Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sally's Genius: The Life of Sally L. Smith -- available in August 2017

In August, I will publish Sally's Genius: The Life of Sally L. Smith; the Birth of the Lab Schools of Washington and Baltimore, and the Academic Club Methodology.

It will be around 260 pages, and I am hoping to charge $20.

If you would like to be on a list to buy the book when it comes out, please email me with your name and address.

This biography has been close to four years in the making, and I can assure every friend, colleague, student, or parent, that you will enjoy reading about Sally's early years -- and you will learn many things you didn't know.

Brooks Clark

Monday, April 17, 2017

Sailing with Albert Einstein

At a party over the weekend, a physicist who had once worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island recalled that back in the 1930s Albert Einstein used to love to take his small sailboat out onto the waters of Long Island Sound.
       It brought to mind a story I wrote in the early 1980s for Sports Illustrated.   Because it ran in extra pages along with special regional ads, I don't think it's searchable.  So, for the record, here it is.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Miler Johnny Overton (Yale 1917) would have been one of the great athletes of the Roaring 20s. Instead the US joined the Great War and Overton joined the Marines

Dr. Henry Sage Fenimore Cooper, a 1917 graduate of Yale, liked to talk about his classmate Johnny Overton, a miler on the track team who set several world records before he joined the Marines after graduation.
      In 1981 Cooper told me all about Overton.
      As we remember the US entrance into World War One, his is one of the many stories from it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Pat Summitt's Definite Dozen

Below are the late coach Pat Summitt's “Definite Dozen” rules for achieving success in any endeavor. 

Respect Yourself and Others
There is no such thing as self-respect without respect for others. 
Individual success is a myth. No one succeeds all by themselves.
People who do not respect those around them will not make good team members and
probably lack self-esteem themselves.
When you ask yourself, “Do I deserve to succeed?”, make sure the answer is yes.
Take Full Responsibility
There are no shortcuts to success.
You can’t assume larger responsibility without taking responsibility for the small things, too.
Being responsible sometimes means making tough, unpopular decisions.
Admit to and make yourself accountable for mistakes. How can you improve if you’re
never wrong?
Develop and Demonstrate Loyalty
Loyalty is not unilateral. You have to give it to receive it.
The family business model is a successful one because it fosters loyalty and trust.
Surround yourself with people who are better than you are. Seek out quality people,
acknowledge their talents, and let them do their jobs. You win with people.
Learn to Be a Great Communicator
Communication eliminates mistakes.
Listening is crucial to good communication.
We communicate all the time, even when we don’t realize it. Be aware of body language.
Make good eye contact.
Silence is a form of communication, too. Sometimes less is more.
Discipline Yourself So No One Else Has To
Self-discipline helps you believe in yourself.
Group discipline produces a unified effort toward a common goal.
When disciplining others, be fair, be firm, be consistent.
Discipline helps you finish a job, and finishing is what separates excellent work from
average work.
Make Hard Work Your Passion
Do the things that aren’t fun first, and do them well.
Plan your work, and work your plan.
See yourself as self-employed.
Don’t Just Work Hard, Work Smart
Success is about having the right person, in the right place, at the right time.
Know your strengths, weaknesses, and needs.
When you understand yourself and those around you, you are better able to minimize
weaknesses and maximize strengths. Personality profiles help.
Put the Team Before Yourself
Teamwork doesn’t come naturally. It must be taught.
Teamwork allows common people to obtain uncommon results.
Not everyone is born to lead. Role players are critical to group success.
In group success there is individual success.
Make Winning an Attitude
Combine practice with belief.
Attitude is a choice. Maintain a positive outlook.
No one ever got anywhere by being negative.
Confidence is what happens when you’ve done the hard work that entitles you to succeed.
Be a Competitor
Competition isn’t social. It separates achievers from the average.
You can’t always be the most talented person in the room, but you can be the most competitive.
Influence your opponent: By being competitive you can affect how your adversary performs.
There is nothing wrong with having competitive instincts. They are survival instincts.
Change Is a Must
It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts the most.
Change equals self-improvement. Push yourself to places you haven’t been before.
Take risks. You can’t steal second base with your foot on first.
Handle Success Like You Handle Failure
You can’t always control what happens, but you can control how you handle it.
Sometimes you learn more from losing than winning. Losing forces you to reexamine.
It’s harder to stay on top than it is to make the climb. Continue to seek new goals.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Spinderella Story, a snapshot of Pat Summitt from 1996

