A Celebration of the Life
- Transcript of the Eulogy by Former Head of School Taylor Smith
- Reading of Gone From My Sight by Lisa Wood Wright ’84
- Hawley Rogers A Life of Purpose as featured in the Oldfields Magazine
Transcript of the Eulogy by Former Head of School Taylor Smith
Hawley Rogers Eulogy
by Former Head of School Taylor Smith
Hawley embodies all that is good about American education. He is the primary reason I went to Oldfields in 1970, as a public school educated student who was seeking a teaching position on an Indian reservation wondering why I had accepted an interview at a “posh” girls’ boarding school. His strong commitment to the growth of the individual child is what drew me to Oldfields the first time, and his commitment to saving the school I had grown to love, made going back in 1976 an easy choice, even though it would take twelve years to match my salary in the corporate world. And only Hawley’s plea to encourage me to heed the Board’s call to return a third time in 2008 could have drawn me from what I considered my ideal position and life in Florida - often playing golf with Hawley once a month and having lunch with Hawley and Wendy every few weeks.
As Maribeth Littlefield said in the Oldfields Magazine:
“Hawley had many gifts but perhaps one that I, and so many others, received from him was that he saw things in us - talents, possibilities, potential - that we did not yet see in ourselves.” This also applied to me, his colleagues as well as his Oldfields girls.
Ever since I first heard Nat King Cole, and later Frank Sinatra and finally Michael Buble and Diana Krall’s version of LOVE, you know….
L is for the way you look at me, O is for the only one I see, V is very, very extraordinary E is…………..you get the picture
I wanted to use this technique to describe someone I LOVE, so here goes…..
To HAWLEY ROGERS
But I promise I won’t sing it.
H is for Honest. In the 52 years have known Hawley I never once heard him prevaricate (one of Hawley’s favorite words). Even when he talked me into returning in 1976 to help him save the school, he didn’t sugar coat the challenges we would confront. Success was not guaranteed or even likely. I never ever heard him tell a lie even a little white lie.
H is also for humorous. He was a punster extraordinaire. I considered myself adept at punning…..but compared to him I was a puny punner. We often engaged in pun wars to see who would give up first and he won 5 times out of six.
A is for athletic. Hawley and I would often run the roads of Glencoe, solving the problems of the day, and when I could convince him to play basketball, he had a very good two handed set shot. But he was a star on the tennis court, and later, in retirement on the golf course where he won many club championships. A is also for authentic….he was the most genuine person I have ever known. What you saw is what you got.
W is for Wendy…..the love of his life, along with his children Randy, Laura and Paul. Wendy was the strength behind this rock of a man. She kept him grounded…..and matching. Because Hawley was colorblind she would lay out his clothes every day, but threatened to get him geranimals so he could dress himself.
I heard this story from Bly Beach Hartley, Class of 1979…..One day in Early American Literature, Mr. Rogers was sitting on his desk (as he often did) when he crossed his ankles and continued talking. Our desks were in a horseshoe around the classroom and one by one, around the line the glances and giggles went.
Suddenly Mr. Rogers put his legs straight out in the air and realizing why we were inattentive said “my socks don’t match???”. He dropped his feet back down and said forlornly, “my wife is out of town. I THOUGHT they matched”.
Wendy would also keep him going in the right direction. Hawley had a terrible, terrible sense of direction, but I often used him to guide me. I would often ask him in which direction we should go, and then I would go the opposite way, and I was right 9 times out of ten.
L is for loyal. When you became a friend of Hawley’s, it was a life-long friendship. He supported and cared about me and was like my right hand man when I left to become head at York Country Day and later when I returned to Oldfields. I could call him when there was no one that I could turn to. He would never TELL me what to do, but would always lead me to the right solution.
E is for effortless. He did his job with so much grace, it almost seemed effortless, but we all knew it wasn’t.
Y is for Yale. I will always remember our first interview in 1970. Judy and I met the “big three” George Nevens, looking like the Mainiac (a transplanted person from Maine) with loafers and no socks, Jim Richardson with his Mexican poncho, inspector gadget hat and southern twang and finally Hawley, prepped out as a refugee from New Haven. Hawley was very committed to Yale, his alma mater. For years afterwards he would sing with an alumni group of the select Wiffenpoofs, which because of his talent, he sang with while a senior at Yale.
