John Roberts ’94

The benefits of a St. Bernard’s education can pop up at unexpected moments. A number of years ago, I was called upon to give a toast at a friend’s wedding. It had been over a decade since I had last spoken in front of a crowd and I was quite nervous, but taking the microphone was like putting on an old sweatshirt. No problem, I was just back giving a report on the varsity red soccer team’s recent match versus St. David’s, or reprising my role as the cow in “The Friendly Beasts” at Christmas Carols, or enunciating one of my seven endlessly rehearsed lines in the Shakespeare play. Familiar ground, nothing to fear.
St. Bernard’s was remarkable in its ability not to let a first class education get in the way of a joyful childhood. I recall a sixth grade Latin class presided over by the legendary Mr. Austin. While he loaded the blackboard, back turned, with various conjugations and declensions, a mischievous student ventured to launch a wad of paper across the room. No reaction from the great man, two other students returned fire. Soon the air was filled with all manner of scholastic projectiles. Eventually an errant spitball grazed Mr. Austin’s ear and struck the board where no one could deny its existence. The room fell silent and Mr. Austin turned to face a class, heads buried in our textbooks. Glancing up, one could not miss the glimmer in his eye as he waited a beat and let forth in his rumbling baritone: “Something’s going on back there,” before returning to the board. The volleys recommenced immediately.
It is a rare predicament where some long remembered words of a St. Bernard’s teacher can’t show the way forward. Recently I found myself facing the reality that many years of concerted effort ended in a blind alley. There was Mr. King-Wood’s voice in my ear: “Don’t fret, my dear boy, don’t fret. There is much yet to come.” And on I went to the next challenge.
John Roberts ’94 runs a statistical consulting firm, Octopod Analytics, and is a director of the New York Road Runners and the Central Park Track Club. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two young boys.