In our digital age, what does one do when you can't just click on a link and read an old story?

For those of us who wrote stories for Knoxville's upstart weekly MetroPulse between 1993 and 2014, we might possess hard copies of our favorite stories, but we can pass them along only in the form of crude pdfs or other jury-rigged mechanisms.

The passing of UT's legendary coach Pat Summitt brought this to mind.
     To this end, I present, scanned, a story from 1996.
     The photographs are by David Luttrell.
      The story was edited by Bill Dockery.
       It was easily my peak moment as a reporter when my former colleague, the great Gary Smith of Sports Illustrated, told me he would use some of this material in his definitive Summitt portrait in 1998.  (This was an extra boost since, in writing intense psychological profiles, I always emulate  Smith in both the level of reporting and in the search for insights.)
       But the main reason I look back on the story below is the privilege of experiencing a living legend and being lucky enough to see up close a tiny slice of what made her great.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

My Moment With Pat

On a November morning in 1995, I had an interview with Pat Summitt.

I was doing a story for the Knoxville weekly Metro Pulse.

It was in her office. I sat on the famous sofa, where hundreds of Lady Vols had received advice, counselling, stern words, loving words. She sat across from me. Is there a word for the feeling of sitting across from a living legend, hoping not to embarrass one’s self? Of course, Summitt was friendly, open, and engaged. The glare, as many have said, was reserved for the basketball court. As she said many times, “Our players know that, when they step across the line onto the basketball court, the standard is perfection, and they accept that.” Off the floor, they got love and support.
Pat glanced at my No. 10 Reporter’s Notebook. My questions, scrawled on the brown cardboard inside flap, were about Michelle Marciniak, the flashy blonde point guard whose “spin move” to the basket—usually punctuated by an impertinent flourish of Marciniak’s ponytail—had been driving Pat crazy. It was decidedly not in the manner of Lady Vols basketball.

In an earlier interview, I’d asked Marciniak why she had scotch-taped an AP photo to the dashboard of her Honda of Pat grabbing her jersey and yelling in her face. “I wanted to make sure that that never happens again,” answered Marciniak.

Is Pat being too hard on you? I asked. “Oh, no,” she said. “She’s trying to make me into the point guard that I can be.” At some point, Marciniak said, “I want a championship so bad it hurts.”

