Jan

29

 New York today was cold, wet, and raw, but I found this to be a warming tale, one including an unlikely cast of supporting characters: Muammar Qadaffi, Marc Rich, and the commodities trade.

By way of background, one of my older brothers is on the board of a wonderful little middle-school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. An academic jewel couched in modest confines, some might suggest that the place looks like a factory.

But that it is.

They take inner-city kids that are even more academically talented than they might be economically disadvantaged, systematically educating and nurturing them to the point where the prep schools of New England and Manhattan always come eagerly knocking, quick to admit their graduates under very workable financial terms. That's how much those schools love the product. Ultimately it is a pipeline to the Ivy League for those whose considerable spirit and talents might otherwise fall through the ordinary system's cracks. And those kids never forget, as soon will be made clear.

I've never seen anything quite like this place. It is the noble brainchild of the headmaster, Brian Carty, a most remarkable, resourceful, and redoubtable soul. A guy as kind as he is brilliant as he is dogged. So much so that he and his vision remain the subject of a Harvard Business School case study:

"…To think about corporate responsibility, replication of an organizational concept, and succession planning. To challenge students to consider why this organization has been so successful. Also to consider whether the concept can be duplicated elsewhere and, if so, how. To consider the degree to which Brother Brian is central to the community, and what action, if any, is needed to plan for his successor…"

How cool is that? Luminous minds brainstorming how somebody of note might be duplicated.

So what does any of this have to do with Qadaffi and Rich? I recently caught up with a  story from last month's NYTimes, a sad story with a happy ending, and smiled one of those experienced smiles, having realized long ago that the emotions of sad and glad are by no means mutually exclusive states of mind. It's an amalgam that only a life less lived is without.

It seems that one of Brian's former students, Andre Nikolai Guevorguian, was working for Rich as a commodity trader, and found himself on that ill-fated flight over Lockerbie back in '88. That's the sad part.  Years ago over dinner I had heard from Brian the long and circuitous path the litigious fallout from that tragedy had taken, and how it turned out to have a silver lining for the school.

But to see the story in print brought the tale into high relief. It reads like the script of a sad film that somehow salvages a happy ending. Very Capraesque. And an admirable antidote to the slushy, sloppy weather in NY this afternoon, Andre's mom seeing that De La Salle's good works ending up with $2.47m of her late son's legacy, the rest going to Choate and Harvard.

Oh yeah, the Times columnist that wrote the piece, Jim Dwyer, turns out that he's a former student of Brian Carty's as well. Hadn't known that before, but wasn't surprised to learn it now.

Like I wrote earlier, kids taught well tend to never forget.

What a fine day.


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