I can pinpoint the exact moment and very spot I was sitting when I realized that Hyde is truly a unique place.
When I enrolled in the summer of 1968, I guess I saw Hyde as fairly run-of-the-mill. It was a boy’s prep school and, taking our cues from the upperclassmen, we freshmen joined in to do prep school things: wear a coat & tie, play sports, do evening study hall, live with a roommate, observe (or make it appear that we were observing) lights out, etc. Yeah, sure, everybody talked a lot about the Five Words but I knew enough to know that most schools had some sort of motto, even if it was in Latin, never to be either understood or discussed. I remember watching the seniors gear up for their college application processes and figured that I’d bide my time for a few years and then do the same. Then…
It was a September Sunday evening and the whole student body was assembled for the weekly public speaking program taught by a local man who volunteered his time. No other adults were present.
Our teacher’s name was Bill Gove (1912-2001), a nationally respected salesman and highly regarded public speaker. (Check him out at www.best of billgove.com.) That night we students were stuck in post-weekend doldrums and try as he might, we were not all that responsive to Mr. Gove’s best efforts. (We had no concept of how lucky we were to have someone of his caliber working with us.) We were restless, inattentive, and disrespectful.
Upon our dismissal we all began to bolt for the doors. Suddenly a voice stopped us in our tracks: “Hold it!!! Sit back down!”
We all stopped and re-seated ourselves. You could have heard a pin drop. When the voice continued, I was surprised to see that it came not from a faculty member, but from… a student. He continued, “Our behavior tonight was pathetic. Really bad. I don’t know what you think of the speech program. Personally, I can’t say that I like it all that much. But this man has given us the gift of his time and we at least owe him our respect in return. So, hey, let’s clean it up for next week. Dismissed!” And with that, he walked out of the room, the rest of us shuffling behind.
I was mesmerized. I had never seen anything like that before in any school setting. I kept looking for a faculty member somewhere in the audience, as the only explanation that made sense to me was the notion that this senior was trying to accumulate “brownie points” with the powers that be. It eventually dawned on me that I had just observed an unadulterated act of conscience. I shuffled out of the assembly wondering about two things: 1) Would I ever someday develop enough courage to make a move like that? 2) Would anyone ever listen to me if I did? The only thing I knew was that I someday wanted to be able to answer “yes” to both.
I had arrived at Hyde after two years at a junior boarding school where I had not performed very well. Most of my buddies there had gone on to traditional, many of them prestigious, boarding schools. When I told some of them about this incident, they simply didn’t believe me. Unable to imagine something similar happening at their schools, they assumed that there was a “catch” somewhere in my story. Except I knew what I had seen and heard with my own eyes and ears.
I pinpoint this incident as the precise moment that I became proud to be a Hyde student.
Onward, Malcolm Gauld