R is for rule follower. He knew all the rules and followed them to a tee. This applied to rules of morality, but also to everything he did. Hawley and I would meet up for golf once a month when we both lived in Florida. We often played golf with a couple of my buddies who interpreted the rules of golf very, very loosely. One was known for his foot wedge, kicking the ball out of danger when no one was looking. They were amazed when one of their balls landed on an ant hill and Hawley could cite verbatim from the United States Golf Association rules of golf, the rule that applied specifically to a ball when landing on an ant hill. They talked about that for years afterward.
O Is for Oldfields, his second love after his family. Hawley served and loved Oldfields from the time he was a young assistant head in 1969 until he left the Board almost 50 years later. Even though he was best known for his solid caring and loving leadership, he was also innovative. The May program that he created as an assistant head in 1970, although he altered it as time passed, is still going strong 52 years later. He had many opportunities to leave Oldfields but he believed so passionately in the Oldfields commitment to maximize the potential of each girl that he always resisted the temptation to leave.
O also stands for open-minded…..he always considered everyone’s opinion before he made a decision. But he also did not change his mind about things that were important to the school. He installed a no-strike policy on drugs and alcohol in the 80’s and as painful as it was to expel his “Oldfields daughters” he did it for their own sake and without being judgmental about their overall worth. These students were often readmitted the next year, having learned from their mistakes. One actually became a prefect as a senior.
G is for good sport. For those who were at Oldfields in the late 80s……there was a song, for All The Girls I loved Before….., sung by the unlikely duet of Julio Inglasias and Willie Nelson. I am not sure whose suggestion it was, but Hawley and I were talked into doing a rendition of this at morning meeting, dedicated to our Oldfields daughters. I got the short straw and portrayed Willie Nelson, with long greasy hair, a red bandana that matched my neck, jeans and a Country twang, while Hawley portrayed, perfectly, the debonair, sex symbol, Julio Inglassias dressed in all white. We entertained morning meeting to raucous cheers. Or as my granddaughter says, we often pranked Hawley, like the time Jim Richardson planted a bottle of Scotch in his desk drawer while he was interviewing a student. When he opened up the drawer the bottle very noisily rolled around. Hawley had a twitch in his cheek when he was nervous and his cheek was really vibrating that day. Hawley had a friend from Eaglebrook named Kirk Koenigsbauer, who would often prank him with a rubber chicken, which appeared as a “gift” from one of the seniors at graduation one year. But he took all of the loving ribbing we gave him well and gave it back in spades.
E is for English. His love of the English language resulted in him teaching English every year he was headmaster. He knew what was most important at OS is what happened in the classroom. He also used the English language superbly…..often after a conference with Hawley I had to go to the dictionary to look up words like prevaricate, prattle, draconian, bailiwick and palaver.
R is for reliable. When you made an appointment with him you could always count on him being available. As a matter of fact he was reliably early. I think he must have set his watch 15 minutes ahead.
R is also for role-model, to colleagues, to his family and to his Oldfields daughters. Students often told me that they didn’t violate the rules of the school because they didn’t want to disappoint Hawley.
S is for sweet. He was the sweetest man I ever knew. Even though he often vented with me, I never saw him raise his voice in anger, and never once, in 52 years, heard him utter a swear word, even on the golf course!
The school motto, “Fortezza, Umilitade e Largo Core” fits Hawley perfectly, which is why he was so successful as our inspirational leader. He had the courage to guide the school through its tough times, the humility to do it with grace, forgetting his own ego, and who could question his largeness of heart, as he welcomed generations of Oldfields students into his Oldfields family.
When I served as Director of Admissions, Hawley was our best salesman, just by being himself, communicating the feeling of family. Hawley would interview every student who came through. It is no wonder that some years we had a 90% conversion rate.
My secretary at York Country Day School knew Hawley’s voice and would call to me in the next room that my buddy was on the phone. But Hawley was more than my buddy…he was my role-model, my father-figure, my mentor and my brother and I miss him every single day.
Reading of Gone From My Sight by Lisa Wood Wright ’84
Hawley Rogers was not only Head of School for the Class of 1984’s Lisa Wood Wright, but he was also the father of her best friend, Laura Rogers Towne ’82. Lisa read a favorite poem of Hawley’s, one that he often shared with those who had lost loved ones.
Lisa Wood Wright's ’84 Reading for the Celebration
Gone From My Sight
by Henry Van Dyke
I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails
to the moving breeze and
starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length,
she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come
to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone!”
Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load
of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone
at my side says, “There, she is gone,”
there are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout,
“Here she comes!”
And that is dying...