Nanos Gigantum Humeris Insidentes
We are like dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants, and thus we are able to see more and farther than they. But this is not by virtue of any acuteness of our sight or stature of our body, but because we are carried aloft and elevated by the magnitude of their giant size.The image is a powerful one for me, and it has popped into my head over and over in the weeks since Bobby Cherry called me to say I’d been chosen by The Sewickley Herald Staff as the Man of the Year. I feel like one of those four evangelists—a pretty short, pretty ordinary guy—perched on the shoulders of a giant. Or, more precisely, lots of giants.
By 1901, Alexander had built the house, which became known as the Sewickley Fresh Air Home. Mary served as the chairman of its board for almost 50 years. By then, society had caught up with her idea of early intervention in the health of children, and had developed better places for those children to be. So, shortly before Mary’s death, the home stopped taking in new clients. When she died, in the early 1950s, Mary’s dream died with her, but not before she left a sizeable bequest to the Fresh Air Home. Because the Home had shuttered operations, its remaining board members were faced with the problem of finding another charitable organization with similar goals, to whom they could give the money.
Elizabeth Lesquin was our founding executive director; she shepherded Laughlin through the better part of its first two decades. A force to be reckoned with, Mrs. Lesquin shaped the character of the organization—hiring expert clinicians, establishing community outreach programs, writing a detailed history of the Center—before turning it over to Mary Beth Duffy, a much-loved and admired social worker, who put a compassionate, human face on the Center during her long tenure as Laughlin’s second executive director. My immediate predecessor, Karen Nickell, did much to put the Center on firm financial footings, so that by the time I inherited the position of executive director, all I really had to do was shut up and get out of the way.
Mary, Virginia, Elizabeth, Mary Beth, and Karen are giants upon whose shoulders I’m riding. But they are not the only ones. There are many other giants out there, who allow me, as Bernard of Chartres said, to see farther, not by virtue of my sight or stature of my body, but because I am carried aloft and elevated by the magnitude of their hearts, the magnitude of their concern for the children of this community. I’d like to recognize some of those giants tonight:
The staff of Laughlin Children’s Center, who, day in and day out, go above and beyond the call of duty, to help generations of children become better students, better communicators, and better people. You are, quite simply, a dream team for any executive director, and I’m honored to call you friends. Would you stand up so we can recognize you?
The members of Laughlin’s governing boards, especially Alec Laughlin, who can’t be here tonight. Alec is the grandson of Mary and Alexander, and he has served faithfully on the board of trustees since our founding in 1956. A true giant in generosity and compassion, Mr. Laughlin sets a high bar for the other board members, and I am proud to say that they all meet the challenge exceedingly well, with grace and kindness and an abiding desire to see the Center flourish. My board and my dear friends, Francye, Laurel, Trish, Wayneen, Marcia, Annie, Leslie, Gretchen, would all stand up so we can thank you?
Finally, though it will spell certain death for me on the ride home tonight, I’d like to ask my family—Tom, Judy, and David—to stand up so that rest of you can see how tall they are, and what broad shoulders they have.
So, thank you once again to the staff of the Herald, as well as the community members who wrote in to nominate me as man of the year. I appreciate, very much, your confidence in me, and the kind words that so many of you have shared with me over the past few weeks. But know that I am simply, as Bernard wrote nanum gigantum humeris insidentes—a regular Joe riding on the shoulders of the giants around him.