WellesleyWeston Magazine

WINTER 2016-2017

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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with a career spanning five decades from World War II to Ronald Reagan's election, and a life still remembered today, one of the most influential people in the second half of Wellesley's 20th century was a slight, soft-spoken man of reason and grace, who rarely stepped beyond Wellesley High School's Room 206 and the adjoining little English department office. In 1944 Wilbury A. Crockett and his wife, Vera, came here from their home state of Maine, via a brief teaching stint in Connecticut. They never left. He taught English for 36 years (serving as chairman for 30) while she was the town's children's librarian. Together, they brought up their children, Stephen and Deborah, in, and welcomed students and colleagues to a cozy Mozart- and book-filled cape on Forest Street. When he died 50 years after his arrival, he had become a Wellesley icon. His name was synonymous with his impassioned and empower- ing vision of teaching. The library in the new high school was dedi- cated to him in 2012; "Crocketteers" still hold reunions. Why is a quiet English teacher so passionately remembered today, 72 years after he first entered Wellesley High, and 36 years after his retirement? Let me start by sharing what being in Mr. Crockett's classroom was like. It has been many years since I sat with him in Room 206, but I can still see how, decades before it became commonplace, he set up his classroom's tables in a U-shape so we could discuss and debate as in college seminars. I see him walk in from his office through the con- necting door, wearing his trademark and immaculate blazers (Harris Tweed in the winter, madras plaid in the warmer months) with neatly pressed khaki pants, and small, shiny penny loafers. He ionized the room; completely commanded it, without needing to raise that exquisitely modulated voice. He stood behind a lectern and waited for silence. Then, with his melodious tone and delicate, tidy ges- tures, simply began. Others have Plato's dialogues; we had Crockett's. "My great joy was in exciting the mind to the art of thinking," he said. "I used the Socratic approach, setting up a dialectic: 'Let us sit and reason together.'" From the beginning, when he gave us Beowulf as our first assign- ment, he stood in front of teenagers who were awkwardly coming of age and treated us as equals with him on a journey full of promise—a discovery of ourselves as well as of the great books he presented to us as if they were his most cherished treasures. Collectively he addressed us, sometimes beseechingly, as "people" ("People, what do you think drove Electra to her actions?"). Individually, we were always "Miss" and "Mr." And he treated us as adults. He not only didn't dismiss our questions, he challenged us to ask them, and to realize that there would not always be answers. In other classrooms we learned to memorize; in his classroom we learned to think. He gave us his respect, and how hard we worked to prove that we deserved it. Looking back over more than half a century, Hal Kolb '51, 86 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | w i n t e r 2 0 1 6 / 2 0 1 7 B E T H H I N C H L I F F E writer Wilbury Crockett " The Teacher of a Lifetime "

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