by Cyndi (Wessel) Stark , ‘73

There were two outstanding teachers in my life, Mr. Silhan was one of them.  Many times I wanted to return to McKay and say THANK YOU to him, but never did. I would run through all that I had to say in my head and somehow that was enough, vowing that I would see him again someday and let him know. Now with the talk of this reunion on 9/20/03 I feel compelled to write my thoughts down and let him know.

When I think back, Mr. Silhan did many things that were not in his job description...collecting canned goods for needy families during the holidays; I wanted to go with when those baskets were delivered. It was a privilege, but only the boys were chosen...maybe a reality check? Maybe for the best, and the muscles, too.

Then there was the Shriner’s Circus, which I looked forward to.  It was awesome, my own parents never took me to the circus, but Silhan did.  I remember him wearing his Fez and all those lapel pins, finding out later that those were hard-earned in the Shriner’s world and much to be proud of, indeed.  By taking us to the circus not only did we have fun together and a great time, but many needy families and children received medical assistance through the Shriners Hospital. We were helping and didn’t even know it! At least at the time I wasn’t aware.

Then there’s the Indiana Sand Dunes! Oh!  Yes!  HOW COOL! I never and still haven’t run into another teacher that does that on their own vacation time, knowing full well that some kids do nothing on summer vacation he made this an annual event. Remember the HIKE!...oh I do!  Inevitably a few students would wind-up taking a major header face-first in the sand...poetic justice the one year....I’ll name no names.  Ha! Ha! Ha!

As for the choir, we were fortunate. Not every public school had a choir. Selling candy, buying candy, eating candy, getting robes, getting boys, singing “Rubber Ducky” to Major Daley, passing out,....(no I wasn’t the one at McCormick Place), singing at Ford City, at Holy Cross Hospital during Christmas.   Being able to perform and receive happiness for a job well done. I always felt good after we sang, because I knew we gave it our best, it was a matter of pride. When Mr. Silhan said well done and he’d show us a smile he was right, you could feel it.

Self respect, self discipline and respect for others has everything to do with “The Wall of Quotes”. “Singing is the music of the angels”...”A tattoo reflects a low I.Q.” (how ‘bout body piercing?.. does that count?) No, I don’t have one. “Smoking is dangerous to your health” ...and the one that was bestowed upon me with frequent flurry, #18 Wessel 500 times by Monday “Self-control is a sign of the civilized” true! true! That one has come to mind at many different times for many different reasons. As for the subject of many, I’ve heard many people say many times and even myself “But what can I do!? “ Huh? What can ya do?  I think Mr. Silhan had that one answered.

After Jeff Spring took his life, Mr. Silhan set up a fund in Jeff’s name at Boystown.  Trying to bring light to dark and giving us all a chance to do something.  I had no idea how dark & desperate Jeff’s life was to him.  That Friday before he died I was office messenger. At 2:45 Jeff was sent to Mr. Zelezak’s office, when he came out he sat down on the bench, we looked at each other and he said to me ...Cyndi do you like me? I didn’t take it in a romantic way and I am so glad I had a kind word for him.  I said ...yeah sure Jeff you’re O.K.  then Mr. Zelezak told him he wanted a 500-word essay on Monday and sent him back to Room 210.  Two days later he was dead. I have never forgotten that... And probably never will. What can you do? Bring light to my opinion looking back Mr. Silhan found a way to help, give and receive. Making the most of it...for all of us....himself too. 

Initially, I FEARED HIM...wound up MISSING HIM....and these days INSPIRED BY HIM.  I hold him in the highest regards. Its time to send him that Thank You I’ve been wanting to send, while I still can.  He’s one in a billion!  As we all are for sure, each one of us and yet though in some ways we’re the same; because of a class, a school, and a teacher...named Silhan.

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Keep a good heart.

That’s the most important thing in life.

It’s not how much money you make

or what you can acquire.

The art of it

is to keep a good heart.


Joni Mitchell