1973 – A month before enrolling in the Summer Challenge Program, 14-year-old Rob Schuller ’78 wrote the following application essay:
When I went to visit Hyde School a few weeks ago, I really liked the people, the surroundings, and the full academic program. It just made me feel that I really wanted to be a part of the school. Even if I have to make many sacrifices, I would still want to come. The boy who took me around was really nice and I wish that I could see him again because he was a truly interesting and kind person.
If I can be admitted to the school, I plan on expressing my ideas to make myself a better person and to help the school.
The school can help me find myself and give me a little push to really get going. So I can be a better person.
Having just wrapped up my first year of college, I spent that summer of ’73 as a college intern in the Summer Challenge Program. Looking back, Rob struck me as a happy kid, if not a particularly happy camper. True to his words above, he clearly loved the people. However, he bristled at the push part, regardless of whether that push was “little” or as big as it often can be during summer at Hyde, and most definitely was in the time of Old School Hyde: multi-day rowing expeditions in Nova Scotia dories, early AM workouts, and the fact that it was an 8-week gig back in those days. (It is half that today.)
Four years pass… Having graduated college and spent a year teaching at a traditional prep school, I found myself back at Hyde as a faculty member. Rob was still there. Only he was different. The high pitched whine had been replaced by, well, that tone that former beloved Hyde faculty member Mike Dawes (RIP) dubbed years later as “The Voice.” He had not only learned to accept pushes both big and small, he was doing some pushing of his own. Some of it even came my way. In fact, to be specific, Rob taught me two lessons right off the bat.
Summer, 1977 – The Case of the All-Purpose Guard & “Bury Me Beneath the Willow”
My pre-conceived image of my role as a teacher/coach was immediately altered when I was summarily dispatched to the cast of America’s Spirit, the touring performing arts troupe that was a huge part of Hyde from 1976 thru the early 80s. I had a bunch of insignificant parts (to my cynical way of thinking, anyway) that required me to make a closetful of frantic costume changes all for seemingly miniscule stage time. (I seemed to play a number of guards: border crossing guard, Trail of Tears guard, etc.) As you can see from this photo, no one accused me of exuding boundless enthusiasm.
To cap it all off, I was assigned the role of a singing dancer (or maybe it was a dancing singer?) in a warm-up-the-crowd pre-show group performance of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me.” Perceiving myself as too cool and sophisticated to get too revved up about a 70s hit pop song, I held back. (Truth be told, I suspect that my subconscious may have secretly hoped for me to get bounced from the number.) Then one afternoon, we were doing sound checks and Rob Schuller was asked to sing solo on “Bury Me Beneath the Willow,” a traditional number of the Civil War section of the show. I remember thinking that I would not want to be caught dead singing such a corny song. (With apologies to Woody Guthrie, The Carter Family, and others… I had not yet evolved to embrace the beauty of country music.) As for Rob, he killed it. Totally gave himself to it. Sometimes it takes someone excelling at something to show you what you are not doing in your own life. Rob’s treatment of this song did that for me. So, I went out and bought some bright yellow pants, a light blue multi-pocketed disco shirt, and embraced me some Bill Withers for the rest of the summer. (Ya know, it’s a pretty good song, one that holds up over time.) Although the shirt may have made a yard sale exit from my wardrobe, the lesson lingers.
Fall, 1977 – When You Can’t Play Football, Play Football
Rob approached his senior year at Hyde excited about playing his final year of his favorite sport: soccer (football, to the rest of the world). This excitement was extinguished when the administration of the school abruptly decided to experiment with the idea of abandoning soccer in favor of focusing on (American) football and cross-country. Naturally, Rob and his soccer buddies were none too enthusiastic about this development. I recall them voicing their disapproval. I also recall them picking up their pads, donning their helmets, and jumping into the fray. In fact, Rob even earned a starting spot on the line. I distinctly remember doubting that I would have exhibited the same positive attitude had I been faced with a similar dilemma. In a Wordsworthy (new word?) “Child is Father of the Man” kind of way, Rob and his fellow soccer expats showed me the way.
Later that year, Rob and his lacrosse teammates gave me a lacrosse season that I was too young and inexperienced to fully appreciate. For one thing, they were a spirited bunch. How spirited? Suffice it to say that a serious team picture was pretty much out of the question…
For another, they were competitors. When we beat Bridgton Academy thanks to Tommy Baez’ double sudden death goal, I had no idea that over 40 years later, we would still be seeking our second ever win against the Wolverines. That same season, our improbable win over a strong Proctor Academy team put Hyde lax on the map and helped the whole program raise its sights. Rob was a starting attackman on that team. And just like his beloved Patriots, he did his job.
As for Post-Hyde Rob, there’s a lot of ground to cover:
- Bachelor’s Degree at Pepperdine where he studied TV/Radio Broadcasting;
- California College DJ of the Year while at Pepperdine;
- The Radio Voice of the New England Patriots;
- Adjunct professor at Northeastern University and Emerson College;
- Manager of Partner Engagement at DeVry University;
- Director at Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, a year-round Vermont camp for children with cancer.
On the other hand, when you get right down to it, there has never really been a Post-Hyde Rob. He has been engaged in countless capacities – e.g., alumnus, professional employee, volunteer, advocate – ever since he graduated. Just as he gave himself to “Bury Me beneath the Willow” 40+ years ago, his life embodied the words and message of another song that most readers of this blog know well. He…
Came to us with a shout and a song… singing always as he went marching along. He helped us all be a happy-go-lucky throng. He was, is, and shall always remain A Soul of Hyde. As we remember him, let us honor his contributions to our lives as a chosen band, united by true friendship ties. And may we occasionally give each other a little push to get each other going. It just may help each one of us be a better person.
Onward, Malcolm Gauld