Speech of M.D. Smith
on occasion of receiving the ISS
Outstanding Alumnus of the Year Award
April 17, 2004

(Note: I was hospitalized and and not able to deliver the speech for D-Day on Friday, April 16th and the speech for the Alumni on Saturday, April 17th. Roy Knight of my class of '59 delivered the significant parts of my speech for me and I greatly appreciate it. Below, is the entire speech with the addition of the D-Day expansion that would have been delivered to the students on Friday.)

ISS Outstanding Alumnus Award Speech April 17, 2004 (version 4-2-04)

Thank you, Mel MacKay. My thanks to the Selection committee, The Board and the Faculty of Indian Springs and my thanks to all of you alumni, students and friends. I am grateful for this award. I am honored to be on a list with Charles Robinson '59 who was the first recipient in 1980, with Bill Slaughter, a genius with a command of English that is unrivaled as I know it, with Gray Plosser, current Chairman of the ISS Board, with John Badham, Filmaker and for whom the theatre is named, with Neely Bruce an outstanding composer and pianist, and with Roy Knight '59 Dean of the school of Architecture at Florida A&M. I am proud of these guys who are friends of mine. I don't feel any special claim to this award except that I love Indian Springs and have stayed in touch since 1959.

Let me tell you a bit about my years in the 50's at ISS.
Like Most Freshmen, I enjoyed a bit of fun and wacky stuff. I had been restrained at Mt. Brook Grammar school, but Indian Springs allowed me much more freedom. I loved that. I remember specifically in Mr. Fleming's English class, we were working on selecting our GREAT MAN for a 4-year study. I picked Benjamin Franklin. My buddy, Charles Gaines picked HITLER. Charles later changed his subject when Mr. Fleming commented that he did not say great, evil man, nor did fame, necessarily equal greatness. Charles later chose Thomas Jefferson.

I remember it was Mr. Fleming who used colorful illustrations for making a point. He was trying to teach us about wise decisions. Here's a story like the ones he used to tell:

A woman walks into a bank in New York City and asks for the loan officer. She says she's going to Europe on business for two weeks and needs to borrow $5,000. The bank officer says the bank will need some kind of security for the loan, so the woman hands over the keys to a new Rolls Royce.

The car is parked on the street in front of the bank, she has the title and everything checks out. The bank agrees to accept the car as collateral for the loan.

The bank's president and its officers all enjoy a good laugh at the woman for using a $250,000 Rolls as collateral against a $5,000 loan. An employee of the bank then proceeds to drive the Rolls into the bank's underground garage and parks it there.

Two weeks later, the woman returns, repays the $5,000 and the interest, which comes to $15.41. The loan officer says, "Miss, we are very happy to have had your business, and this transaction has worked out very nicely, but we are a little puzzled. While you were away, we checked you out and found that you are a multimillionaire. What puzzles us is, why would you bother to borrow $5,000?"

The woman replies..."Where else in New York City can I park my expensive car for two weeks for only $15.41 and expect it to be there when I return?"
Oh yes, this was an Indian Springs Graduate.

But Mac Fleming was not the only one to use a bit of humor to illustrate a point. Ted Cobun was our science teacher in 1955. We were in class in the bottom front of the "Temporary Gym" and were discussing the correct spelling of Pneumonia. Mr. Cobun said, "it is spelled with a silent P, as in swimming." Well naive me, spoke right up and said....."there is no P in swimming." The class chuckled a bit. Mr. Cobun looked at me not sure if I was serious or joking, and he said, " Well, maybe not in YOUR pool. " I got the joke and I learned about subtlety.

Who could possibly forget Coach Cameron. He has had many nicknames over the years. When I was at ISS, he was fondly referred to as "CHROME DOME". He just wanted to get us involved in activities. Almost any activity, but just participate. He observed that "MANY OF US HAD THE RIGHT AIM IN LIFE . . . . HE JUST HOPED WE GOT AROUND TO PULLING THE TRIGGER." I think he also said regarding our intramural games, "Winning isn't everything, but then losing is nothing."

And I remember Mr. Bob Moore, who was featured on the front cover of the ISS catalog of 1957 he helped produce that year. He was instructor for shop, mechanical drawing and drafting as well as creating a table here and there. His eyes would twinkle when he talked to students. I recall him observing that, "if you don't use a push stick with the circular table saw, you are going to end up with fingers missing on that hand and your parents are going to be a bit upset with me." And he reminded us as he gave instructions on shop safety, "A closed mouth gathers no feet."

I was elected Commissioner of Recreation in my Junior year. When I was 11 years old, instead of a Lemonade stand, I got my folks' 8mm projector, some silent Mighty Mouse cartoons and had a movie party for neighborhood kids in my basement. Charged 10 cents admission and I cooked popcorn and sold small brown bags for 5 cents. Made several dollars and that was a lot in 1951. So, movie parties and dances were a natural for me.

As commissioner, I promptly set about planning super dances and movie parties. Along about November of 1957, I engaged Shorty Long and his rock & roll band for our fall dance. Shorty was imbibing alcohol most of the evening and by about 9:15 was playing the piano with his feet, and it sounded great. They were a WILD group. The faculty took a dim view of the example that was being set, and in their traditional, fun-stifling ways, sent Shorty and his band home early and the party ended. All those who were at the springs at the time say it was the BEST dance party ever, and the SHORTEST.

Indian Springs Guided our learning in all areas. All of our class members remember D-DAYS at the springs. We affectionately called them - - DOOM-DAYS. The faculty preferred, Development Days. That's when the faculty got to play Tom Sawyer. Tom got his friends to beg to whitewash a fence. The faculty got US to BEG to clear out the woods under a 50' power line right-of-way. This was in the spring of 1956. Doc Armstrong assured us we'd learn something about ourselves and life by the process of organizing ourselves to take down the trees.

