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Homecoming

Jim Kidney

Jim Kidney

I led a sheltered life as a mediocre student before coming to LFC, and it showed. 

Above is my picture in the freshman handbook.  I looked like a sixth grader.  I think it was actually a junior high school picture I submitted with my admissions application because, well, I didn’t have another picture handy.  Who knew it would end up in the freshman precursor to Facebook?

The picture did give me valued name recognition among the women in Deerpath, as they wondered if this little guy could be a class mascot or, maybe, could be adopted by the dorm.  Perhaps a young genius?  Of course, there was only undisguised disappointment when they found out I was just a standard underachieving LFC guy of near-normal maturity and countenance. 

A big surprise to me in the first week on campus was the amount of blue streak cursing among the freshmen women in the dining hall.  I don’t recall “coeds” at my high school using the F bomb.  But that word and others were epidemic among the Deerpath crowd.  In fairness, I think they were used mostly women from Long Island.

My point is that LFC was an education right away, in and out of class, to us mostly-sheltered souls.  The small campus in an exclusive suburb by the lake was a safe learning space for those of us with unmet potential and, for many, limited experience outside our bubbles.  The place worked for me.  I can’t say I “found myself” – that’s a life-long endeavor – but I thrived in the academic environment and took advantage of the ability to meet with faculty, some on a basis that, after four years, was more adult friendship than student-teacher. 

My chief mentors were Art Zilversmit and Forest Hansen.  I think of Artie a lot in these times when so many misrepresent our national history to score political points, both right and left.  Maybe everybody needs a little Artie to get a grip.  I am a FB friend of Artie’s widow, Charlotte, so often I am reminded of the Zilversmit family in a congenial way to this day.

Then there was student life. Editing The Stentor was my chief passion.  Or maybe spouting my opinion in print was.  The latter still is.  It was the passion of many to ignore me.  It still is.  Maybe you are exercising this passion right now.

LFC succeeded in all the goals I had for it, as was proven by the fact that, after four years, I was chomping at the bit to graduate.  I had changed a lot, and LFC helped me to become whoever I was supposed to be and ready to face a wider world.  The rewards and setbacks were roughly deserved, with lessons learned along the way.  A small campus was mostly forgiving, but feedback and consequences were immediate. It was hard to hide, though some did.

I pursued a journalism career in New York until the draft breathed down my neck with an 007 draft lottery number.  (“License to be killed” I called it).  I won’t recount how I quit my job and went a little nuts for eight months until I got drafted. (“You had to be there,” I say now.)  All for nothing, since I was sent to Kansas City as an army writer and got out safely in 18 months when the draft ended.  The GI Bill benefit paid tuition at night law school while I covered the U.S. Supreme Court by day for United Press International and, for a year, U.
S. News & World Report
. At 30, I switched to full-time law.  I spent about 25 years as a trial attorney at the Securities and Exchange Commission, enjoying it immensely until I retired in frustration over lax enforcement after the 2008 crash.  You can read my retirement speech on the internet. It got some interesting publicity.

I met my wife, Sara Fritz, at UPI.  She was a reporter for 45 years, mostly for The Los Angeles Times.  One year, she was a Wilson Fellow for a week on the LFC campus teaching journalism and lecturing. We were married 38 years until she died in 2013.  We had a wonderful daughter, Mary, a social worker who married last year and lives in Chicago. Sara and I also lost a charming young son in 2000. 

Thank God for resilience.  Two years after Sara died, I met my present wife, Shan, who was widowed a month after I was. We have made new chapters in our lives together and, as of August 2019, live happily in suburban Virginia, having moved from DC, where I spent nearly all of my post-LFC life.