Recently, one of my stepsons was home from college for a weekend and Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” came on the Pandora station we were listening to. We started talking about relationships between fathers and sons, about how fortunate my stepsons have been to have their father in their lives and how that is not always the case. All of a sudden I flashed back to music Fridays in Mr. Rice’s seventh grade English class when we dissected the song, as well as on another Friday, when “Father & Son” by Cat Stevens was the focus.
Mr. Rice offered thirsty students not only a framework for analytical thinking but did it through a medium they – we – could appreciate and relate to, music. Years later whenever memories of past teachers came up, former classmates would often speak about those Fridays.
But I also remember some of the books we studied in his class. The White Mountains, The Call of the Wild and especially The Pigman stand out in memory. Thinking back now, I see each as relevant to how people see themselves in relation to others, whether despotic authority, nature, or fellow man. We are each on a journey and Mr. Rice was an educator who served as countless students’ guide as they navigated the world around them.
The Beggars and I were in the same graduating class, and whereas for me, Mr. Rice was an influence in school, they nurtured their relationship with him long after our schooldays were far behind us. And thanks to their love and appreciation of Mr. Rice, they created this scholarship, and I am in awe.
Sometime after Mr. Rice passed away five years ago, Nick put together Jack Rice Radio on Pandora. Reflecting music heard in his classroom, the playlist signifies one way in which he impacted so many (and is a great playlist to listen to!). In Life, death and the infinite impact of a good teacher, written the day after he died, I discussed both Mr. Rice and my father, a former high school math teacher, and thought about the larger ripple effect teachers have, “People fall in love with subjects because of teachers. They choose professions, make life-impacting decisions, because of teachers. The Jewish tradition has two intersecting concepts — that we are all responsible for each other, and if you’ve saved one life, you’ve saved the world. Teachers, in essence, can save lives. Delivering an education and taking an interest in a student’s well-being can reap uncountable rewards. Redirect life paths. Change the world.”
Mr. Rice did this, and now, with the scholarship in his name, he can continue to redirect life paths and change the world.