If you need more evidence that the ancient social distinction between freshmen and seniors (if there even is one around here) means just about nothing, I won’t be ashamed to provide it: I’ve never appropriately braced myself for the near-deafening introduction to each of Mr. Ricky Miles’ explosively impromptu hyper-rallies, popping up in the cafeteria every Friday of football season. In just over a month, I guess that I’ll be able to say I never learned how to do so. Not like that matters — give me four more years here and that air horn (or plank against a table) would still never fail to short-circuit my pulse for a few long, blank milliseconds.
Oh well. If it means maintaining one of our school’s #traditions, I guess I’d be sour not to put up with Mr. Miles’ ultimately well-meaning motivation. In fact, if not for my feathery reflexes, I’d probably have gotten used to the whole deal by now. At its best, Lake Forest High School has character, and as Elizabeth Porter has so eloquently pointed out time and time again, you don’t sound very convincing when you try to steer away from the obvious.
It’s kind of why I liked last Friday’s Alumni Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, held in the Raymond Moore Auditorium (and no, it’s not because I got to miss two of my morning classes). Inviting the senior class must have been an intentional move, as it is every year; when the motto on the front of every event pamphlet is “Honoring Our Past By Celebrating Our Present to Inspire Our Future,” you can sense a willingness to sacrifice sentence structure for three tenses of imparting wisdom.
It’s a welcome effort nevertheless. As a class of seniors that’s fairly unique relative to the nation, we can say for sure that high school has at least prepared us for something; it’s just that when we’re dealing with a town of largely conservative proportion, the philosophically claustrophobic student may fear that this “something” is an inevitable desk job waiting at Goldman Sachs (it’s no problem if that’s your cup of tea… but the generalization is there, folks).
Lake Forest is indeed trapped under a bubble, but the high school is our best chance of escaping from it. If there’s a theory out there that LFHS is only a professional centrifuge designed to force us into the footsteps of our parents, Friday’s ceremony offered a counter-argument, an understated ode to the colorful interpretations of excellence that these alumni — added to the list of distinguished past students such as author Dave Eggers, media instructor Dave Miller, and actor Vince Vaughn — have demonstrated throughout their years both within and beyond the school.
Tom Myers — a coach for our football, basketball, and baseball programs for more than thirty years — has previously been inducted into the IHSA Hall of Fame for baseball coaches. Physician Scott Zeller’s refined, humane technique for dealing with patients afflicted by mental emergencies is now recognized as a world-renowned psychiatric care procedure (the note that it’s self-named doesn’t seem to inflate his already modest ego — he joked during his speech to the theater that his senior superlative likely would’ve been “Least Noticed”).
Dr. Zeller’s insight — which included a remark on our class potential to explore more than one creative outlet in the time we’re given in this world — rang true sooner than expected; through an impactful video biography created in posthumous honor of the following inductee, it was made clear that the imaginative mind of Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who passed away on March 13 of this year, couldn’t easily be equated to any one mode of thought in which she engaged herself throughout her life, whether it be film-making, storytelling, or even a little hint of songwriting. In the words of her husband, she simply liked to make things.
Time can sculpt down the substance of human paths to its heart’s content, but tracing them back to their original form is a matter of space, one that I believe Lake Forest High School captured during this Hall of Fame ceremony.
Not that I’m standing by the conventional idea of “excellence” — that fame alone will earn your name a spot along the halls of the school — but in discussing the kaleidoscopic range of our alumni, I’m reminded of modern folk singer, instrumentalist, and songwriter Andrew Bird, brought up to graduate from Lake Forest High School in 1991. Whether or not the school occasionally swerved into the stressful lane of college-transcript-mania during his time here, Mr. Bird’s eclectic ear for serene harmony reflects an astute respect for a calm, reflective counterculture. His use of subdued acoustics conflated with whistling and airy reverberation is worlds away from our generation’s stark choice between thundering, bass-filled rap and fluffy, noisy country (we may be an innovative bunch, but most of us really know what we’re looking for in music).
The artist seems oddly absent from our Hall of Fame discussion at the moment, though perhaps we shouldn’t expect a success story to wind back up where it started out of obligation. The extent of one institution’s influence on student work, such as Bird’s or others’, is up for debate; for example, am I writing this article so that it may eventually be tied to a building or to the people who will eventually leave it?
The ceremony wasn’t trying to take any credit for its alumni’s accomplishments, nor do I think they would try to do so with Mr. Bird. The opportunities that develop within Lake Forest High School are received both ways, after all. Where the school’s greatest asset is in its resources, yours is found within your thoughts; if you do end up coming back from halfway across the world to visit this place again, your former teachers will be pleased enough that you came to share them once more.
To get a perspective on one of the idiosyncratic minds to pass through these halls, listen to the attached playlist below, chronicling some highlights in Andrew Bird’s career.
“Dear Old Greenland”
“The Naming Of Things”
“Not a Robot, but a Ghost”
“Three White Horses”
“Waiting to Talk”
“Left Handed Kisses (feat. Fiona Apple)”