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A Story About Eagle Pride

A Story About Eagle Pride

A Story About Eagle Pride and Persistence: David Perkins Shows Me You Can Come Home Again

L. Paul Hood, Jr. ‘78

Greetings, Eagle Nation!!! If you had told me a year ago that within the year, I would be writing this piece and committing to endow a $1,000 a year student writing award for Menard students, even though I’m not a betting man, I’d have bet the farm against it. After all, since my graduation in 1978, my total contributions to Menard one year ago were zero.

In this piece, I explain my reasons why I hadn’t given to Menard and the transformational divine miracle in which current Menard Athletics Director, David Perkins ’80, led that made this gift happen. I conclude this article with the lesson of my story and a personal challenge for each of you.

My tale of woe…

I graduated with honors from Menard in 1978. However, during my very first class at LSU, an English composition class at 7:30 a.m. on a Monday morning, my first day in college, I was asked to write a paper during the class, which I did. The class, which met Monday-Wednesday-Friday, met that next Wednesday, and the professor informed us that he'd graded our papers from Monday, and we could pick them up after class. When I picked up my paper and read it, I wasn't ready for the horror of the professor's evaluation of my paper. It was awful.

The professor wrote several paragraphs of negative comments about my paper (probably longer than my paper), which was only two pages long, detailing a litany of composition deficiencies. He concluded his evaluation by telling me that I had no idea how to write and, further that I'd obviously gone to a "crappy high school." Ouch.

His evaluation seriously conflicted with my then positive view of the quality of my Menard education. However, as I carefully reviewed his comments, I had to face facts: everything he said made sense, and I had to concede that my knowledge of composition was seriously lacking. The bottom line was that I was way behind and had some serious catchup work to do in college, which I hadn’t expected.

At this point, I had to face an inconvenient truth: Menard had failed to teach me how to write and had allowed me to graduate without this basic skill. At this point, I became disgusted with and angry at Menard. This anger continued unabated for over 40 years. Until very recently, I'd never given Menard a dime, and I had justified my refusal to contribute on this transgression.

In late July 2021, I reminisced and reflected in a lengthy Facebook post (approximately 23 paragraphs) about my lifelong relationship with basketball. I included the story of the end of my Menard basketball playing career during my senior year, when I quit the team at halftime of a late November or early December game against Poland High School in Poland LA. To make a long story short, I quit the team due to having had my fill of the then Menard head basketball coach. I was bluntly and even brutally honest about my feelings about him. This story was only told in one of the 23 paragraphs.

After I posted the reflection, people began to comment about the post. It didn't take long for another high school friend to tell his own personal horror story about that coach. Before long, several others had related their own difficulties with that coach. The stories collectively painted a less than flattering but absolutely dead-on accurate portrait of that coach.

One of the other story-tellers was my youngest brother, Keith Hood ‘81. Keith told a story about his awful experience as volunteer Menard baseball team trainer/equipment manager during his junior year under that coach, who had become head baseball coach. I either hadn't ever heard Keith’s story or had forgotten about it. However, the coach treated my volunteer brother terribly, and he had refused to either give my brother a Menard baseball team cap or include him in the team picture as past volunteers in his position had been given or included. That coach treated Keith so terribly that he refused to come back as manager for his senior year.

I felt terrible about how Keith was treated by this coach. I felt responsible because I played a key role in dissuading seven or eight football players who also played basketball after football season ended from playing basketball that year after I quit from playing basketball for Menard my senior year. This work depleted and directly crippled the team, which ultimately failed to win even ten games that season.

It was a significant reason for the terrible season that culminated in the coach being relieved of his head basketball coach's job at the end of the school year. I had played a critical role in getting the coach removed as head varsity basketball coach. I am sure that the coach, who expressed a clear antipathy toward me to several others that got back to me, took it out on my baby brother, which made it my fault.

Seeking to right the wrong that had been perpetrated on Keith by this coach, I contacted Menard Athletic Director, David Perkins ‘80, via Facebook Messenger about possibly ordering and paying for an official Menard baseball team cap to give to Keith to make up for the one that the coach had refused to give him. David immediately responded to my private message, and David said that while he had no caps at present because we were outside of the Menard baseball season, he would and could make that happen, which elated me.

I remember David vaguely when I was at Menard. He was a sophomore when I was a senior. Eventually, David would ultimately become perhaps Menard's best all-time quarterback long after I was gone. While we were Facebook friends, I don't recall any previous interactions with him. However, he did a yeoman's job that night in immediately answering my private message about the Menard baseball cap request within five minutes.

David’s prompt reply has caused me to have a change of heart about my high school. I feel pretty good about that because I never liked holding onto that much negativity concerning Menard. I immediately began thinking of how I could honor David and make a difference at Menard. With one kind gesture, David actually healed two emotional wounds: mine and Keith’s. David not only sent the baseball team fitted cap, but several other items of Eagles gear that I passed on to Keith, which elated him. David went above and beyond the call of duty, and I sent in my first modest contribution to Menard. But I felt compelled to do more.

My plan

I eventually did learn how to write, and to write very well. In fact, writing became an integral part of my success in life as a lawyer and as a writer, now having published eight books (my ninth book, Yours, Mine & Ours: Estate Planning for People in Blended and Stepfamilies, is due out in February 2022) and over 500 articles in professional journals. Writing is very important to me.

Since writing also was at the root of my long-time problem with Menard, I thought it both fitting and appropriate that I annually support and eventually endow a $1,000 annual Menard student writing award, which I’ve chosen to name the David Perkins Eagle Pride and Persistence Writing Award. I’m pleased to be able to assist and honor excellence in writing.

Why? Because a passionate writer can change the world!!! And I chose to honor David Perkins. Why? Because without David Perkins’ “winning two minute drive,” this gift wouldn’t have happened. He’s done yeoman’s work at our alma mater, and I’m pleased to honor David. David personifies Eagle pride and persistence.

The lesson and my challenge to You

The lesson? It’s simple. Menard’s not perfect. But it’s mighty good. And it’s deserving of my support and yours. Perhaps you too had a negative experience or feeling about Menard that has deterred you from giving back to Menard. My challenge to you? It’s also simple. Let it go. Consider reconciliation with Menard and become part of the solution like I did. It feels wonderful to let the toxicity of even righteous or justifiable anger go. Give it a try.

My gift helps heal my problem by encouraging and rewarding young Eagle writers to exhibit excellence in writing. But I’m now fully engaged again. In addition to my gift, I’ve volunteered to help with the Alumni Association and with Menard development, giving her the benefit of my almost six years of fundraising experience running the planned giving operations for two state university foundations.

What Menard wound could you heal with your time, talent or treasure? Menard needs you. Now is the time. Go for it. Don’t let a problem with something that happened at Menard decades ago-whether it was a teacher, administrator or coach or some event-hold you back. Remember that those people were imperfect sinners just like you and me. But Menard is pure. Please help us. Go Eagles!!!

If you’d like to discuss your feelings about this piece, how you might heal your own Menard wound or just want to reach out and say hello, my e-mail address is paul@paulhoodservices.com. I’d love to hear from you.