Flash back to September 1951. I was a post-World War II young boy of 14 and a half whose life had been provincial, if not cloistered. My dad was a hard-working pediatrician with the Fishburne/Davidson/Pennsylvania/Hopkins educational flow who became the original Duke pediatrician under Dean Davis (a Rhodes Scholar) at the brand new Duke Medical School in Durham, N.C. My track to orthopaedics was Episcopal High School/Davidson/Duke/Pennsylvania/Duke.
I was a poor and unmotivated student with unsuccessful tutoring in math, and had the attention span of a mite. Episcopal High School was mine and my parents answer to the “lack of maturation and focus” dilemma. I arrived at EHS and said goodbye to my folks. Mom cried. Thanks to William Riley Deeble, who was the first master I met at my new dormitory home, I had no time to feel sorry for myself as he sent John McCain and me and others who would become good friends immediately to explore.
The earliest crisis at EHS for me was a total lack of communication from my mom and dad. It was a full two weeks later that Mr. Thomsen told Mr. Deeble, who in turn told me, that my mailbox right there at the dining hall entrance was overflowing. I had the wrong mail box number. The worst emotional insult (at the time) that I had ever experienced was immediately dissipated. I can clearly see in my mind where Mr. Deeble was standing — just outside the dorm door next to the tennis court just after the last morning class when I learned that “all was okay.”
Though I never took English history and was never coached by Mr. Deeble as a head coach, and though I never visited much at the masters’ homes, Mr. Deeble remained (with Mr. Callaway, Mr. Tompkins, Mr. Ravenel, Mr. Thomsen, Coach McLaughlin and Mr. Phillips) the heart and soul of what in retrospect I owe to Episcopal High School. And how much is that? It is indescribable, that I know. And Mr. Deeble was the only master that I asked to sign my 1951-1952 Whispers. I remember wanting him to sign more than others.
It is unlikely, Riley (if I may call you that now), that we can chat again as at this moment on Feb. 27, 2014, but I can promise you that long after I am gone the onrushing next generation McBryde crowd will have this letter to know how much EHS meant to me. And EHS is embodied in you, the last living master/EHS teacher of my time from 1951 to 1955. Though my sons and granddaughters are apparently not to be “old boys” or “old girls,” they and those to follow will know the lasting impact that you and the school on the hill had on me — and indirectly on them. You have my everlasting appreciation.
Angus McBryde lives in Columbia, S.C. He recently traveled to the Vineyard to visit William Riley Deeble, a longtime resident of West Tisbury, to deliver this letter.