I was recently informed that Mark Fowkes is retiring at the conclusion of this school year. I think it will be a sad day for Orrville High School when Mark Fowkes departs as the school district will be losing a fine teacher.
I just want to take this opportunity to acknowledge him being such a terrific teacher to me when I was in high school. Even though he came during my junior year I took several of his (English) classes and can honestly say I learned a tremendous amount. In fact, I remember taking one of his classes (Science Fiction) twice! Although I received no credit for it the second time I still signed up for the enjoyment and debate.
How he put up with all of us longhair, hippie, freak types is beyond me. They surely didn’t pay him enough!
And that was the kicker with Mark Fowkes. Whether you had long hair (guilty) or short hair, black or white, hippie, jock or redneck, he treated everyone the same, with respect, understanding and lots and lots of patience!
The biggest thing though as I look back was his demeanor. He was always so encouraging, positive and forthright with all of us. As I look back and I had two teachers who made a significant impact on me, one in grade school (Jill Hyde at Apple Creek) and one in high school. Mark Fowkes was the one in high school. I will never forget how encouraging he was to me in my writing and whatever creative binge I happened to be on at the time.
He was only a couple years older than my pals and myself and we all liked him, he was never patronizing. I remember right before school let out in 1975 when myself and a couple others tried, in vain, to talk him into going to see the Rolling Stones at Cleveland Stadium with us. He declined, I like to think reluctantly, and all these years later as I think back it was probably one of the wisest career moves he could have made! I don’t mean not seeing the Stones, I mean seeing the Stones with us!
I also vaguely recall his reaction (amazement) when my buddy Flash and myself purchased three entire rows of the Richfield Coliseum for the ’76 KISS concert (their Destroyer tour). I think I offered him a ticket and stated that he should feel lucky because the tickets we gave away for free were to ‘foxes’ (that’s 70’s-speak for attractive young ladies) and we were charging the ‘dudes’. He declined again, the reason lost to time and fading memories, but again, retrospectively, a likely wise career move on his part.
Another memory that has never left me was when I submitted a required poem in one of my creative writing classes. The teacher, who didn’t care for me likely because I had longhair and was a smartass, thought I plagiarized it because it was….’good’ (Believe me, I ain’t no poet!). Good ‘ol Mark Fowkes went to bat for me and told her straight out that it was all my work because I had worked on it in his classes and I had him read it several times before I submitted it. The Courier published it!
Even though I never made it to college due primarily to an early marriage and children I was able to pursue a career in writing, public relations, marketing and promotions in motorsports that ultimately saw me inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame in 2006 along with numerous other awards and honors, including Media Member of the Year for five consectutive years by Racing America. I also had the opportunity to write for over a dozen national motorsports publications, write and produce a television show for three years, write, produce and co-host three radio programs with one being “national” and the chance to work with producers for over a year and then appear on a CNN special television program.
I also spent a few years as a features writer and columnist for the old Courier Crescent newspaper (in addition to freelancing to many other mainstream newspapers).
I owe all of this to Mark Fowkes and his encouragement 36 years ago. He was a motivator and always, always, always encouraging! I can sincerely say that my working life would have taken another direction without Mark Fowkes’ influence and encouragement. I have no complaints!
I had been published pre-Fowkes, but as I waffled about whether or not to try and get published in larger publications, he was the kick in the ass I needed at the time. He prodded, cajoled, encouraged and pushed. Heeding his advice to go for it, in ’75 I became a features writer and columnist for The Journal, a Canadian tabloid devoted to popular culture. It was on after that.
Never one to have much confidence in myself, it was his encouragement and counsel that made me pursue my first love of writing; first in graphics oriented publications and then rock ‘n roll publications in addition to motorsports, which I pursued relentlessly upon getting married and starting a family.
Now ‘retired’, I am currently working on two books. The first has already been accepted. And I truly owe it to the inspiration and encouragement and infusion of confidence of Mark Fowkes all those years ago.
I just want to acknowledge the amazing impact and influence Mark Fowkes had on me that has carried through into my ‘old age’. He was always friendly, compassionate, sincere, encouraging and never patronizing to any of us. And I doubt he had a group of students who were as …’rambunctious’… as my pals and I were (it was the 70’s, after all)! I thank him for having patience with us! Actually, God bless him for having patience with us!
He was not only one of the best damn teachers I ever had, he was also at the time a friend and a mentor. And I am willing to bet there are more of us out there that has similar stories.
Orrville High School is taking a hit, a loss, with his retirement and I regret my five grandsons won’t have the opportunity to learn from him. He is, and was, truly a gifted teacher.
Class of 1976
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