News Archives

Mark Vittert '65 on John Dubinsky '61

November 30, 2018

Fellow alum Mark Vittert '65 reprinted John Dubinsky's '61 acceptance speech for the JBS 2018 Outstanding Alum Award on the 11.30.18 online St. Louis Business Journal. "Some folks told me of a memorable address at a St. Louis high school. The speech was given last month by the recipient of an honor which his old high school gives every year. This was not quite the usual speech. It was not about him – it was much more about the students and the teachers. First of all, it was short and to the point, not a lecture on the state of the world and his lofty perch within that world. And it was honest and grateful – there was not a student or teacher in that assembly hall who wasn’t impacted by and appreciative of his words and the heartache and hard work behind them. He spoke only of his uncertain youth, his kind remembrances of lifetime lessons learned from dedicated teachers, and of an accomplishment that belongs not to him but to his community – the city of St. Louis. John Dubinsky, a man like his father, a very fine, quiet and decent man, after 60 years, came back to his alma mater.

Remarks by John Dubinsky at John Burroughs School, Oct. 11:

I am honored to be the Alumnus of the Year – particularly in light of last year’s awardee being Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley.

Most of you do not know me nor know how Burroughs made a difference in my life. In just a few minutes, I hope to share my journey.

I am a graduate of 1961...

In 1961, John Kennedy was inaugurated as president.

Andy Abbott (the headmaster) was not even born!

First human flew in space – Yuri Gagarin from the Soviet Union.

East Germany started construction of the Berlin Wall — to be torn down in 1989.

Mickey Mantle was the biggest star in baseball.

Marilyn Monroe was the focus of Hollywood.

John Burroughs School celebrated its 38th year.

At John Burroughs, I was an average student and had a kaleidoscope of experiences.

I was suspended for three days for committing an act of vandalism at the Country Day campus. (Trying to pull down the goal post on the football field.)

I was a frightened football player, an average soccer player and loved the shot put in track and field.

I had slightly above-average grades, but a C-minus in third-year Latin, which almost did me in.

I did not get into my college of choice, second choice or third choice. I was certainly not in the social “in” group of my class — 61 students with many factions.

I was socially awkward, ran unsuccessfully for student offices and was a fearful and scared adolescent.

But, as I look back, there was something very special about JBS for me which has made a difference in my life and whatever successes I have had.

These four faculty members were very special for me:

Fred Eiseman Jr. was head of the Science Department and taught me to always ask WHY and to take nothing for granted without proof. He loved his dog and his idea for lunch was a hot dog cooked on a Bunsen burner. After he left John Burroughs, he eventually became a river rafting guide and then spent his senior years living in Bali. He was terrific.

Clara Fieselman was an English teacher. She was calm and peaceful. She loved books and literature. She exposed me, in spite of myself, to the world of ideas and vision amid the diversity of world experience.

Gaylord Montgomery was head of the Math Department. If you were late for class, he locked you out. If you were not paying attention, he threw chalk at you. He taught me to pay attention, be on time, process, and the exciting world of rules and understanding math.

Finally, Tom McConnell was the athletic director and football coach. He was a man of character. He taught me the art of both winning and losing with grace. He saw good in every student, including me. He taught me the value of hard work and to never give up. He was a role model of how to live a good life.

I am told my honor today is in part a recognition of what Cortex has done for St. Louis. Starting 15 years ago, the group I and Bill Danforth put together has led and brought St. Louis into the 21st century in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). As manufacturing left St. Louis, we turned a crumbling, abandoned area of Midtown into a leader in the world of technology. Today, over 5,000 people work in Cortex. The workforce that built it is over 25 percent African-American, and Cortex is a leader in diversity. We are adding millions of dollars each year to city tax revenue, and we have fostered economic growth and diversity in the surrounding neighborhoods.

We have attracted hundreds of startup companies balanced with innovative growing companies such as Microsoft, Square, Boeing, Centene, Nestle, and dozens more. Cortex is the epicenter for technology in St. Louis and the region.

When I think about my role in this effort as the leader, I attribute it to the traits I learned at Burroughs.

Fred Eiseman taught me to always ask WHY.

Clara Fieselman taught me to appreciate diversity of thought and the value of culture and literature.

Gaylord Montgomery taught me to be on time, pay attention and look at the math.

Tom McConnell taught me to value everybody, never give up and work hard.

Thank you John Burroughs for making a difference in my life.