I was fortunate to spend two years in Ms. Aronson’s pre-1st and 1st grade program and eventually graduated from Imago’s 8th grade in 1999. It took a lot of effort on my parents’ part to keep me (and my sister, Emily) in Imago for the duration since my Dad was active-duty military throughout our elementary-school years. They believed in the education and environment that Mss. Dey and Ward provided, and I know that all these years later they feel that their faith was well-placed. And I concur! Of course, I can’t take any credit for the tough choices my parents made.
Like several other Imago alums, I received my high school education at the Stony Brook school on Long Island, an exciting four years that were reminiscent of the boarding school stories we concocted in Ms. Hintze’s English class as a pastime. After graduating (alongside another Imago alumnus, Jared Kaijala) I spent some time at Gordon College, and a semester here and there until I graduated from University of Maryland Baltimore County with a degree in Psychology.
I’ve gotten a lot of use out of my Psychology degree; my first job out of college was working as a Research Assistant at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Later, I studied Law and Education at University of Maryland, worked as a legal researcher and taught high school English in the Baltimore City Public School System before I took my current position as a Research Health Science Specialist with Veterans Affairs. It’s been especially fascinating and sobering to transition from work focused on solving the problems of warfighters in the field during my time at Walter Reed to the concerns of Veterans, many of whom are psychological and physical casualties of those campaigns. I’m confronted with their sacrifice on a daily basis. The VA providers I work with routinely go above and beyond in providing care to some of the most complex patients of any healthcare system in the country. It’s an inspiring place to work, even when the task of caring for our aging and wounded seems insurmountable. In order to be a better research collaborator and have more opportunities for independent research I anticipate studying Biostatistics at University at Buffalo in the near future.
By far the best thing about moving to Buffalo was meeting a young medical student named Candace Okupski. The first thing that attracted me to her was her taste in books (honestly!), including an appreciation for many Imago staples. Two people that’ve spent years internalizing the writings of CS Lewis will recognize each other in an instant. Candace and I married less than a year ago and we live in a little 19th century home on the West Side of Buffalo that we’re constantly repairing. I’m proud to say that she’s now finishing up her last year of residency (internal medicine) and will be a fellow of infectious disease at University at Buffalo in 2016. We have two lovely cats named Fyodor and Yaki Mandu.
My former teachers and peers will probably remember that I was always falling apart at the seams as a young boy with severe hemophilia. Well, one of the benefits of being stuck in bed is you develop a number of hobbies: reading, for one. Before I married Candace and gained the benefit of her keen eye for design, books were the only decorations in my apartment. Also, during a year of intense treatments for hemophilia complications in college that robbed me of my (previously abundant) appetite I found I could only stomach food I cooked myself. Thus began a fascination with cooking that persists, and I’m the head chef for our little household. I can do wonders with legumes and a pressure cooker! Over the past seven years or so, my board game collection has been competing with my books for shelf space. No matter what condition I find myself in, I’m always up for competing strategically with my friends or engaging in some escapism with my wife involving efficiently managing a little cardboard farm. If it’s not already obvious, I’ve got the collector’s bug, and I’ve also accumulated cabinets of whiskies from around the world. I’m part of a local group that organizes tastings and talks on the topic of whiskey distilling. My sympathy for animals is always looking for an outlet. Right now that takes the shape of finding homes for stray and surrendered cats with a local shelter.
I’m going to surprise my former teachers with this one, but out of many excellent Imago memories I’m going with the drama program. Mandatory participation in the annual Reformation plays (and musicals) was exactly what I needed as a shy and introverted child. I would have died before admitting I enjoyed it at the time, but if I had been given the option to opt out I wouldn’t have the memories of coming together with my school family to present the foundational stories of our church and the timeless stories of American musical theatre. I even ended up missing this thing I gave every outward impression of hating when I went off to high school and with no one to remind me that I hated it I ended up participating in every play I could. Being pushed onto the stage set off a chain of events that made me a more well-adjusted and empathetic person than I would have become if left to my own devices to practice geometry or memorize facts about insects and planets. Also, bringing up Reformation plays to the uninitiated is a great conversation starter.
Runner-up memory goes to Mrs. Goulding’s 7th grade informal logic class. One of the most useful courses of instruction I’ve ever received. Honestly, I think about something that has its roots in that classroom every day.
Please, if you know any Veterans in crisis, give them the number for the Veterans’ Crisis Line (https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/) 1-800-273-8255.