Anniversaries are important. We draw attention to the accomplishments, feelings, relationships, and memories that mark the times of our life. And, as it happens, there is an important anniversary coming up, at least for me and a small group of old friends called “The Zeolites.”
We are 10 friends who were students at Chicago’s Mather High School. Now, I suppose, we can best be described as an accidental philanthropic organization. Back in the day, 1963 to be exact, we did two things that would prove to have a much bigger impact on our lives than any of us could have expected: we entered a team in the summer softball league at Mather Park and we promised to meet on the front steps of Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry in 37 years time, the first day of a new century: January 1, 2000, at noon.
When the day itself arrived, eight of the 10 old friends kept that promise, coming from as far away as Seattle, Connecticut, Detroit, and California. A few days later I spoke with Bob Greene, then a writer for the Chicago Tribune, who wrote a column called “The Story Behind the Men on the Museum Steps” on January 10, 2000.
At the time, Greene’s column was widely read in Chicago, and his readership included people at the Northbrook, IL based Culligan Corporation, the people whose advertisements featured the slogan “Hey Culligan Man.” In 1963 we’d actually attempted to get the people at Culligan to sponsor our softball team and buy us t-shirts that said “Culligan Men” since we thought that would be a clever name for our group. Culligan had refused our request in 1963, but upon reading Greene’s column, decided to make it up to us. Not only did they offer to give us the t-shirts we’d asked for 37 years before, they provided us with a $2000 grant which we used as seed money to fund a scholarship at our old high school when it was matched by $250 from each of the eight reunited Zeolites.
Over the past 10 years we have been joined in this philanthropic effort by well over 100 of our former classmates from Mather’s Class of 1964/65 and have given scholarships that total over $100,000.
And so, on May 1, 2009 we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Zeolite Scholarship Fund, the 10th time we’ve gone to Mather to give money away to some talented and needy young people. Moreover, it will be the very first time that all eight of the founding members of the scholarship fund will be present at the same ceremony. The occasion has become the focal point for an annual “mini-reunion” of our high school class; and it is enormously satisfying and great fun to reconnect to the people with whom we grew up. To learn more about us, you can view our web site at: http://www.zeolitescholarshipfund.com/
As I said earlier, we didn’t plan anything like this back in 1963. We were just 10 friends who enjoyed each other’s company and thought that a reunion in the distant future sounded like fun. But, I guess it shows that if you are lucky and pull together with your friends, you can make at least a small difference in the world.
Try it and see.