Archive | November, 2012

Inspiring a world view.

12 Nov

Growing up in outside of Syracuse, N.Y, I lived a pretty sheltered life with a limited world view. My parents were both born and raised in that same small town. Though my dad attended college, he doesn’t have a degree and for living in New York State her entire life, my mom had never been to New York City until just a few years ago. When we took trips growing up, it was always within state or nearby. In fact, until my honeymoon almost 10 years ago, the only country outside of the United States I had visited was Canada.

To say my worldview is much larger than my parents would be misleading, because though I have traveled all over the United States and moved to the very foreign “South” more than a decade ago, my passport has the same two stamps that theirs does – Canada and Aruba. My husband has at least been overseas, having visited Greece. With such a limited view, I jumped on an opportunity to give my children an international experience without leaving the security of our home. I did this by volunteering to be a host family for the World School International Forum 2012.

The World School organization was founded in 1997 by Masaki Mastudaira, the former Chairman and present advisor to the board of trustees at Kanto International Senior High School in Tokyo, Japan. From 1997 to 2001 the Forum was held in Tokyo, hosted by its founding institution, Kanto International Senior High School. Building on the success of the first five years of World School Forum, the organization has extended its mission to other countries during the last decade. A different member school hosts the Forum every other year, with the event returning to Japan in alternate years. Recent host countries have included South Korea, Australia and Italy. The United States was the first country other than Japan to host the forum in 2002 and ten years later, the forum returned to Tennessee.

The mission of World School is to create a truly borderless entity for the purpose of helping the participants create their image of an ideal educational program. The program is designed to train students to adopt a global perspective by becoming receptive to differences and to enable them to form lasting friendships. It will also prepare them to excel in a globalized society.

To the community that hosts the Forum, it is a rich opportunity to learn from the participants and share the local culture. Having served on the World School Committee, I had been involved in the planning of the Forum for over a year. As we discussed the home stay portion of the forum, I was intrigued by what the experience could mean to our family.

I have five-year-old twin daughters. They made their first 12-hour car ride to visit my family in NY when they were 11 months old and have made almost annual trips back there since then. They are acutely aware that our country is vast. I recently discussed a planned trip for Thanksgiving and their response was “Grandma and Grandpa’s house if far away, can’t they just come here?”

I can remember growing up and especially at their age, not being aware of much outside my hometown and state. Florida was a far off place where the magical Disney World was located, but I never really dreamed of seeing other countries.

To prepare the girls for our special visitors, I started telling them that we’d be meeting new friends that had travelled from far away to see us. As soon as I found out what country our guests were from, I showed them the countries on the map. I showed them how close Canada was to where mommy grew up and contrasted that with how far Romania was from Tennessee.

Our World School guests Kate (left) and Daria (right) with Gracie and Andie (on Daria’s lap).

When our home stay weekend arrived and I returned home with our guests, I was impressed to see how much of my brief lessons the girls had retained. Our students were Kate, from Canada, and Daria, from Romania. It was funny to hear Andie and Gracie assail them with questions even before the made it into the house. When we pulled the car into the garage Andie came bursting through the door and Gracie was close on her heels. “Hello Kate! Hello Daria!,” they exclaimed. “Which one is Kate? You know you have the same name as our mommy.”

I was equally impressed with how interested, loving, patient and attentive Kate and Daria were with the girls. That first night, they had just returned from the Washington, D.C., excursion, so they had already been on a bus for around 9 hours when I picked them up in Harrogate. It is an hour to my house in Knoxville, so they had to have been exhausted. Nevertheless, they entertained the girls’ imaginations until it was well past the twins’ bedtime. They let the excited little girls give them a tour of the house and show them their room.

Since the home stay weekend came on the weekend before Halloween, we had grand plans to go to a pumpkin patch, corn maze or fall festival the next morning. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate and we had to settle for a more traditional American high schooler’s weekend experience of going to the movies. Andie and Gracie stayed home for the movie, but not before getting Daria and Kate to play hide and seek with them.

