STARS and time

Last night was the 50th State STAR Student Banquet. I had spent the day as chair of the committee interviewing the eighteen region STAR Students and then having to select the “top” student and the runner-up.

As you can imagine, this is not easy. Brilliant, accomplished, articulate, self-aware, self-confident, and funny, they were all just amazing kids. However, under a system I’ve perfected over the last 20 years of doing this, we reached consensus in not too long a time, and Allen Page of Brookstone is our 2008 State STAR Student; Maylene Xie of Parkview is our runner-up. Incredible kids.

Five or six of the candidates were GHP alums, and it’s always interesting to watch their reaction when they come into the room. They’re fairly sure they’ve seen me before, and they think it might have been at GHP. I was told that I was practically the whole topic of conversation at one lunch table, and indeed as we got up from lunch, I was positively identified as “the kilt guy” and/or “the English country dance guy.” Yes, I said, otherwise known as the assistant program director.

At my lunch table, topics were more varied. GHP came up, but only because none my companions had been participants and they all agreed how incredibly left out they felt when GHPers ran into each other. I noted that at least they, the non-GHPers, were in the vast majority.

I also asked them about their worst teacher, and was regaled with truly horrific stories: the AP teachers who would run errands into town during class; the football coaches who discussed world history not once; and my favorite, the teacher who, after placing Slovakia on the coast and Slovenia next to the Czech Republic (and being queried about that by the STAR at my table), explained petulantly that yes, Czechoslovakia had split up, but then Slovakia had moved. And then refused to be corrected further, even when faced with printed research into the matter.

So here we are at the 50th anniversary of the STAR program. Twenty-five years ago, Barbara Ellen Petzen was named State STAR Student, and as a consequence, I was State STAR Teacher. Today, after the committee made our pick, I went back up to my room in the downtown Hilton to chill until the reception and the banquet. I looked out my window on the 22nd floor and saw with a shock that one block away was the Sheraton, where the banquet had been held in 1983. I could not resist. I went downstairs and walked over to the Sheraton.

As I approached, I recognized the whole layout: the circular entrance drive, the lower entrance where we loaded up the STAR Tour bus for an eight-day tour of the state (which we no longer do because of the expense and time). However, when I entered the lobby, it was as I suspected: the whole place has been renovated beyond recognition. The little bar where Ginny and I and Bobby Petzen celebrated before going our separate ways was nowhere to be seen. I didn’t even try going up to find the ballroom where Barbara was announced the top student in the state; I just walked back to the Hilton.

Tempus fugit, and that’s no lie.

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