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A book and a wall of fame


Dear Friends,

Good morning. In a moment, I’ll share a conversation I recently had with C. Robert Roth, the retired Upper Bucks district judge who also serves on the Quakertown High School Wall of Fame committee. Last June, that committee chose to award only two winners rather than three.

But first, our daughter Catherine constantly searches for ways to decelerate my accelerating antiquity. She found a charming book, “The Tender Bar,” by J.R. Moehringer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2000.

An 8-year-old frequents a corner saloon where he finds a rousing chorus of new male voices: cops and poets, bookies and soldiers, movie stars and stumblebums, all sorts of men gathered in the bar to tell their stories and forget their cares.

“‘The Tender Bar’ is suspenseful, wrenching, and achingly funny,” the book jacket tells us. “A classic American story of self-invention and escape, of the fierce love between a single mother and an only son, it’s also a moving portrait of one boy’s struggle to become a man, and an unforgettable depiction of how men remain, at heart, lost boys.”

Plus, it’s a hilarious read … MB, Catherine and I recommend it highly.

And now to a “puzzlement” as L. James Roberts often says. (He’s Quakertown’s eminent councilman.)

In June, the Quakertown High School Alumni Association announced two winners to the Wall of Fame, its annual event. It could have awarded three winners but only chose two.

The purpose of the Wall of Fame is to honor individual QHS graduates who’ve brought lasting fame to Quakertown High School as a result of their post-secondary accomplishments.

This year, the Wall of Fame was facilitated by David Finnerty, the Quakertown High School principal who just left QHS to become the assistant superintendent of the Twin Valley School District in Elverson, Pa. Here are the criteria to win selection: (1) be a QHS graduate at least 10 years previously (2) have demonstrated exceptional career achievement and (3) each year, the number of winners may not exceed three.

The winners this year were Patrick Cole and Ray Fox. My Internet search showed the following: Cole (deceased) was an attorney and chief of staff for the city of Fairbanks, Alaska. Fox is a retired Quakertown school teacher and coach. He also was the chairman of the Upper Bucks Healthy Communities Healthy Youth Coalition. I have no quarrel with the Wall of Fame Committee’s choice of these two winners.

But one of my sources told me that the committee received several nominations who were not chosen. One of them is a famous professional dancer who attended the Juilliard School in New York City. My search of him revealed that he performed in the first international show of Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular in Mexico City and danced with the New York cast from 1999 through 2004. He is also a founding member of Battleworks Dance Company. This candidate is an African American and openly gay.

Why wasn’t he chosen?

I knew that Bob Roth was a member of the Wall of Fame Committee so I called him for information. Bob told me that he didn’t know why only two were selected when the committee could have chosen three winners. He thought that there were six or seven nominees. Bob did not know that the dancer was gay and an African American. I presume that the other committee members were in the dark as well.

Most significant, the Wall of Fame Committee did not meet together. Committee members received copies of the nominees’ backgrounds but did not have the advantage of discussions face to face. Bob chose whom he thought were the best candidates and submitted them to Chairman Finnerty. I assume that Finnerty received the committee selections, ranked them, and selected the two winners. Bob Roth told me that those not selected could be reconsidered for three years if the nominees were willing.

There’s a lesson to consider. In the future, the committee needs to meet together. My bet is that had they all been in the same room, someone would have mentioned that they should do Internet searches of all the candidates. Such a search would have revealed that this dancer was an international star. They also would have had the advantage of discussing whether accusations of race and homophobia might surface and mar the reputation of the Wall of Fame.

I wonder what the results would have been had this dancer been white and heterosexual?

But as we Pennsylvania Germans often say, “We get too soon old and too late smart!”

Sincerely, Charles Meredith