After the movie, we came back home and made Halloween cookies to take to a costume party later that night. Again Kate and Daria showed tremendous patience with Andie and Gracie, helping them roll out the dough and cut out ghosts, pumpkins and tombstones.

The party was at one of our close friends’ houses and included a bonfire and a performance from an authentic American garage band. I tried to stick close to Daria and Kate since they were among strangers in a strange land, but there was no need for my worry. They made friends easily and seemed to talk to everyone. I think they especially enjoyed the band, which because it was a costume party included James Bond on the keyboard, Big Bird as the lead vocalist and Shrek on bass.

At the end of our weekend, Andie and Gracie were sad to see Kate and Daria go. Each of our guests left us with special gifts from their countries, something the girls still talk about. Monday morning when  Andie and Gracie returned to their school, I was impressed to see how excited they still were from our visit. “We had special guests at our house this weekend,” Andie told the teacher. “Yeah, they were from other countries,” added Gracie. “We live in the United States. Kate is from Canada and Daria is from Romania,” Andie followed up. “Canada is close Mrs. Hale, but we’d have to take a boat to get to Daria’s country,” Gracie said.


A pause to remember, celebrate and be grateful.

11 Nov

Among the founders of Lincoln Memorial University is Civil War General Oliver Otis Howard. Veterans, it would seem, have shaped this University from its very beginning. Throughout LMU’s rich history, war has reared its ugly head calling students to serve.  So on Veterans Day, it is only fitting that we pause to reflect and remember the service and sacrifice of all of our veterans. There are three in particular that I think paint a good picture of character of the servicemen at LMU.


Pat Williams

The story of Patrick McCamy Williams opens like the story of many Lincoln Memorial University students. A native of Cumberland Gap, Tenn., where his father worked as the business manager at LMU, Pat Williams was the third of four children born to Casimir Pulaski “CP” and Annie George McCamy Williams.

A star basketball player at Powell Valley High School, he was an All-State honoree. Also an outstanding student, he enrolled at LMU following high school. Pat Williams played basketball at LMU and was one of six students highlighted in a Who’s Who in American Colleges in 1940. By that time, the campus had become a basic training ground for the military with both the Navy and U.S. Army Air Corps training men. The latter operated a unit of the Civilian Pilot Training Corps.  Pat Williams completed the Civil Pilot’s Training Course and received his pilot’s license in 1940.

When the U.S. entered World War II, Pat Williams was one of the many brave “Lincoln Men” who served his country. He was commissioned following his junior year at LMU. Before he was called to serve, he volunteered for active duty. Pat Williams transferred from the Cavalry to the US Army Air Corps in September 1941. He was inducted at Ft. Oglethorpe. Following training and one term as a flight instructor, Pat Williams was assigned to the 63rd Fighter Squadron of the 56 Fighter Group made up of the famous P-47 Republic Thunderbolts.

Pat Williams flew nine missions with his squadron prior to the fateful tenth mission that would claim his life. Moorsele, Belgium historian and aviation enthusiast Lothaire Vanoverbeke uncovered the details of the mission while researching his bookMoorsele, één dorp, twee vliegvelden (translated: Moorsele, A Village, Two Airports):

“Mission Rodeo 34 was carried out on May 31. Pat Williams was with Lyle Adrianse, Gordan Batdorf, Jack Brown, Sylvester Burke, George Compton, Lucian Dade, Roger Dyar, Joseph Egan, Dan Goodfleish, Walter Hannigan, Frank Peppers, Glenn Schiltz, Arthur Sugas and Edgar Whitley, all from the 63rd, part of the complete 56 FG that left Horsam St. Faith at 11:05 a.m. During the assembly Brown had to land because of a gasoline leak and was immediately replaced by Harry ‘Bunny’ Comstock. Over Hornchurch, Compton thought it safer to land because of engine trouble and did so accompanied by Sugas. To show no favoritism, Commander Hubert Zemke rotate the squadrons he flew in the lead and this time it was the 63rd up front with Pat Williams in his flight, sweeping the Knokke-Kortrijk-Diksmuide area. They entered the continent over the Dutch-Belgian border and turned south. Without seeing any ‘Krauts,’ they came over Kortrijk and now turned west. Suddenly Williams wheeled over and went straight down. Whitley was one of those who saw what happened and thinking of an oxygen failure, he started to scream at him over the radio “Pat, pull out,” hoping that if he was partially conscious, he could get him to respond. The Jug turned into a steep dive and was last seen at 10,000 ft. when it entered the clouds.”

