Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to: 

  • connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
  • share ideas about learning and human development;
  • spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy. 

Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing. 

Michael Ulku-SteinerHead of School 


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Blast from the past

I recently spotted three strangers on our campus. After some handshakes, greetings, and the happy sight of their visitors badges, I realized one of them was no stranger at all.

Dan Sherlock, a DA graduate from the class of 1985, was in town for the first time in nearly three decades - for a friend's wedding in Chapel Hill. Dan now lives in Los Angeles, where he serves as President of Cinedigm. Before that, he was President of Baseline (a comprehensive film and television database owned by The New York Times Company) and Vice President and General Manager of Movies.com (owned by the Walt Disney Company). 

Dan was glad to be wandering his old campus, and I was glad to help him connect with a few of his old (scratch that - ageless) teachers. What a pleasure to witness these reunions, see the happy looks on the faces of our teachers, and realize how much impact they made nearly thirty years ago.  

After returning to Los Angeles, Dan emailed the following message. Again, what pleasure to be reminded how the work of our teachers echoes far into the future!

Michael -
Just wanted to drop you a quick note to say thank you for taking time out of your busy day last Friday to spend time with myself, Jason, and Craig. It was truly unexpected and not necessary for you to drop everything you were doing to escort us on our impromptu walk down (my) memory lane.

I must say it really made for my trip to NC (the first trip there in nearly 30 years) to be quite special and it brought back many fond memories.

Seeing Steve Engebretsen, Pat Isbell, Lou Parry, and Dennis Cullen again was very special — what a great testament to the school that those talented individuals have remained there for so long and continue to inspire students on a daily basis.

I was so overwhelmed in the unplanned moment with seeing Lou Parry again (one of my all time favorite teachers) that I felt I missed a golden opportunity to address his AP class, so if there might be one thing I WOULD have shared with them it would have been this:  

One of the adopted habits of living in Hollywood is drawing life references and comparisons to art found in movies, television, and yes — even internet shorts (in which I believe you, Michael, have a potential side career if I’m not mistaken?). If you haven’t seen the movie, “Dead Poets Society” — see it. While the plot of the story is not what I find memorable, it is the character played by Robin Williams that stands out to me. The teacher in the movie portrayed by Robin Williams is one that made an indelible impression in the lives of his students and taught lessons upon which his students will reflect for the decades to come.  

The experience at Durham Academy provides many excellent teachers who will guide their students' thinking for years to come. For me — when I see that movie, I always think of Lou Parry in the character played by Robin Williams. Lou’s passion for learning is contagious and the lessons he teaches are memorable and inspired by a motivation to "think differently”.  

So, had I not been so overwhelmed with gratitude and happiness at seeing my favorite former teacher — and also not wanting to disrupt his “regularly scheduled programming” — I would have wanted to share that brief message with the class. I could tell in the short time there and witnessing the interaction with students that the same rapport Lou had with me and my fellow students nearly 30 years ago continues to this very day. It would be my wish to share with those students that the lessons taught and experience of being in Lou’s class today will stay with them for many years to come and serve them well in life. I could tell they appreciate Lou as a teacher and friend and for this I am grateful. I would leave them with the thought of encouraging their continued appreciation of the gift they have been given to attend DA and have the opportunity to learn from excellent faculty such as Lou, Dennis, Steve, and others and highlight the solid foundation this experience provides to build upon in the journey of life ahead.

So, again I can’t thank you enough for your impromptu escort and the tour. Congratulations on continuing to evolve what was a great experience for me nearly 30 years ago. Your tour made me realize what was a great experience back in the 80s has only gotten better over time.  

With warm regards,

Dan Sherlock
Class of ‘85
Posted by mulkus on Saturday September, 20, 2014 at 10:52PM

1 Comment:

What a lovely experience for Dan Sherlock to return to D.A. And witness the fantastic changes that have occurred over the last thirty years. Lou Charles Parry is indeed a teacher to be cherished by all. His gifts are truly appreciated by all his students. Cheers also to the other,"Oldie but goldie", D.A. Faculty who have devoted their careers to the students and greater D.A. Community!
from M. Saffo-Cogswell on 09/22/14 at 06:20PM

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