What You’d (Probably) NEVER Guess About The Education Dean

By Bill Henk – With commencement in the rearview mirror and summer on the road immediately ahead, I thought I’d provide a little lite blog fare this week.

In a period of academic downtime, and after a grueling spring semester, a post about the Education dean I know best will just have to suffice.  To be honest, I’m  banking on only a handful of people reading this one!  But at least it was fun to write.  I apologize in advance that the post has almost zero educational value.  But if you have low standards for entertainment, maybe you’ll find it mildy amusing.

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

For what it’s worth, I always love hearing about the surprising acquaintances and experiences of my professional colleagues and friends.  The more unexpected, the better.  No kidding, some of the back stories that people I know have shared with me qualify as downright amazing, and others are fascinating at the least.  I hold no delusions that my back stories measure up.

Anyway, these stories only come to light when familiarity and trust are present.  Often it takes relationships unfolding over considerable amounts of time — with lengthy conversations or some deep probing, but almost everyone has something extraordinary to disclose if they’re willing — a famous friend or relative, an episode with a celebrity, a crazy life adventure, nutty idiosyncracies — you get the picture.

So, it occurred to me that, maybe just maybe, some of what I’ve experienced personally could be of interest to our readers on a lame news day.  Oh sure, you can check out my University biographical sketch and my College of Education fact sheet, and even my personal background on the blog, but what I’m about to reveal is probably only known by my family and closest friends.  Some of what I’ll write might catch them off-guard, too.  Be prepared; it’s a weird and unusual mix of claims to fame and brushes with celebrity.

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

So here goes:

  • I went to high school with comedian Dennis Miller of Saturday Night Live fame.  He hung out with a tough crowd that accepted him, not because he was tough, but because he was funny.   He’s made a career of political commentary, and there may be some irony at work, because I don’t remember him exactly setting the world on fire in our Problems of Democracy class.
  • Altogether I’ve had 12 surgeries — four on my knee, three on my feet (despite only having two of them), two on my nose, and once each on my elbow, my eyes, and my stomach.  That’s why I was so thrilled about avoiding surgery on my Achilles tendon last year.  The Six Million Dollar Man has pretty much nothing on me in this category.
  • As a basketball player in the 1970’s, my vertical leap might have been close to 36 inches.  Way back then, that ability wasn’t measured.  Nowadays it’s one inch on a good day.
  • After I hurt my knee and could no longer play basketball, I spent almost every weekday afternoon and many weekend days lifting weights.  I kept that up for about 12 years, and went from a weight of 140 to 210 and became quite the musclehead.  The muscles are now history, too.
  • My height as a high school junior measured under 5 feet 6 inches.  Somehow I grew almost 7 inches over the next summer and through my senior year, graduating at almost 6’1.”
  • One of my former students is Laurie Kellogg.  If that name rings a bell, it’s because there was a movie made about her.  She was accused and convicted of having her husband killed by a  teenager accompanied by friends.  In short, it’s a convoluted story, so the truth will probably never be known.  Her character was played by Jennie Garth of Beverly Hills 90210 , who by the way, looked absolutely NOTHING like Laurie.  I remember one conversation in my office with her that just seemed spooky, because of the way she could turn emotions on and off almost instantly.
  • My cousin, Joe Rock, managed a very well known singing group called the Skyliners.  He wrote their hit song, “Since I Don’t Have You,” and in some critics’ minds it’s a classic.  Oddly enough, the song was remade by Guns ‘N Roses!  Later on, he managed another Pittsburgh band called the Jaggerz, who also had a hit song you might know and remember called “The Rapper.”
  • I am hopelessly claustrophobic, and have a recurring nightmare about being buried alive.  My strong suspicion is that this fear developed from reading Edgar Allan Pie stories or seeing movie adaptations where this theme occurred with some frequency.  Frankly, I deserve this phobia, because I convinced my parents to make my sister take me with her on a date to see the big screen version of “The Pit and the Pendulum,” when I had no business seeing something that traumatic.  I couldn’t sleep for several days afterward.
  • I shouldn’t admit this one, but my younger days included a stint as a fan of professional wrestling.  One of my professor buddies and I used to go incognito to actual wrestling events back in Pennsylvania.  Of course the whole billion dollar industry is woefully fake, but checking out the other disturbed individuals who attended always seemed like great fun to me.   I can also tell you that the loudest crowd noise I’ve ever heard, including a Final Four and some World Series games, is when Hulk Hogan entered the arena.  The decibels reached almost unbearable levels.  For the record, there are many bad things that kids can learn from watching that stuff so I recommend  steering your kids clear of it.
  • It turns out that professional wrestling is not my only viewing vice.  Over the years, I’ve been drawn to some really stupid,   mindless stuff like Ace Ventura, the Three Stooges, Pee Wee Herman, Bam Margera and his cronies like Steve O, Pauly Shore, and Animal House.  As far as comedic actors, a loong list of them always crack me up — Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Rodney Dangerfield, Vince Vaughan, Eddie Murphy, Ryan Reynolds, Owen Wilson, and Bill Murray.  So do other comedians like George Carlin, Dane Cook, Martin Lawrence, Ron White, and Brian Regan.

Keeping It Humble

Writing about oneself understandably looks arrogant.  But the reason I’m willing to share this stuff about my personal life is to show what keeps me appropriately humble.  There’s a temptation to be high fallutin’ when you’re a dean, but I work to avoid the seduction and keep it real  instead.  Plus, I trust our readers.

Fact is, any time I start taking myself too seriously, I just think about how all the real world things that make me “special” amount to examples of why I’m just as plain and ordinary as the next guy.

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