Vanoverbeke’s research would go on to reveal that Pat Williams did regain consciousness and leveled the aircraft out; however he crash landed in a field outside the village of Moorsele. Horrified citizens watched as the pilot perished, not in the crash but in the fire that erupted following the impact. Zemke later wrote about the mission, “It was hard to come home and hear that we lost a crew in a dogfight, but losing a good pilot because of a stupid technical defect was even more regrettable.”

Pat Williams was buried with full military honors by a platoon of Flemish NSKK troopers on June 2, 1943. German authorities identified him immediately, but since all allied aircraft originated from Great Britain, the locals assumed he was an English pilot.

This is when Pat Williams’ story starts to deviate from the path of so many typical LMU students. It’s not the circumstance of his death or even his patriotic service that sets him apart, because many “Lincoln Men” volunteered for and gave their lives in service to their country. Rather, it’s the mark his death left on the village of Moorsele, which makes his story stand out.

Just as he was honored in life, Pat Williams was honored following his death. He was the first member of his famous squadron to receive the Air Medal and by direction of the President of the United States, the Purple Heart. His body was removed from Moorsele in 1946 and now rests at the U.S. Military Cemetery at Epinal, France (Bloc B, Plot 17, Grave 31). LMU held a memorial service in his honor on March 5, 1944, and his family carved a memorial on the reverse of his parents’ tombstone in Benton, Tenn. Perhaps the most striking remembrance of Pat Williams’ sacrifice is a monument erected a world away in a country where not a single soul had the pleasure of meeting Pat Williams.

Because local lore remembered him as an “English pilot” it wasn’t until the late 1980s that Pat Williams’ whole story was retold locally. Vanoverbeke’s research uncovered a photo from the crash that showed a star on the fuselage of the plane. The aviation aficionado immediately realized the star meant that it was not an English pilot who had lost his life near his village. He contacted the U.S. Embassy, the U.S. Air Force archives and eventually Colonel Zemke. Piecing the story together led him to Harrogate, Tenn., LMU and Howard Williams, Pat Williams’ younger brother.

Vanoverbeke’s research, a voluminous 410-page book, was published in 1993 and reissued in 1999. “As there was nothing in the village that reminded of that sacrifice, I felt that the name and history of Pat Williams had to be brought back to Moorsele. In August of 2001, I asked the Wevelgem mayor and town council (Moorsele is a borough of Wevelgem) to erect a monument for this American pilot,” Vanoverbeke said of his quest to erect a monument in honor of Pat Williams. 

The Wevelgem Town Council agreed and on June 2, 2002, the memorial monument was dedicated in the presence two of Howard Williams’ adult children and Whitley, the pilot who cried out trying to pull Pat Williams out of unconsciousness during his dissent. Colonel Marion Tunstall, Air Attaché of the U.S. Embassy in Brussels, represented the American Ambassador at the ceremony.

Belgium Prime Minister Yves Leterme and U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman were among the dignitaries present at the rededication of the Pat Williams memorial.

Nine years later Pat Williams would be honored once again, this time in the presence of Belgium Prime Minister Yves Leterme and U.S. Ambassador Howard Gutman. The rededication was necessary when the monument, which was originally placed between where he died and where he was first buried, had to be moved to accommodate the expansion of a local sports arena.


