured me that the foundation laid at 4050 Lighthouse Drive would serve me well in college and beyond. Forty years later, I returned to campus for Reunion Weekend. Dr. Nat Coffman, Head of School, shook my hand and asked, “So, how did we do?” Cognitive dissonance – discomfort, as Mrs. Betts taught, that emerges when opposing thoughts fill our minds – reared its ugly head. I mumbled a few words and disengaged, to sort through how to size up my Prairie heritage. Thought number one was that I have felt embarrassed to be “a lifer” from a small country day school shaped by a blue-collar town that’s seen better days. Minutes into my college experience, I learned how no one could confuse Harvard Yard with Wind Point. Bell-bottomed jeans,

26 | prairieschool.com

broad vowels, and a bizarre vocabulary (what’s a bubbler?) distanced me from sophisticated kids from exclusive communities and name-brand high schools. I was a product of a Midwestern institution that embraces simple values. Every school day had brought me past the Rotary International plaque offering the four-question test. I had earnestly told visitors that Paul Harris, Rotary’s founder, was a native son. Mr. Mitchell’s constant reminder to “Remember who you are and what you represent” had instilled a desire to do the right thing when no one was looking. Mr. Swanson had pounded into our skulls that good sportsmanship trumps athletic accomplishment. The upshot, when I arrived at college, was that I was not cool. Here was a kid who openly shared, didn’t eat paste, and colored between the lines. Efforts to flirt with preppy girls went nowhere. Final Clubs, Harvard’s version of

Profile for ThePrairieSchool

Prairie | Volume 4 - Issue 2  

Prairie | Volume 4 - Issue 2  

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