So now I was asking my questions to Summitt.
The warm-up: What should a point guard do? “Have the team in the palm of her hand,” she said. “She should be the coach on the floor.”
We talked about how Pat had first watched Marciniak as a ninth-grade AAU player but even then worried about how her flashy style would fit in with the Lady Vols’ system.
What about the AP photo? “Yes,” Pat said, smiling. “I called the Marciniaks and told them it wasn’t child abuse,” (As Lady Vols fans know so well, it was in the Marciniaks’ living room in Allentown, Pennsylvania, that Pat’s water had broken, causing her to quickly catch a plane home to make sure that Tyler was born in Tennessee.)
Why did you bench Michelle in the previous year’s title game against UConn? (She had whipped a long pass to a center, open under the basket, who let the pass go through her hands. “We’ve been working on shortening our passes,” said Pat. “We want 12-foot passes, not 20-foot passes. Michelle knows [the center] can’t catch that pass.”
Pat glanced at my list of questions on the cardboard. “I see where you’re going with this,” she said, standing up and heading toward her side of her desk. I thought for a moment the interview was over. Instead the opposite happened. “That makes me think of something that just arrived today,” she said, cheerfully. She had given the team personality tests that Rodgers Cadillac gave its sales people to understand what motivates each individual. Summitt opened up the report and said that something had jumped out at her: basically, that she and her flashy point guard were exactly the same. More than anything else, they were both motivated to win, and they would do anything to achieve winning. Summitt said, in so many words, that this had given her a new perspective on how she had been relating to her point guard.
It should come as no surprise that an interview with one of the greatest coaches in history provided one of the most memorable moments for a humble reporter. But this was better than that. So much of Summitt’s coaching genius and personal willingness (and ability) to adapt to changing circumstances were laid out in the allegory of Spinderella and—it turned out, her Tough Love Godmother. That season was the story of Pat working with Marciniak, a psychology major, to get the most out of an introverted center who was shrinking more than most from Pat’s sterner coaching. It was also the story of Marciniak gathering the entire team on a sofa to explain to a freshman that she had been respectful of her elders long enough. For the team to win, she had to play like an All-American instead of a freshman. Happily, Chamique Holdsclaw did as asked, and the Lady Vols won the first of three NCAA titles in a row.
All this and more was told elegantly by, among others, the great Gary Smith in Sports Illustrated in 1998 and Sally Jenkins in the inspiring books she wrote with Pat.
If you ever had a moment with Pat Summitt, you have remembered it and retold it in the past few days. Great coaches change lives and make the people they meet, not just the players they coach, better. And I’m grateful for having had that moment, when Pat helped me do my job better.

This post first appeared in the Knoxville MercuryMetro Pulse's excellent successor.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Memories of Joan B. Cleveland

At the Cosmic Diner in Hells' Kitchen in 2011.
Our extended family is sad to have lost a great friend, inspiration, and advocate -- Joan Cleveland.

     Lawyer, author, New York City character -- she had been working on a book about those who told a young person at a crucial moment in his or her life, "You can do that." If you were a Cape friend, an aspiring artist or musician, or a member of the Clark extended family, Joan was a person always ready to say, “You can do that.” One of Joan’s sayings was, “If you can do something, you can do anything,” and I’ve come to realize the truth in this. When you set out to pursue a dream, Joan was happy to support you. If you worked hard at it and came up with a good story every now and then, all the better. Joan treasured those only-in-New-York stories as much as anyone since Damon Runyon.

      Many of her stories ended with a coincidence and a person getting a great opportunity because of a chance meeting. "There are only two hundred people in the world,” she often explained, “and we all know each other." 

      She once found herself at a Harvard Club senior singles group with Dick Burgheim, an exceptionally kind man and a legendary People magazine editor who I was lucky enough to work for on an ill-fated startup magazine in the eighties. Joan mentioned to Dick that my company in Knoxville had gone under. They quickly agreed that they needed to reel me back to civilization, and soon thereafter came an offer of an eight-week writers’ trial at People.

     When our nephew Keith Clark expressed an interest in TV and video production, he found himself in the sacrosanct control room of the Today show when Joan was doing one of her interviews about senior citizens. (You can still buy her books, Finding the Right Place at the Right Time; Everything You Need to Know About Retirement Housing (1996, Penguin) and Simplifying Life as a Senior Citizen (1998, St. Martin’s), on Amazon.)  
      I cannot for the life of me imagine Joan rolling hoops and pulling up her white gloves with her classmates in the Wellesley Class of 1953. But I can imagine her matching wits with the Jesuits at Boston College Law School, who bestowed her degree in 1959. She often said that she respected their minds, and that they were more enlightened than you might think. 

