Welcoming Remarks on the Occasion of Reunion'99

Dear Cherry Lawn Alumni and Friends:

My name is Michael Manners. I am a member of the class of 1972 and vice-president of the reunion committee... two associations that I am very proud of.

How much is a Cherry Lawn education worth? From talking to many of you, I can safely say it is worth a great deal. In the course of locating many Cherry Lawners, I was often greeted with comments that Cherry Lawn had been a pivotal point, and in many cases a more important experience than the college that followed. This sentiment is not limited to any class or generation. I think the vigorous response from Cherry Lawners to the fundraiser for the plaque and the high attendance at this event demonstrate that there was something very important about our years at Cherry Lawn. It must have been worth something, but... how much?

I have talked to those whose parents sent them here and those who received scholarships. My own story is a little different. I was a day student and after my first year at Cherry Lawn, my parents told me that they didn't feel I was doing well enough in my studies to justify the expense. My feeling was just the opposite. I felt I was learning much more than I had in public school and the atmosphere was far more conducive to my style of learning. As far as I was concerned it was going to be Cherry Lawn or nothing. I figured that if my parents wouldn't pay for it, I would.

I went and got myself a job working nights. Not just flipping burgers or unloading trucks... I got a fairly serious job, building and painting sets for Broadway plays, Road companies and "made for television" movies. If you ever need someone to paint a life-size Oak tree that looks convincing, or to build the interior of an entire house that has pull-out walls and ceilings for camera access, I'm your man!

I had to do some pretty fast talking to get this job. Among the problems were the fact that I was 17 years old, had no real experience and was not in the union. The owners of Atlas Scenic Studios were amused by my gung-ho positive attitude and I guess I probably worked them over until they were completely out of objections. Tenacious is my middle name.

Then the other shoe dropped. It was announced that all students, including day students had to participate in at least one extra curricular activity in order to graduate. For about 20 minutes I thought all was lost, and then I hatched a plan. I went to Mr. Medved and explained the situation. I would have to withdraw from school unless we could work something out. My proposal was that since my job was as a professional artist, the school could consider it to be of educational value and call it my extra curricular activity. Thank you again, Mr. Medved and Mr. Zuber for treating me like an adult and an individual instead of like a problem to be corrected or "overcome". Thanks to your understanding and flexibility, I was able to stay at Cherry Lawn.

My daily schedule for my senior year went like this: Wake up at 6:30 a.m. to arrive at school for 8:00 a.m. morning meeting. My class schedule was arranged so that I was done by 12:30 which gave me 30 minutes to eat as I drove and get to my job at Atlas Scenic Studios by 1:00 p.m. I would work from 1:00 to around 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. and then go home and do homework until I couldn't keep my eyes open. I would then sleep until 6:30 the following morning and start the cycle again. It was exhausting at times, and I often had trouble keeping up with my school work, but I managed to stay afloat and even managed a little bit of a social life. My employers were flexible about my hours, and I could take days off when needed for participation in the life of a high school student. I had trouble getting homework done, but I always did very well on tests, which kept my average up and showed that I was learning the material. I figured that was pretty much the real goal anyway.

What is a Cherry Lawn education worth? To me, at 17, it already seemed worth quite a bit. Today, as I look back, I count it among the most valuable and productive experiences of my life.

Mike Manners, CLS'72