Writing at Whitefish Bay High School and Beyond by Gary Rosenberg, Class of 1962
It wasn’t long after I graduated from The Bay in 1962 when I began to realize that writing was one of the most valuable skills our high school teachers had taught us. Fellow Bay alumnus John Hirsch remarked that by the time we went to Madison we knew that the comments profs wrote in the margins of our essays weren’t personal attacks. Students not blessed with lots of writing in high school do not understand that.
I received a BS in geology from UW-Madison (1966), and a PhD in geology/marine biology from UCLA (1972). Then there were post docs at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England and Washington University, St. Louis, brief teaching at Michigan State University, and 33 years teaching and research at Indiana University, Indianapolis.
The outcome was scientific papers, edited and co-edited volumes about dinosaurs; growth and metabolism (energy processing) of, and environmental influence on, marine and freshwater animal shell growth; teeth of rodents flown in space; and use of skeletal growth increments in marine organisms to measure the slowdown of the Earth’s rotation over the past 2+ billion years. I also published on the history of landscape art and its connection to the origin of modern geologic thought.
These diverse studies explored “shape” and “space.” Shape defines the boundary of an object relative to its surroundings and inversely the shape of space enclosing the object. It’s long been known that growth rates of an organism along different directions determine its shape; needle-shaped fish grow relatively fast from mouth to tail, circular fish grow uniformly in all directions. I proposed a model synthesizing growth rates, skeletal composition, and metabolism in 3-dimensions. A tech at Monsanto Chemical Company in St. Louis, a colleague then at Andrews University in Michigan, and a colleague in Physics at Indiana University collaborated on this work.
Landscape art is also about space. To give you an inkling how the structure of landscape is similar to the structure of organisms, it was a 17th century Danish anatomist who scientifically defined the structure of landscape and thereby helped found modern geology some 200 years after Renaissance artists such as Da Vinci applied Greek and Arabic geometric concepts to help describe the 3-dimensional organization of the body and of landscape. The human body is an orderly arrangement of organs and tissues as landscape is of streams, soil, hills, and valleys. Both are objects greater than the sum of their parts which function together. This work earned me some notoriety among art historians.
Teaching and Learning
My first teaching job was at Whitefish Bay High School when I was a student in Mrs. Lewis’s biology class. She asked me to temporarily take over the class so she could attend to her gravely ill husband. My fellow students thought my exams were very hard. That was prophetic of my future teaching.
One of the earliest lessons I learned from students was at St. Michael’s High School. The students were all young ladies, many from mixed-race families who had moved from the South. Eugenia struggled to get a “C” in biology. Yet, when I asked the class to prepare a bulletin board for the class, Eugenia excelled with uniquely heartfelt and appropriate artwork. A student in one of my intro college classes had trouble mastering science concepts. But she was a motivated student and she studied hard for the final exam. She improved convincingly and got a distinguished “C.” She is now a productive social worker. All teachers know such students.
Full Circle: The Class of ’62 Scholarship
I received both kudos and criticism for my teaching and research. In retrospect, my career was that of an average guy who occasionally rose above myself to contribute to the greater good. As I became aware of that in myself, I felt compelled to recognize it in others.
Lessons I learned from The Bay rippled through my life and influenced my decision to start this scholarship. Notable was a poem we read in Mr. Nagle’s English Lit class. I’m impressed that a basketball coach could have brought me to an enduring lesson, James Russell Lowell’s, The Vision of Sir Launfal: “He gives nothing but worthless gold who gives from a sense of duty; But he who gives a slender mite and gives to that which is out of sight, that thread of the all-sustaining beauty which runs through all and doth all unite…”
Some C-students are late-bloomers who have potential for professional careers or a passion for the trades. It’s a worthy challenge to identify and nurture students who have glimmers of character and understand that continuing education can enhance the greater good as well as their own lives. These qualities are not the monopoly of A-students. Even C-students can lead exemplary lives.
Since I established the “Class of ’62 Scholarship” at The Bay for our 50th anniversary in 2012, the school has awarded some 17 scholarships to graduating C-students who show this potential. Awardees may use the prize at a trade school or college, whatever their passion. We need to value tradespeople as well as professionals.
A campaign guided by fellow alumnus, Scott Riddle, helped raise the fund’s endowment to close to $50,000 and we hope to reach $60,000 or more in honor of our 60th anniversary. We are transferring the fund to the Greater Milwaukee Foundation to invest and administer scholarships in perpetuity.
Gary D. Rosenberg
Whitefish Bay HS, Class of ‘62
If you share our motivation for the “Class of ’62 Scholarship,” please consider sending a check to:
The Whitefish Bay Public Education Foundation
Class of ’62 Scholarship Fund (in the memo line)
1200 East Fairmount Ave.
Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin 53217