Ross Carter

Ross Carter and Pat Williams probably either knew or knew of each other, as Carter was graduating cum laude from LMU around the same time Williams left the University to join the war efforts. Carter was born and raised in Scott County, Va., and graduated cum laude from LMU in 1941, where he majored in history. He went on to become a decorated war hero in World War II, as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, 504th PIR. Carter participated in battles in Africa, Sicily, Italy and at Cassino. For his heroics during the war, Carter was awarded a Silver Star, Combat Infantry Badge, five Gold Stars for Battle, The Purple Heart and his unit earned a Presidential Unit Citation. His Paratrooper Wings bear three stars, one for each combat jump.  He saw 340 days of actual combat. He was one of three survivors from his original forty-four man platoon when the war ended.

After his service, Carter wrote the manuscript for the book Those Devils In Baggy Pants, a memoir of his wartime service.  Shortly after his service he was diagnosed with cancer and battled it throughout the writing process. During his illness he spent many hours with his brother Dr. Boyd G. Carter, briefing him on the editorial work.   His story went on to become a non-fictional best seller when it was released in 1951. A condensed version was published in Reader’s Digest in October 1951. Carter’s memoir is still in print today and is considered the quintessential book on the paratroopers in World War II.

The name for his book was inspired from this quote found in the diary of a German officer who opposed the 504th on the Anzio beachhead:  “American parachutists – devils in baggy pants – are less than 100 meters from my outpost line.  I can’t sleep at night; they pop up from nowhere and we never know when or how they strike next.  Seems like the black-hearted devils are everywhere…” –  thus  the title  Those Devils in Baggy Pants.

Ten years after his death, LMU celebrated its sixtieth year as an institution of higher learning. During that celebration two Airborne Infantry master sergeants presented the school with a check for $300, the first gift to the University in Carter’s memory. Carter never lived to see his success, succumbing to cancer on April 18, 1947. Having never married and leaving no descendants, his legacy lives on at his alma mater, where his fellow paratroopers and classmates have established the Ross Carter Memorial Scholarship Fund.

“Ross lives on in the book he wrote and in the lives of the young people who are inspired by his example,” University President Robert Kincaid remarked at that celebration. “From his short life of full achievement and devotion will come inspiration for future writers and future leaders who will add greatly to the priceless heritage he has left to humanity.”

Carter’s legacy lives on, even today, as his scholarship is awarded annually and the English department awards Ross S. Carter writing awards.


David “Mac” McCollum

Nearly 70 years after Williams lost his life in WWII and 65 years after Carter succumbed to cancer, David “Mac” McCollum crossed the stage at Tex Turner Arena in 2012 and became an alumnus of LMU. A decorated Marine veteran, McCollum served two tours of duty in Iraq during his seven years of military service prior to enrolling at LMU.

His path to LMU was born out of frustration with a larger institution. “After my second tour, I knew I wanted to take advantage of the education benefits that come with serving our country. I wanted to do that at UT, but for whatever reason, they couldn’t get me in the classes I needed to graduate within the time frame I wanted to graduate,” McCollum said. “Discouraged, I checked out all the other schools around Knoxville. On a whim, I visited LMU. I literally left campus that day with a clear path to graduation, signed up for classes with financial aid in the works. I couldn’t believe it.”

McCollum stayed on his course and graduated in May. As significant as the 20 or so steps it took for him to cross the stage and pick up his diploma were, what came next may have shaped his life even more. Just two days after crossing the stage at commencement, McCollum embarked on an over-500 mile trek from Knoxville to Washington, D.C. Throughout his “Ruck to Remember” McCollum blogged about his experience to raise funds and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project

McCollum logged thousands of miles alongside fellow heroes and patriots in extreme conditions and under fire while he served in the Marines. Many of the soldiers he walked alongside never made it home or suffered traumatic and life-altering injuries. It is in honor of his fallen friends that he has mapped out his next path. 

McCollum was inspired to do something after his best friend, Bradley Walker, lost both of his legs during his second deployment. “I really feel like I didn’t and can’t do enough for him,” McCollum said. “We were just kids. Just 23, 24-year-olds and his life has changed. It’s just the right time for me to step up and support all the wounded warriors, like Bradley.”

The idea initially grew out of camping and hiking trips with fellow veterans. “We would sit around the campfire and talk about our experiences. Inevitably the conversations would trail off as we remembered all of the guys we lost or who were injured. We decided we had to do something to honor them.”

