The Edmond Sun

Opinion

July 10, 2012

Facebook screwup results in a tribute to great teacher

Richmond, Ky. — “When I come home to you, San Francisco, your golden sun will shine for me.”

— Tony Bennett

A Facebook pop up reminded me to send a birthday greeting to my eighth grade teacher, Jerry Vogt in Cincinnati.

I did. Only to find that he died six months previous.

I’m embarrassed that Facebook encouraged me to send birthday greetings to a dead person.

One of my Facebook friends was murdered.

Until I “defriended” her, Facebook would send messages, saying “you have not talked to Amanda in some time, post on her wall.”

Facebook plays an interesting part in my life. I was a very early adopter and have thousands of Facebook friends. It’s how I keep up with people I have not seen in decades and people I see every day.

My daughter’s fiancé proposed via Facebook. Simpler, cheaper, and as effective as the “down on one knee” method I chose.

Facebook gave me a unique opportunity: the chance to say thank you to a man who made a difference in my life. Going back to eighth grade, adolescence, hit me hard. In a few months, I went from being a shy, conforming kid, to a loud, cocky smart-aleck.

I was a teacher’s worse nightmare.

Jerry Vogt could handle it in a very unique way. The first thing Mr. Vogt did was isolate the troublemakers. He took the four guys smarting off and put them in a row far away from the other students.

He obviously spotted potential. The four of us, included a future dentist, a big time home builder and a high ranking executive at Proctor and Gamble. Looking back, we were the four who had the greatest degree of professional achievement and notoriety.

Like carefully breaking a horse, Jerry did not stifle our energy and creativity. He worked to channel it in positive directions. He was imaginative in how he kept us in line. I was smarting off in music class so he had me stay after class and sing to the rest of the school.

That backfired on him. I was supposed to sing 10 songs but by the third, I had found my stride and my rousing version of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” forced Jerry to pull out the hook. I was enjoying it too much.

That was my maiden voyage in front of an audience. I’ve always been comfortable out front in the 40 years since then. It’s hard to be pompous after you’ve sang Tony Bennett to an entire grade school. No one who saw it ever forgot it.

One of my classmates was married 20 years later and the band played the song in my honor.

Although he had some traditional techniques, like sending me to the principal’s office and informing my father, who threatened to have me rubbed out, you could see that Jerry was a pretty cool guy who “got” the eighth-graders and found a way to communicate with us.

By the end of the year, I calmed down, came off the segmented row and back to the regular classroom. Jerry had me ready for a tough, Catholic high school were my previous behavior would have had me expelled in a week.

Jerry got out of teaching when I was in college and had a long career as a Cincinnati court reporter. I had a college internship in the courthouse where he worked and we had lunch.

He told me the letter I wrote to evangelist Oral Roberts for a business writing class was the funniest thing that happened during his teaching career. Tony Bennett was a close second.

When Leslie Kennedy Wagner, one of my classmates found me on Facebook, she had also found Jerry and reconnected us. He took pride in my career accomplishments and I was able to thank him for being there at a turning point in my life. The last time we wrote, I told him I was engaged to an elementary school principal, who I married three weeks ago.

Since he knew how much time I spent in our principal’s office, he appreciated the irony in that. His passing did not draw a lot of headlines, but he was given an opportunity to mold young lives and made the most of it. I’m glad I was able to thank him when he could see the finished product, and in a weird way, glad that Facebook sent the after-death birthday notice.

It reminded me of what Mr. Vogt had done.

The Lord speaks in mysterious ways but I never thought that Facebook would be one of them. But since Tony Bennett and Oral Roberts are on my list of life changers, I guess Facebook can be too.

DON MCNAY is a columnist for the Richmond (Ky.) Register. Contact him at don@mcnay.com.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Why poverty across the world matters to Americans

    A child starving in South Sudan should matter to Americans. That was the message delivered last week by Nancy Lindborg, whose job at the U.S. Agency for International Development is to lead a federal bureau spreading democracy and humanitarian assistance across the world.
    That world has reached a critical danger zone, with three high-level crises combining military conflict with humanitarian catastrophes affecting millions of innocents in Syria, the South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
    But back to that child.

    April 18, 2014

  • Government leadership complicit in overfilling prisons

    One of the thorniest problems facing any society is the question of what to do with transgressors. Obviously, the more complicated a culture becomes, the more factors come into play in trying to figure out what to do with those who choose not to “play by the rules.”

    April 18, 2014

  • My best days are ones normal people take for granted

    It is a weekend for working around the house. My fiancee, Erin, and I have the baby’s room to paint and some IKEA furniture to assemble. I roll out of bed early — 10:30 — and get into my wheelchair. Erin is already making coffee in the kitchen.
    “I started the first wall,” she says. “I love that gray.” Erin never bugs me about sleeping late. For a few months after I was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, I often slept 15 hours a day. The doctors said my body needed to heal. It must still be healing because I hardly ever see 8 a.m. anymore.

    April 18, 2014

  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

  • The pessimist’s guide to grizzly bears and Earth Day

    This coming Friday, to “celebrate Earth Day,” the Walt Disney Co. will release one of those cutesy, fun-for-all-ages, nature documentaries. “Bears” is about grizzly bears.
    The trailer says, “From DisneyNature comes a story that all parents share. About the love, the joy, the struggle and the strength it takes to raise a family.”
    Talk about your misguided “Hollywood values.” I previously have acknowledged a morbid, unreasonable fear of grizzly bears, stemming from a youth misspent reading grisly grizzly-attack articles in Readers Digest. This fear is only morbid and unreasonable because I live about 1,500 miles from the nearest wild grizzly bear. Still. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014

  • Los Angeles Times: Congress extend jobless benefits again

    How’s this for irony: Having allowed federal unemployment benefits to run out in December, some lawmakers are balking at a bill to renew them retroactively because it might be hard to figure out who should receive them. Congress made this task far harder than it should have been, but the technical challenges aren’t insurmountable. Lawmakers should restore the benefits now and leave them in place until the unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable level.

    April 14, 2014

  • Many nations invested in Israel

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger recently spoke to a gathering at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning in Oklahoma City. The event began with a presentation by Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, who told the attendee that the  upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover was an occasion for them to embrace the children of God, which is all of humanity.

    April 14, 2014

  • Coming soon: More ways to get to know your doctor

    Last week, the federal government released a massive database capable of providing patients with much more information about their doctors.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, is posting on its website detailed information about how many visits and procedures individual health professionals billed the program for in 2012, and how much they were paid.
    This new trove of data, which covers 880,000 health professionals, adds to a growing body of information available to patients who don’t want to leave choosing a doctor to chance. But to put that information to good use, consumers need to be aware of what is available, what’s missing and how to interpret it.

    April 14, 2014

  • HEY HINK: Hateful bullies attempt to muffle free speech

    Hopefully we agree it should be a fundamental right to voice criticism of any religion you wish. And you should have the right to sing the praises of any religion you choose. If criticism of religion is unjust, feel free to make your best argument to prove it. If criticism is just, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and embrace it. If songs of praise are merited, feel free to join in. If not, feel free to ignore them. But no American should participate in curbing free speech just because expression of religious views makes someone uncomfortable.

    April 11, 2014

Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

Agree
Disagree
Undecided
     View Results