I have often wondered how one justifies the $50,000-plus tuition fee of a private high school. It was out of our range 20 years ago when our kids were teenagers. And then, just when I’m praising myself for all that money saved, Bill Dennehy walks rapidly past our house with his determined step and iPod ringing in his ears.
Bill retired in June from Phillips Exeter Academy after coaching soccer, hockey and baseball for 42 years. His record of wins at the helm coaching these three sports will probably never be equaled. The governor of New Hampshire attended his retirement celebration, where the dugouts for the varsity baseball field were dedicated to him.
Bill was a great coach but that’s not what justified the high tuitions paid by the parents of his team members. Far more important than that, Bill is a man who is truly comfortable in his own skin. He is Bill Dennehy. That’s what you get. There is no pretense, no games played, no self-inflation or hype. In an age of radical personality make overs, personal insecurity of epic proportions, self-help gurus to find the real you, and celebrity obsession, Bill was a role model who oozed personal integrity and authenticity. He just may have been worth all that tuition.
Two weeks prior to attending Bill’s retirement celebration at Exeter, I attended a celebration of a different kind. Graham Dripps, my father in law, died on April 17 at the age of 92. His daughter Lyn and grandson Ben Herrick were at his bedside. The celebration of his life was held at the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church in Bryn Mawr, Pa. on April 20.
On the surface, Bill and Graham shared little in common, except for a love of East Chop. They came from different generations; one was an athletic coach, the other a successful businessman. And yet at a more important level, they were soulmates. Graham, too, was a man who was totally comfortable in his own skin.
He was a gifted high school athlete and a master craftsman when it came to making furniture. Graham could fix anything from cars to appliances, and solve any technical problem regarding computer software or the installation of a new high-tech product. The interesting thing is that few East Choppers were aware of his exceptional abilities. Again there was no self-inflation or pretense. Graham Dripps was the most understated man I have ever known. Phillips Exeter Academy will miss Bill Dennehy. East Chop will miss Graham Dripps.
On May 16 the Martha’s Vineyard Museum presented a reading of the musical play Lighthouse Point at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. I was the author of the script, Kate Hancock wrote the lyrics and Ben Willmott composed the music for the 10 original songs. The play is about the history of a fictional East Chop family. I mention our play only because I am interested in family stories. Bring yours to my attention. We can start with a column. Who knows where it may lead.