August 13

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Remembering my Educational Influence…

Five weeks into my PULSE assignment with the Philadelphia Education Fund and for some reason I’m thinking a lot about my late father. After some train ride reflection, I think I know why.

My father was a true believer in the importance of an education. He was the 2ndmember of his family to ever receive a college diploma, graduating from Waynesburg University in 1952 with a degree in English. After serving in the Korean War he returned home to find a job, marry my mother and start raising a family. He focused his energies and resources raising four sons in Pittsburgh.

Joe Laird with his four sons (left to right: Bill, Tom, Cliff and Bob)

He was determined that each of us would get a college education. Both he and my mother committed themselves to that goal and sacrificed much through the years to ensure it happened. They delayed necessary home repairs, rarely vacationed and didn’t put nearly enough away for their personal retirements. Our education was of paramount importance to him. Well, all four of his sons graduated from college, in fact we all went beyond and received either Masters Degrees or second degrees and today are fortunate to each be fully employed and contributing to society. I’m incredibly grateful for my father’s commitment, sacrifices and belief in education. He was right, as parents often are in hindsight, that education would make a profound difference in our lives.

Having no children of my own, I haven’t been as keenly interested in the education story as possibly some of you are who are reading this blog. I’m guessing when you have children that education, be it grade school, high school, or college, takes on a much greater importance in your life. My PULSE assignment has provided me a unique opportunity to step away from the healthcare arena where I’ve worked for nearly 20 years and learn more about as well as contribute toward improvements in Philadelphia’s education system. Like healthcare, education has a complicated, long and sometimes daunting story. My role during this six month assignment is take a small piece of that story, science and math education, and help identify and capitalize on ways to make a difference in student’s lives.  As I support the “Math + Science Coalition” as they build their three-year strategic plan, reflecting on education in my own life has increased my passion and energy toward making a sustainable difference. This week I will be interviewing some Philadelphia Math and Science teachers and I’m looking forward to hearing from the front lines of education and understanding the opportunities and challenges they face.

More to follow. Until then…