A beloved figure on the hill, former CASBS associate director Bob Scott celebrated his 80th birthday on December 22, 2015. In acknowledgment of Bob’s towering influence on CASBS culture, the Center established the Robert A. Scott Lectureship Fund. The fund will support the CASBS public symposium series, which features presentations by current fellows.
Scott served as CASBS associate director from 1983 to 2001, and then again as acting associate director from August 2009 to April 2010. During those years, according to CASBS director and 1993-94 fellow Margaret Levi,
Bob worked tirelessly organizing incoming classes; bringing together members of a class who he thought would gain from exchanging their views across disciplines; contributing to the Center seminars he so loved; arranging a daily volleyball game (which itself spawned more than a few academic collaborations); and selflessly helping fellows solve their problems, whether trivial or large, whether professional or personal. We are delighted to honor Bob with a lectureship fund that will bear his name and support the activities of future CASBS fellows.
The fund will be recognized on a very special brick (held by Bob in the photo) to be inscribed and placed permanently on the CASBS grounds. Why so special? Bob tells us below.
The fund would not be possible were it not for the generosity of the CASBS community. The Center’s call-out resulted in an outpouring of donations to the fund in tribute to Bob and his singular, enduring impact.
To say the least, the brick Bob is holding has a history and carries special meaning. He tells the story.
The brick in question came from the elementary school I attended as a young boy. The school was an old fashioned one-room schoolhouse located in a small village named Hometown in the hard coal regions of eastern Pennsylvania. Hometown was a suburb of a coal mining patch named Tamaqua (population about 6,000) situated 30 miles north of Allentown and 40 miles south of Scranton. I attended the school from 1941-1944 while I was in grades 1-4. At the time it consisted of eight grades, with grades 5-8 convening during the morning session and grades 1-4 convening in the afternoon from 1-4 pm. There were anywhere from 6-10 students in each grade and each half-day session had one teacher. This meant that any single grade could expect to get no more than 30-45 minutes of dedicated instruction per day! The rest of the time was spent doing pretty much whatever one wanted so long as one was quiet and well behaved. The school had no indoor plumbing but only a poorly-built outhouse.
The school is important to me because it is one of two institutions that had the greatest impact on my career in education – the other, of course, is CASBS. The two institutions are about as different as it is possible for one to imagine, yet each in its own way impacted me powerfully. Lessons I learned from my experiences at the Old Hometown School have stayed with me for my entire life and, as I look back on them, had a major effect on how I approached my duties as Associate Director of CASBS.
So what's with the brick? Well, several years ago I visited Hometown and dropped by to say hello to a classmate of mine from our one-room schoolhouse, Beverly Knoebel. Her family home is adjacent to the school, and I had planned to pay a visit both to her and the school itself. When I got there I learned that the school was gone, having been razed by someone who bought the property, tore down the schoolhouse and planned to build a new home on the site. As soon as the bulldozers knocked the building down, Beverly had the presence of mind to collect some bricks from it and store them in her home. During my visit she presented one to me, which I then brought back to my home in San Francisco.
And now the brick will enjoy a final chapter. In conjunction with my 80th birthday, I was delighted to be informed that a group of former fellows and other friends of CASBS established a fund to support an annual lecture associated with my name. Moreover, as part of this effort someone suggested that we add a brick to the growing collection of "named" bricks that now grace the walkway and patio area at the Center. When this idea was mentioned, I knew instantly what I most wanted to do with the brick from the Hometown school – find a place for it somewhere on the CASBS grounds. You can see from the photograph that the brick is old and worn and would be an eyesore if placed in a public location, so I’d be happy to have it placed somewhere on the CASBS campus outside of public view. For me, the important thing is that it finds a home there, not that it be highly visible. It represents a way of expressing my personal gratitude to two absolutely unique yet completely different institutions that played such a critical role in my own educational career and life.
Pictured: Bob Scott's childhood schoolhouse in Hometown, PA, before its demolition.