Kerry Temple | November 28, 2016
My memories of Mr. Burke point me in several directions, but there was one thing he did — a mere four words — that made a lasting difference in my life. All he said was, “I’m a quiet person.” But that has served me as a mantra for a lifetime.
Mr. Burke was a “scholastic,” on his way to becoming a Jesuit priest. He taught at my high school in the mid-1960s, along with a half dozen other scholastics and six or eight Jesuit priests. It was an all-boys Catholic high school; Vatican II was in the air. Mr. Burke — Tom Burke — taught us English.
Part of the backstory here is that several years ago I wanted to make more of Thanksgiving than turkey and football games. I decided to thank somebody who had impacted my life, in some little way, and to express that gratitude by telling the story at this website.
My hope is that it leads others to actually thank someone at Thanksgiving, to use the holiday to extend appreciation to others for those random acts of kindness that mean a great deal.
This year I thought of Mr. Burke because of what he said to my dad while the three of us were sitting in the bleachers after a high school basketball game.
Mr. Burke was solid. He was not the most popular teacher at our high school, not the most dynamic or charismatic. But authentic, thoughtful, virile — a role model for young boys trying to find themselves in the turbulent 1960s. He was also physically solid, built thick, with a broad, tan face, strong cheek bones and pug nose that looked like it might once have been broken.