The BW Is In The Hall Of Fame–Again

By

Leonard Zwelling

Readers of this blog know I refer to my wife, Dr. Eugenie Kleinerman, as the BW, the Beautiful Wife. I stole this from Earl Wilson who wrote a gossip column in the New York Post that I read as a young boy when my father brought the paper home on his commute from Manhattan on the Long Island Rail Road.

Any way, the BW and I were in Cleveland, her hometown, during the weekend of Columbus Day because she was being inducted into the Shaker Heights High School Hall of Fame. This is a lot more prestigious than it might sound because the list of notable Shaker alumni is long and illustrious and this is no small honor. Furthermore, unlike a similar honor at my high school on Long Island, this is used by the Board of Education as a teaching opportunity for the current juniors and seniors to see flesh and blood examples of people who have made an impact on the world and how the courses the honorees’ lives took were influenced by their time at Shaker High.

Friday morning we went to the school where we were gathered for a breakfast with all eight honorees including a famous NFL football player, a violist with the Berlln Philharmonic, a chair of radiology doing ground breaking work saving pregnant women in Africa, an attorney defending the victims of the Rwandan genocide, another attorney doing pro bono work for the homeless of Cleveland, the Undersecretary of the Navy, and a prominent Hollywood executive. It was a dazzling group that the BW had joined.

They each addressed a special assembly of students and then fanned out to classrooms to address students directly involved in their areas of expertise. Genie spoke to the AP Biology class. She was very surprised that she got few questions from the young women about work-life-career-child bearing balance. Maybe today’s women take the work of the past generations like Genie for granted and think their current opportunities were always there.

Saturday was a gala dinner where the eight honorees were appropriately feted by their families, the Board of Education, and the Shaker Foundation. There was a very well-organized program that sought to boost the profile of Shaker, a highly integrated high school, and use the occasion as a fundraiser for future endeavors that expand the educational opportunities for the students.

Genie was really touched by the honor and the fact that several of her classmates from around the country made special trips to Cleveland to participate in the ceremonies.

The take home lesson for me was the importance of the involvement of the current leadership of Shaker with the honoring of the past graduates. They used the ceremony to not only raise money, but also to advance the education of and inspire the current students. This is just plain smart. Despite being a supporter of my own high school, and even a past honoree in its Who’s Who, I have never been asked to contribute to the welfare of the current students, something both Genie and I have done at our universities (Washington U. for her; Duke for me) and at Duke Medical School for both of us. Genie has been honored as a distinguished alumna at both Duke and Wash U. and she has continued to inspire young men and especially women at Wash U., and we both have been back to Duke to help the current crop of future doctors.

This is as it should be. Honoring the significant achievements of past graduates is a nice touch. But more importantly, utilizing their stories to inspire current students is even wiser.

This was a great weekend, for Genie (and well-deserved) and for Shaker Heights High School.

Leonard Zwelling