Allan Cruse remembers, "The amount of planning that preceded that first D-Day was phenomenal. We devoted class time to learning about surveying, about how to use ropes, and at what angles to chop, to control which direction a tree would fall toward, and thus how to avoid getting ourselves killed in the act. We learned how to organize people into efficient teams with specialized skills. We planned for contingencies, for food and water distribution, for possible medical emergencies. In my class we each wrote a paper on the topic of what we wanted to achieve from D-Day and what if any apprehensions we had. We held team-meetings to plan the day's agenda and schedule, set target-goals, discuss safety issues and first-aid precautions, and to get instructions on how to operate certain equipment and tools that most of us had never touched before." Thanks, Allan.

I remember, We almost fought over who would use Ax, Bush Hook, Sling Blade, Crosscut Saw and the like. We worked like beavers and at the end of the day were completely physically drained. . . . and believed we had a great time. The next year, we did other projects. I was involved with clearing moss out of the deep end of the lake. That was pretty fun swimming, but the moss and mud was "icky" and not the best part.

David Rinald of my class said: "Now, A D-Day I remember. I got involved in building that bridge over the creek to the rifle range, the rifle range that wasn't really there. The bridge, however, was done during our junior year when Karl Ray was Commissioner of Development. It only got started on a D-Day and took us a good bit of afternoon and weekend time to complete.

Mr. Cameron had purchased some steel frame and concrete forms from his favorite military surplus source in Attalla. He was fond of buying all sorts of stuff such as automobiles, printing machines, etc. from there.

Anyway, I remember we formed and poured concrete, attached the steel frames to it, and then set about applying a whole lot of creosote to some 2x6's or 2x8's or so, and then attached these to the steel frames. I got the job of fitting the boards down and attaching them with a nut and bolt system which was accomplished relatively easily. At one crucial point, however, there was wet creosote on one of the boards and it got me squarely in the eyes. With fear for my eyesight, I let go of the frame and jumped straight into the creek, swimming around for quite awhile with my eyes open to wash them out. Then I lit out for the nurse's residence and she washed them out some more. I think it was no less a medical authority than Dr. Stinson (father of Billy Mac our classmate) himself who assured me that I wouldn't go blind. How relieved I was!

I remember being very proud when that bridge was finished...and I showed it to my kids when they went to Springs..."Aw, Dad!" exclaimed my daughter, Mariposa, thoroughly unimpressed.

Among the values it taught us is that any kind of work is valuable if it is done well and honestly. It also kind of prepared us for home maintenance projects we encountered a bit later in life, some practical application of the book-learning we got. It taught teamwork, broke down age barriers between the kids in different classes. It taught me about safety on the job..see above...and, to be very honest with you, I tear-up a little when I remember these occasions. Thanks for those remembrances, David.

One of the most memorable differences at the Springs from other schools, were the enrichment projects. We were told passing normal work would get you a "C". Doing the enrichment projects would get you a B or an A. - - I remember the 8 file drawers full of Purple Ditto Sprit copies of projects in the Math Room Alone. There were 4 more drawers full in the Science room, and so on. Actually, being able to pick the ones we liked, made it a lot of fun, and valuable at the same time. The one I completed on the Slide Rule served me all the way through college, in the days before anyone had ever heard of a portable calculator.

However, in addition to the non-classroom work, there are still some very fond memories of classes. Mr. Fleming's ancient history class was like a living historical novel. It was nothing like the boring history text books. I still remember him graphically describing how, "old Hannibal came down through the Alps with his Elephants, just having a great time, enjoying himself all along the way. And Boy, did those folks get out of the way of those elephants when he came." We all loved history made alive like that.

This past December 9th, I visited Mr. Fleming's Military History class as he talked about events that led up to Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into WWII.
I video taped it and have placed the audio and a video recording in the archives and on the internet. He still has his wonderful, subtle and interesting way to tell history like a great story. He asks questions at pivotal points to wake class members up. A technique he has used for 50 years. At one point the class was silent after a question, and Mr. Fleming said, "Don't have a clue, huh?" and went on explain the answer and continued his lecture.

The ISS Motto is DESCRE VIVENDO, Learning Through Living. We learned a lot about "creeping maturity" as it was called. It reminded us of the, then current movie, called the BLOB . . . it sort of crept up on you too. We also learned about positive mental attitudes. I learned "Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right." We were taught the glass is NOT half empty, it is half full. To this day, I refer to a partly sunny sky instead of a mostly cloudy one. )

By the way, speaking of the glass, For all the class parties tonight, a word of wisdom: You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can make a fool of yourself anytime.

I want to close today with an illustration story of why Indian Springs has stayed close to me during the past 45 years:
The following is the philosophy of Charles Schultz, the creator of the "Peanuts" comic strip. You don't have to actually answer the questions.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.

2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.

3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.

4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.

5. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?

The point is, few of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.

2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.

3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.

4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.


The lesson:

The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards.

They are the ones that care.

Indian Springs and all the teachers cared. They made a difference in my life. That's why I care so much today. This award is really the results of all those caring teachers. And the best we Alumni can do is emulate them and pass the gauntlet on.

Thank you Indian Springs for my good humor and positive mental attitude. Thank you for this award. And thanks to all of you, you have been a great audience.



Please send any comments to M.D. Smith (mdsmith@HiWAAY.net)

This page created by M.D. Smith and last modified on April 26, 2004