Last Friday our school was inspired by Hyde Alum Tom Childs ’83, who returned to campus to share his story and accept his diploma. It is a Hyde tradition that any student who attends Hyde but does graduate may return when they feel ready to accept their diploma. Tom was ready. Over a year ago Tom was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. For both Tom and his family it was incredibly difficult news, but as he said to our students, “I did not waste time processing why this happened to me” and instead he and his family rallied in true Hyde fashion. “Coming back today means so much to me. Hyde is where I learned so much about life and how to live a life.”
Tom’s eleven year old son came to the podium to help his father read part of his graduation speech. He touched on courage, leadership and the gratitude that comes when faced with challenges. The entire school sat in rapt attention as we all witnessed the love of the Childs family. Some of the faculty and students commented after the speech:
- “You have taught us the meaning of courage today. Thank you.”
- “I am inspired by your son and your willingness to stay positive in the face of this disease.”
- “Whatever I need to deal with in my life, I now can.”
After his speech veteran faculty member Ken Grant pulled out his algebra grade book from 1983 and read the names of the students in Tom’s algebra class. (not the grades!) It was a powerful reminder that when our students become part of the Hyde family they enter into a lifelong commitment. Hyde President, Malcolm Gauld, gave Tom his Hyde diploma and said, “This is one of the best things we do at Hyde. I have a soft spot in my heart for the students that were here during my first tour of duty. Any student can have their parents stand when they make their speech, but how many can have their son read their speech!”
After the ceremony the entire school went out to the sunken garden for our own Ice Bucket Challenge. We manned our stations in front of 250 blue buckets full of ice water. Tom and Bill Childs positioned themselves at the center stage. Everyone was excited, nervous, and ready to go. It was a chilly but exhilarating moment when Tom and Bill finally gave us the command to douse ourselves. What a great way to kick off the year!
At the end of the day we were lingering in the Hyde mansion telling stories when Tom leaned over and said in his slow but deliberate voice, “I have received many certificates and diplomas in my life. The Hyde diploma is the pinnacle of all of those for what it means.”
Thanks to Lowes and the Americorp for their help in our wonderful day and much thanks to Tom Childs for his lessons in how to make a difference by living a life of principles.