September 14, 2021
Dear Mr. Jones,
I visited Milton Hershey School campus for the first time in 34 years on Sunday 9/12. As I was visiting some of the old farms, the ones that still exist, my old hangouts, student homes, and other places that I remembered, I realized that I never said “thank you” to you and a few other people that really made a difference.
I am not sure you remember me, I am probably just one of hundreds of students that you provided care, guidance, and support to over the years, but I was the gangly, tall, and scared student that showed up from upstate New York in the middle of my Freshman year at Green Acres. I immediately started having problems with a few of the resident bullies, and while my houseparents at the time did not give me much guidance, you helped me realize that there may be a better match of a student home for me, and I transferred to Ridgeway where I excelled under the care and guidance of Mr. Gallo. I have never forgotten your advice and your caring enough to actually talk to me instead of ignoring the issue with hopes that it would go away.
However, in the short time I was with you as our Dairyman at Green Acres you instilled a great love of the animals and the farm in me. Maybe it was me hiding, maybe it was just to be different, but I fell in love with the dairy. I really believed at the time it was my future. By way of the farm you taught me responsibility. By teaching and trusting me to take on more of the responsibilities of the dairy in the AM’s and evenings you gave me a sense of self-worth and accomplishment that I had struggled with for years, and may have been part of the reason why I was sent to Hershey.
But, your involvement in my education and growth did not end with that transfer. You worked with Mr. Hitz (now Dr. Hitz?), Mr. Gallo, and a few others to help modify the Agricultural Votech program to include farm machinery and dairy operations that I had requested, that was one of the biggest gifts you gave me in my time at Hershey. I loved what I was doing, and soon Hershey became my home. You also were always there for me, I knew that if I needed a calming voice, someone to talk to, all I had to do was take the mile walk from Ridgeway to Green Acres and I could find you. I suspect you had worked this out with Mr. Gallo, because he never argued or gave me grief if I wanted to go in your direction.
I appreciated that between you and Mr. Gallo I was pushed into trying out for Track, Cross Country, and Swimming. These sports are still a constant in my life. I have run a number of marathons over the years, I still swim competitively in the US Masters swimming organization, and I love to run for exercise and to clear my mind. Again, even though I was not officially in your student home any longer, I believe you still were directly involved in my direction and education. I wish I could remember the name of the dairman at Ridgeway (Dairy 51) but I can’t. I know you had conversations with him as well because shortly after my transfer to Ridgeway, he also started to help motivate, train, and push me to excel along the same lines you did.
After I graduated in 1983 I spent the summer working for the Farm Division before I moved onto the State University of New York at Cobleskill majoring in Animal Husbandry. I ended up withdrawing from college at the beginning of my sophomore year. I realized that the family farm was dying and there was no future in the small farm.Looking back in time it was the correct decision for me and a very smart move on my part.
I spent a number of years trying to find my place in the world. I never was without work, I was never starving, and I managed to stay on track towards a future. In the early 90’s I taught myself how to program computers, and was an early adopter of Visual Basic and database development for PC’s. I was working for Aetna Health Plans in Dallas, TX at the time and ended up developing what would become their member services platform. I was soon transferred to their home offices in Hartford, CT. I spent 12 years working for them, partially as a full time employee, and partially as a consultant. I also learned Linux development and worked for Mandrake Software out of Paris, France as the Director of North American training. I traveled most of Europe and North America for close to 3 years. And the dot com bubble burst.
I enrolled myself at Porter and Chester Institute and completed the HVAC/R program. I specialized in farm refrigeration and controls, using many of the skills I learned at Hershey. I had an understanding of the refrigeration requirements, equipment, and then the instructors at PCI helped me put it together. I completed my apprenticeship in the State of Connecticut and spent five years in the field before I was asked to return and teach at Porter and Chester Institute in the Spring of 2006. I spent the next 14 years first as an instructor, then as a department supervisor, and then as the Director of Distance Learning. One of my final achievements was taking the school’s 3500 students 100% online within a 3 day period at the start of COVID in 2020. I left PCI in July of 2020 with the desire to return to the technical side of things in the field.
Between July of 2020 and April of 2021 I was working as a consultant doing insurance claim inspections for the Consolidated Claims group. In April I was offered a full time position and am working for them as a Technical Field Manager. I can honestly say I enjoy what I am doing.
Over the years I have finished my education as well. In 2006 I graduated from Northeastern University in Boston with my BS in Technical Communications. In 2008 I graduated from Northeastern University with my Masters in Education. In October of 2010 I graduated from Fielding Graduate University with my Doctorate in Education, my specialization was in Vocational Education.
I have been married for a little over 30 years, we do not have kids, other than our pack of adopted greyhounds and the cat. I live in Central Florida, in a town named Babson Park, on 45 acres of property that always has something new going on. A few years ago it was adding solar, now I am slowly adding grapes, and starting to get into hydroponics. We have lived in Dallas, TX (where we met); Hartford, Connecticut; Willington, Connecticut; and now we are in Babson Park, FL.
One of the things I have still struggled with over the years has been a feeling of self-worth, and a feeling that I would not be leaving enough for the future generations. I have prior students that frequently thank me for what I did to help them succeed in their HVAC/R careers. As I was walking around campus, walking around the barn out by former Ridgeway and Viena, visiting the old Rosemont property where my Ag classes were held, taking a look in the windows at the pool that I spent so many hours in, I suddenly realized that I have made a difference, but where I have received “thank you’s” over the years I have never thanked the person that made it possible for me. You. I also realized that my graduates are the biggest imprint I could make for the future, and I have done what I wanted to accomplish. Give something to the next generation. You did the same for me.
I was walking around the center of the new campus this past weekend and found myself standing in the middle of Spartan Commons, near the statue of Mr. and Mrs. Hershey. I looked at the pillars that are around the statue and realized that each one of those represented a value and skill that had been given to me (or maybe shown to me) by you and a few others at the school, especially during my first few weeks at Green Acres. You showing me these skills gave me the values and skills to succeed and then to help hundreds of adult vocational students over the years make a better life for themselves.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you did for me, that out of place 14 year old that showed up in your dairy in the middle of the Winter, and the guidance you provided. I know it has taken me way too long to write this, but I needed to wait until I finally acknowledged to myself that I have made a difference and I could say that I have made a difference. I am there now, and I have you to thank. Please feel free to share this with anyone else that you think would like to see it.
Class of 1983