Brian Easler: Letter to Alumni

 

"I have known Fred Watts for 22 years, since 1998 when I first began working at Wilbraham & Monson Academy as the Director of Alumni Affairs. Fred had recently retired from the Academy, but he was no less active in the life of the school or influential in the community or with the alumni."

 

Letter to Alumni

From Head of School Brian P. Easler

 

Nov. 13, 2020

Dear WMA Alumni,

I have known Fred Watts for 22 years, since 1998 when I first began working at Wilbraham & Monson Academy as the Director of Alumni Affairs. Fred had recently retired from the Academy, but he was no less active in the life of the school or influential in the community or with the alumni. Mr. Watts is literally an institutional icon at WMA; he was the center of every gathering (with a gravitational pull few could resist), and he certainly had a significant impact on me, the young and very green new Alumni Director. 


I would spend hours with Fred in those days - sitting together in some campus space, or at the Student Prince or the Colony Club after retrieving him from the train station, perhaps with a cold refreshment or two - reminiscing about his exploits at the school and reveling in his vivid, well-told and usually hilarious stories. I learned about WMA from the inside out, from the man who knew it all. What better resource could a new alumni director have, and what better friend to accompany me on my own WMA journey.


Fred had a great deal of patience with me (he would say with a twinkle in his eye that I required a great deal of patience). Those of you who knew him well would expect that kind of patience, and you would also expect that he also had a good bit of fun at my expense when I deserved it. Although Fred was never my formal teacher as he was to thousands of WMA alumni, he was my teacher and mentor nonetheless because that is what Fred was at heart - a teacher and a mentor to anyone who benefitted from engaging with him. It is said that a teacher’s impact is measured in their positive influence on the lives of their students for the decades that follow. As such, Fred Watts leaves behind a remarkable legacy through not only those of us who learned from him but also many, many more who benefit secondhand through Fred’s positive impact on us. We would all be fortunate to leave such an imprint on the world.


I know Fred was disappointed in me at least twice, or so he quipped - once when I switched from the Alumni Office to the Deans Office, and then again when I became a (dreaded) headmaster. The best piece of educational advice I ever received came from Fred on one of those occasions, however, when I became the Dean of Students. Fred said - “If you MUST become the Dean, Brian, you will need to strike the right balance in your relationship with the students. Their feelings toward you should roughly equate to 40% respect, 40% love and 20% fear.” I have to admit ... I was skeptical. In my experience, though, 14 years as the Dean and now six as the Head, Mr. Watts’ advice was absolutely precise and timeless … and that formula served us both very well. 


Through all of his humor and his wit and his ribbing ... and his storytelling ... it was obvious to all that Fred cared deeply for the Academy and all of its people; and that love was reciprocated in a way that should warm the hearts of all educators. 


I will spend the rest of my time continuing to try to make Mr. Watts proud of me and his beloved school, and trying to live a life as purposeful and honorable as the one he lived.

Brian P. Easler
Head of School
Wibraham & Monson Academy