I was never in the book, Who’s Who Among American High School Students. Many of my friends were. I remember an envelope arriving in the mail my senior year, soliciting information on what subjects and extra-curricular activities I excelled in. I believe every breathing senior got one.
As a joke, I wanted to send it back with a mile long list, but figured doing such would land me in hot water. At that time, I wondered if the book was on the up and up, especially with them mailing me an entry card.
While talking to other students, they said they’d filled out and returned the form. I never questioned their motive, knowing that these guys and gals were maintaining average grades like myself. I regretted not following through with my prank. Looking back at things now, it would’ve been over-the-top hilarious.
When my son, Gunnar, entered high school, he started receiving, Who’s Who Among American High School Students invites from the git go. That freshman year he filled out the form and plopped it in the mailbox.
Parents had to purchase a book if they wanted to see their child’s name in print. My wife ordered three that year. By then, I seriously saw it as bogus, but Joleen didn’t.
Years previous, I’d submitted a poem to a seemingly legit poetry contest. The company came back several months later saying I was one of the winners, and that my poem would be published in an upcoming book. This outfit wanted to know how many books I wanted at $25.00 a pop.
Well of course, I had to have one for my parents, one for Joleen’s parents, plus a couple for myself. Mailing a check in for two-hundred bucks plus shipping, a year went by with nothing happening. Eventually, I dialed a phone number on a copy of the entry form and was shocked to find it no longer in service. I’d been ripped off. It was all a ruse.
When Gunnar received his first “Who’s Who Among American High School Students” book, he was quick to point out text next to a couple of his pals. After reading their merits I would’ve thought they were on the road to Harvard or Princeton. What they wrote down was hilarious. I told my son I’d wanted to do the same twenty-four years previous.
During Gunnar’s senior year, another book submittal form arrived in the mail just like clockwork. Once again, I didn’t give it much attention, as that was always Joleen’s job to have him fill it out. When the senior edition of Who’s Who finally arrived, my son and daughter, Miranda, were looking at it with unshackled laughter.
Wanting to know what was so funny I walked over to see. Under Gunnar’s name was a mile long list. He’d included everything he could think of other than being a kitchen sink repairman. Roof jumping was hands down the funniest, with polo and square dancing being a close second.
Some parents might’ve been mad at their kid, but I wasn’t. Gunnar was a superb student throughout school and ended up Valedictorian of his class. Humor definitely helped get him through the oftentimes challenging academics.
The week before graduation, my son was meticulously working on his speech. He asked me if there was anything he could do to make it funny. I had to think for several seconds,
“Yes, yes there is.”
That graduation night, as he read off the names of people to thank which included God, parents, grandparents, relatives, and friends, he added one additional person to the list,
“I’d like to especially thank Governor Tony Knowles for being here!”
Of course, the whole auditorium began searching for that familiar face in the crowd, especially school faculty. Eventually, seeing that they’d been punked, the room broke out in laughter.
My son went on to receive a congressional appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy. He says that his four years in Colorado Springs were some of the toughest he’s ever endured. Gunnar’s never outright told me, but I believe having a bit of the old man’s sense of humor helped pull him through some of the darkest days.
As far as the book, “Who’s Who of High School Students” goes, the company went bankrupt in 2007. By then, critics echoed the same sentiments as me. This business was more interested in selling books and associated products than advancing a student’s career. For many years they made a ton of money doing just that.
One enrollment officer at a prestigious university said that whenever she saw a “Who’s Who of High School Students” acclaim written on a college entry form, it meant absolutely nothing to her. Others echoed the same.
The following is a statement issued by a magazine reporter, regarding the academic credentials for someone being in that book:
“However, most admissions officers believe that the recognition has no such value, and in fact, some consider the “honor” to be a joke.”
When I read that I had to chuckle. It seems I hit the bullseye some 50 years previous.
“And it says here that he played polo. This student lives in Alaska!”