When asked what role teachers have played in their life people will tell you that for whatever reason the most important teachers they ever had changed their life for the better. Personally, I am lucky in that I have had teachers like that throughout every part of my academic career. There was one, however, who always outshone the others in my memory. His name was Jim Stanley.
I first became aware of Jim Stanley when I was probably 11/12 when my older brother Conor was just starting out at Timon. He would relay to me the old wives tales of this strict disciplinarian that under no circumstances should be crossed. I heard stories about a teacher who if you were unlucky enough to fall asleep in his class you would probably never wake up in again. I was told so much of all the physical reprimands that he had handed out to so many fathers and uncles that unfortunately came to define the early part of his career. So to a middle-schooler the image Jim Stanley came off as a meanest old Son of a You Know What.
Skip forward a few years and I am taking Kim Kulczyk's accelerated 8th grade and I would often eat breakfast in the cafeteria with my brother and all of his friends. Most mornings there would be an older gentleman reading the paper and eating breakfast by himself. Whoever this guy was, it seemed to my 13-year-old self, he was soft. The guy was just so rail thin, definitely in his 60s if not 70s, and most days wore purple or mustard yellow turtleneck sweaters. The toughest teacher to walk the halls of Timon could never wear something like that. I soon learned that in fact, this man was none other than Stan the Man himself. Was this was the guy my 6'5" future college football lineman brother was so afraid of? It took a while for me to be able to wrap my head around this, and I would be lying that this was the last time that I underestimated Jim Stanley.
Jim was my history teacher my junior and senior year. His classes changed my life. He was a teacher engaged my intellect. He saw potential in my ability to critically think, analyze, and communicate my thoughts. I truly believe he set the bar higher for me than he did for other students in my class, and I am sure he made every other student in his class feel the same way. At the beginning of the year in my AP US History class, I remember walking out class with him and talking with him a bit in the halls and he stopped, looked at me, and in all seriousness said, "Pat if you do not score a 5 on that AP exam, I am going to kick your ass!" and then he smiled and told me to have a nice day. In the moment I was so scared but looking back I am just so grateful to have had a teacher who saw the best in me, expected the best, and ultimately I am glad to say got the best from me.
If you had asked me in the fall of my senior year at Bishop Timon what I was going to major in when I attended college the next year I would have confidently told you that I was going to study Political Science. But Jim changed, he didn’t mean to change it, but nevertheless, he did. One day I and about six other guys are sitting in AP US History and there is about 10 minutes left in class. I don’t quite remember why but Mr. Stanley started to recount the year that he spent fighting in Vietnam. He then told us that how after the war he made the decision that he would live life on his own terms. He didn’t go into specifics but it seemed clear to me that he saw things that no one should see and may have escaped death's grip on a few occasions. He imparted to us that every day he lived after the war he spent it doing the things he was passionate about starting and raising his family, by then spending as much time as he could with his grandkids, and most importantly educating us and every other young man who passed through the doors of 601 McKinley Parkway. I walked out of class that day knowing that I loved and was passionate about the subject of history and it was that day where I declared my college major.
Two years later when I was contemplating adding the second major of Classics to my degree I thought about that class. I knew there were little to no job prospects for a Classics/History major except to either teach or go to law school and at 20 years old I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pursue either. I chose to pursue that major because I knew that I loved Latin and the Roman World and because of that passion and nothing else I followed Mr. Stanley's example. It is because of this example that led me to be hired by Timon after graduating to work as the Latin Teacher.
The man I learned so much from, who had such a tremendous impact on my life, is gone. His memory will live on in every student and man he taught. Men who he taught to be men of character, men of faith, and men of integrity. He instilled these ideals in his students with intelligence, reason, humor, and discipline.
If I become half the teacher, or even half the man that Jim Stanley was, I will consider that a great accomplishment. Jim's impact on his students in clear in all the comments and memories that have been posted on social media in the past few days. There are few teachers who are so universally revered, respected and love. I hope that one day that I may have the impact in one student's life that Jim had for thousands of young men. I will never be as good at this profession as he was, but I will strive to be and I will always have his memory to help guide me. Jim Stanley changed my life for the better, the least I can do is to try and return the favor for someone else.