McCollum completed his “Ruck to Remember” on Memorial Day in Arlington National Cemetery. His fundraising wrapped up a couple months later with a tally of over $17,000 raised for the Wounded Warrior Project. Now a decorated veteran and college graduate, McCollum hopes to go back to work for the United States of America, this time for the federal government in an agency such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

On this Veterans Day, we pause to remember, celebrate and be grateful for all of our servicemen and women, especially Pat, Ross and Mac.

Is Facebook the cure for the World School Blues?

8 Nov

Five days ago I attended the World School International Forum 2012 closing banquet. It was the last event on a packed schedule for delegates from 21 countries around the world and while I expected it to be emotional for the nearly 100 high school students and teacher chaperones that had spent two weeks forming friendships and unbreakable bonds, I wasn’t prepared for the abundance of tears.

The mission of World School is to create a truly borderless entity for the purpose of helping the participants create their image of an ideal educational program. The program is designed to train students to adopt a global perspective by becoming receptive to differences and to enable them to form lasting friendships. It will also prepare them to excel in a globalized society. To accomplish this, a forum has been held once a year since 1997 to give students from around the world an opportunity to come together and learn from each other. These forums were held in Tokyo, Japan, from 1997 – 2001, then LMU became the first institution to host the event outside of the founding country in 2002. Ten years later, it was the University’s turn to host the event again.

It’s no wonder the students, and teachers too, shed some tears on their last day, because in the 11 days that came before life changing friendships were made, borders were torn down and a truly global community built on respect was created.

Hailing from Australia, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey, Romania, France, Russia, Italy, United Kingdom, Japan, Thailand, Germany, India, Sri Lanka, China, Finland and Macau the delegates all landed in Knoxville before boarding buses and vans to take them to the Cumberland Mountains that LMU calls home. After settling into LMU residence Halls and celebrating the opening of the Forum with the Opening Ceremonies, the international contingent was on the road again for an excursion to Washington, D.C.

Things didn’t slow any on their return to Tennessee, as home stay would greet them. The students and teachers were split among community members to get a taste of home life in America. They returned to LMU for an intense second week of more academic pursuits. The education theme for the forum was Environment: Housing and Volunteerism and the students spent a lot of time preparing for a debate on the topic. The second week also included booth day and country performances where they shared information about their country with over 1,000 community members and school children.

The country performances included everything from –

the evolution of dance in the United States:

To the international sensation that is South Korea’s PSY Gangham Style (check it out around the 3 minute mark).

To the Aussies sharing a holiday favorite from Down Under.  Jingle Bells with no snow?

I had a very limited role in World School, mainly to photograph selected events as my schedule permitted. My family also played host for a pair of students during home stay (more on that in another post). Even as an outside observer, it was clear that special bonds were formed every step of the way.

During the closing banquet the delegates were warned of the “World School Blues” that could greet them when they returned to their home countries. At first, I was skeptical. I thought, these kids have been away from home and their families for nearly two weeks, surely they will be happy to have the comforts of home. They have been staying in institutional residence halls without the benefits of customizing them like college students do. They had been eating strange food and kept on a tight schedule with little down time to just chill. Surely, home was calling. But then I watched as they shared memories throughout the banquet and at its conclusion began moving around in small groups alternately hugging, crying and snapping pictures and I knew home was far from their minds.

 In that moment, as an adult who has said goodbye to my fair share of friends over the years, I was envious of their connections.  I remember crying over friends as I said goodbye every summer at the end of summer camp. I cried because I knew that I was not likely to see or hear from until the next summer. These World School delegates weren’t crying over that. They may never be in the same room again, but they would always know what was happening in Montreal, Paris, New Zealand or even Harrogate. Technology has changed everything. Facebook is now a conduit to maintaining these friendships. While the delegates may get the “World School Blues” longing to sneak out of a residence hall to meet up for midnight talks or miss a certain delegate’s unforgettable laugh, they’ll always be just a few clicks away from seeing their friends.