Cranbrook, Romney and Bullying

Creds: Cranbrook class of 1964. Full scholarship student. Williams College BA, Harvard Business School MBA. U.S Army 3 years-First Lieutenant, Airborne, citation with V device.

 

The recent article in the Complainer states that Mitt betrayed the honor, trust and opportunity offered him as a son of Cranbrook. The Cranbrook Song is then quoted in full.

As I thumbed through my old copy of the Brook (yearbook), I was struck by the fact that we all had short hair, were almost exclusively white, and with students of faiths other than Christianity few and far between. Admittedly Cranbrook was nominally Episcopalian and we were required to attend Chapel three times a week but aside from the Chaplain and assistant Chaplain being Episcopal clergy, there was little connection to the church. Bloomfield Hills at the time was almost exclusively white and waspish.

Typical of many prep schools at the time, the students most looked up to were the athletes. Fortunately for many of us, there were only around 60 boys per year and as a result those who showed effort and desire could find there way onto some interscholastic team. Generally pure brain power was not a path to leadership or recognition. Many of the athletes were in fact quite smart with many members of the class of ’64 attending most competitive schools. Mitt ’65 initially attended Stanford. 

The yearbook has Mitt pictured in three clubs. These were Glee Club, Pre-Med Club and The Forum (a club thats mission was to connect the Cranbrook student with events in the real /outside world). From recollections from several friends-all class of ’64, Mitt was remembered as a young man who often tried a little too hard to be funny. While his later success is impressive, our collective memories were of a young man who did not excel at the things that mattered to the majority of the Cranbrook student body.

The incident with John Lauber seems out of character with the Cranbrook at the time which is what makes it more troubling. There was always sarcasm and verbal jousts but I know of no other incident of a similiar nature. There was in fact another student in Mitt’s class who in the spring of 1964 bleached the front part of his hair. He was an athlete and nobody was offended or gave him any grief. Also, to my recollection, there was little or no gay bashing at the time. This was before the time when high school students came out. In fact I never suspected any students of being gay-even some who came out when they were older. 

I was reminded by one of my friends that he had been “different” and as a result had a more difficult time at Cranbrook that the more main stream students. Different in his case was non athlete and a year older than the rest of us. From my part, there were some differences between those students with parents with money and those of us whose parents had little. The 99% drove new cars to school and vacationed in Aspen, the 1% of the student body who had less, walked to school, or came by bus and worked at menial jobs during the summers. This gap could be narrowed somewhat if a poorer student excelled on the playing fields.

To the reported act of cruelty to the blind teacher, troubling. The teacher was certainly visually impaired but I know of no other incident or prank where he might have been injured. The usual prank occurred in his honors english class. At the back of the classroom, there was a large window which opened into the next classroom. On several occasions students in his class would take seats on the far side of the window and raise their hands. Due to his lack of depth perception he evidently thought they were in the same room.

Do the actions of an entitled teenager besmirch the reputation of Cranbrook? I don’t think so. This is a school that also gave us Ivan Boesky and Bob Woodruff, one who went away for a while and one who has done more for wounded veterans than anyone of our generation. Cranbrook has produced those who served and those who thought they were too smart to serve. All institutions produce both the good and the less good. 

Kudos to Flip Maxwell and all for the guts to talk and to those who remember Mitt in a better light. I wish Mitt had remembered the events-some remorse would have helped.

Cranbrook today has evolved with the times. Thanks to Ben Snyder and others the school is well integrated with students of all shades, cultures and religions. Heck there are even girls now and being openly gay is accepted as a normal part of the world. We even have a President who is in favor of gays being able to marry-progress from 1965.

I am finally reminded of another Cranbrook graduation hymn/song.

“Forty years on when afar and asunder

Parted are those who are singing today

When we look back and forgetfully wonder

What we were like in our work and our play”

 

 

 

 

 

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