From The Ridge - The McCallie Blog

Three Takeaways from a Distinguished Alumnus

Posted by Billy Faires on April 12, 2016

In March, Michael Lebovitz '82 graciously accepted the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus Award from McCallie School. The award is the highest honor the school can bestow upon one of its alumni, and only one award per year is given. After thanking the school, his family and friends, he offered the following thoughts.

I want to talk about three things as it relates to my experiences at McCallie: relationships and experiences, ego, and giving.

Relationships & Experiences

I believe most things in life revolve around relationships and experiences, and I know I learned the importance of relationships and experiences from my time at McCallie. The relationships that each of us established with our classmates and teachers endure to this day, and some of the experiences we will never forget (and some shouldn't be repeated).

First day at McCallie, September, 1976. I was a 13-year-old "pygmy" — what we inappropriately called seventh-graders back then — and in first period I had Coach Day. Can you imagine Coach Day’s teaching today? Wow, that would be interesting. Sort of like some of our Presidential candidates today – say everything you can that is NOT politically correct!


Next was "Yo" — John Strang (McCallie's Middle School teacher of Bible for more than 40 years) — who offered his legendary test question: “Who was on the road to Damascus, and where was Saul going?” Classic! And, in my peak academic accomplishment, I won the seventh-grade Bible award.

Perhaps it’s not great to peak in 7th grade.


Lebovitz Family Michael Lebovitz '82, recipient of the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus Award, stands between wife Lauren and son Murray, a current sophomore.


There were other teachers as well: Bill Royer (French), Cleve Latham (English), Marilyn Landis (Human Development) and Bill Cherry (Math and Athletic Director). They all had a tremendous impact on my life and are still friends today. Ed Lewis taught me public speaking, and I was lucky enough to have George Hazard for two years of English.

And I learned how to fail at McCallie — literally. Mr. W.O.E.A. Humphries called me at home on the phone after my Latin 2 final exam and asked me to come see him in his classroom. Well, I knew it couldn't be good news, and when I get there he told me I failed my final exam. Not a C, or a D, but an F. No Latin 3 for me.

My classmates were also part of what made McCallie so special. We learned how to be friends at McCallie, and I appreciate the special friendships that I have from my McCallie years.


It has been a true honor to be completing 15 years on the McCallie Board of Trustees. Over this time, I have learned from giant leaders of this school and have had the honor of working with great board chairs, Hal Daughdrill, David Stonceipher, Ed Michaels, Hacker Caldwell, Elliot Davenport. I thank each of them for their leadership.

When I joined the board there was a board orientation, and I distinctly remember Hal Daughdrill's words: “We check our egos at the door, and it's all about the boys.”

This has stayed with me not only at McCallie, but in all walks of my life


Lebovitz Men Charles Lebovitz '55, second from left, stands with his sons Steven '79, Michael '82 and Alan '86 after Michael Lebovitz was awarded the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus Award.


This leads to my third and final topic...


The more I have given to McCallie, the more I have received in return. I have been so lucky to have been involved in the facilities planning and construction of this dining hall, the two new dorms and our brand new science building, Walker Hall. I put in a lot of time into these projects, but I have received so much more in return.

There are so many others that give so much to McCallie. I am not only talking about financial giving, but giving of your time. McCallie is the McCallie we have today because so many dedicated teachers, administrators, alumni and students, and the time we all give to our school. I thank you for that, and I know the school appreciates each and every one of you.

Life comes down to relationships and experiences.
Check your ego at the door.
And finally, the more you give, the more you get.

Go Blue!

Topics: alumni, Alumni News, wisdom, experience, friendship, generosity, gratitude, relationships, Posts from the Ridge, trustees

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