       Like a modern day Auntie Mame, Joan enjoyed opening up the wide world to young people, and she encouraged them, in so many words, to “Live! Live! Live!” For so many of us, Joan took the scary prospect of life in New York City and showed that it was like a lively, never-ending cocktail party. The main requirement, in Joan’s world, was that you made an effort to be interesting. If you took part in this movable feast under Joan’s aegis, New York City became a welcoming place, full of amenities available to the initiated.      
      On the beach in 1977, I mention to Joan that I was about to start a summer internship in New York City and live in an NYU dorm. “Why don’t you stay with us?” she asked Joan. When I arrived at her apartment at 96th St. and Madison Avenue, she said she had heard that a local Y was offering special summer memberships for a nominal fee ($30 per month). I had already been assigned a locker, sweated in the extensive weight room, cooled off in the massive pool, and hung my sweaty clothes in a net bag to be washed, when I saw on the bulletin board that the Wednesday evening entertainment was Jascha Heifetz. Over time, I came to realize that the 92nd Street YMHA at Lexington Avenue was one of the most famous cultural crossroads in the world. Plus, they provided towels and did your laundry.

     Thirty years after my internship, our daughter Isabel stayed with Joan when she took courses in writing for TV at NYU’s Tisch School, worked at Barnes and Noble, and walked Joan’s dogs. “She has worked her butt off,” said Joan at summer’s end. If you worked hard, you had her support.  

    Joan Moynagh remembers that, after Vassar, she was headed to Columbia for a graduate program in Dramatic Literature. "But Joan (along with Anne Steere) had other plans for me.  They not only convinced me that I should defer for a year to see what it was like to work in the theatre in New York before committing to a life in a dramaturge’s office, Joan offered to have me live with her while I figured it all out.  In the meantime, my father died, life was even more topsy turvy for a while, and Joan was my magnet — pulling me back to New York, assuring me that I could 'make it there,' despite all the upheavals.  That fall was my 21st birthday — and Joan celebrated by coming into my room first thing in the morning — a candle plunked into a croissant — singing “Happy Birthday” to me in her full lower register! She was such a formidable person, but deep down a complete mush pot (Anne Steere’s term)."

     Joan was a great friend of my late mother, Charlotte Clark. They both shared a habit of maintaining and nurturing relationships and connections over the long term, through thick and thin. When our niece Sarah Hadley Clark Davis was at Smith, every November, she and a friend would stay with Joan for a Smith program that got them tickets to six plays. “I fell in love with New York because of her,” says Sarah. “She made New York such a welcoming place.” 

      When Sarah returned for graduate school at Columbia, Joan felt that Sarah was not getting proper meals and regularly had her over for dinner. They also went to the Irish Repertory Theatre. “After Grandma died,” says Sarah,  I missed her so much, and Joan was my connection to her. Joan missed Grandma too, and in the same way I think I was a connection to Grandma for her.”
     Joan also liked standing by the underdog.

     The evening after Annalise and Ben Mecham’s wedding in the modern Sodom of Charlottesville, Virginia, youngest cousin Olivia and oldest cousin Stacey disappeared with a six-pack of beer to discuss the meaning of life. So rapt were they in cousinly catchings-up that they did not hear their ringing cellphones. Panicked searches of every seedy bar still haunted by the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe ended only when Olivia and Stacey returned, joyful and oblivious, at 2:30 a.m.

     At breakfast the next morning, when Olivia was very much in the doghouse, Joan rose up as her advocate. "You didn't commit rape, murder or arson,” she said to Olivia. “People make mistakes. It seems like a big deal, but if this is the worst thing you've ever done. I'd say you're doing just fine.” Joan embraced people who know how to have a good time. She liked to see people carried away by inspiration. She liked to see Clark cousins nurturing their bonds. Most of all, she liked a good story.

     What, some of us might ask, did we do right to earn her friendship?  Some theologies might say that Joan’s largesse was not earned, but rather bestowed. Were we really worthy of the having a friend like Joan? At the very least, we can try follow her advice when we can. She told Joan M., "Always have a bottle of champagne in your refrigerator. That way you'll always be ready for a celebration."

      P.S., says Joan M., "I ALWAYS have a bottle of champagne in my refrigerator."