I’ve been fortunate to have met or known many influential,
important, or famous people – some even took an interest in me – all helped
shape me to some extent.  I’ve
selected a number of special people to present and exceptional moments in my
career to describe and share.

Pat Conroy


One day in the Winter of 1986, Mrs. Rosemary Lockard, a
former North Atlanta High English Department Chair and nice lady, asked me if
I’d like to present novelist Pat Conroy as a Distinguished Lecturer.  “Of course.” Was my response and would
learn that Pat was a very nice man as well as a great writer.  Pat Conroy presented his rules for
effective writing to four hundred seniors and juniors, answered questions
galore for two hours, and afterwards conducted a writing seminar for thirty
creative writing students.  My favorite
book of his is “South of Broad”.


Dr. James Comer

I met Dr. James Comer – pictured with his son Brian and
daughter Dawn – over Christmas 1995 at the pool of the Treasure Cay Resort in
northwest Costa Rica where I was staying with my wife.  Sue ran the Lost & Found at
Independence High School in Roswell and a student had just left a Yale
basketball team t-shirt in her class. 
I adopted it and wore it to the pool. Jim, a Yale professor, saw me and
asked if I taught at there. 

I answered; “No.” And we struck up a great conversation for
several hours and each day for the rest of the week.  Upon returning home to Atlanta, I invited Jim to be a guest
lecturer at North Atlanta and he dazzled 450 students and their teachers with
his intelligence and compassion. 

Dr. James Comer has been one of the world’s leading child
psychiatrists, is renowned for improving the scholastic performance of low
income and minority students, and is the author of ten books including
“Maggie’s American Dream: The Life and Times of a Black Family”.  One particularly treasured
communication from Jim was received December 12, 1997.




Hamilton E. Holmes

Hamilton E. Holmes, born July 8, 1941 and died October 26,
1995, was an Atlanta orthopedic physician.  He and Charlayne Hunter-Gault desegregated the University of
Georgia – Dr. Holmes was also the first black student admitted to Emory
University Medical School.

Dr. Holmes earned his MD from Emory in 1967 and served as
Professor of Orthopedics and Associate Dean.  I got to know him well when he served as Co-Chair of the
North Atlanta High PTA along with his wife Marilyn, an esteemed APS
educator.  I fondly recall the end
of the year teacher appreciation parties that Dr. and Mrs. Holmes threw for the
North Atlanta faculty and wrote the following letter to the Holmes family after
Dr. Holmes’ funeral, Oct. 31, 1995.

“I want to share with you the great respect and admiration
that I had for Dr. Holmes.  I
taught a lesson on Dr. Holmes to each of my five classes today – the subject
was Dr. Holmes and how every student in the class owed him a debt of
gratitude.  All five classes shared
a moment of silence to honor his memory. 

Only a few of the students were aware of how Dr. Holmes
changed the State of Georgia and the City of Atlanta.  Fully one-third of the Class of 1995 will probably wind up
in Athens.  Nearly half of them are
black.  Dr. Holmes, a truly
historic figure, made that reality possible.

I taught that if there was ever a man who was justified in
becoming bitter and hate-filled, it was Dr. Holmes.  I informed the students of the terrible ordeal he and Mrs.
Hunter-Gault endured.  Amazingly,
his heart remained full of love and kindness for all people and even the
University of Georgia.  Dr. Holmes
was as nice and caring a man as I have ever met and I am a better man for
having known him. 

I also told them that Alison and Hamilton were charter
members of “Heller’s Hall of Fame” and that they embody all that was good in
him.  My wife Sue, who teaches at
the Open Campus High School in Fulton County, also taught her students about
the contributions of Dr. Holmes. 
My son Sasha now attends North Atlanta and loves the school for all of
the same reasons – how children of diverse backgrounds get along and learn
together.  Sasha now knows how Dr.
Holmes helped make a North Atlanta possible as well as enrich the lives of
countless Georgia students.”

Darnell Bateman –
Master Teacher of the Gifted


The AIDS epidemic that swept America made its way through
the Atlanta Public Schools instructional staff too.  I observed certain teachers, principals, and specialists get
sick and eventually die.  Two
friends, both teachers of the gifted, contracted it; one withered from viruses
and died, another retired to a Florida beach town, exercised relentlessly and
the last that I heard is still alive today.

I apologize for not providing a picture of Darnell Bateman –
he does not exist in today’s world of Google, Wikipedia, Facebook nor any APS
data base that I could locate. But I did write a poem on Dec. 9, 1994.


Dr. Charles
Crosthwait – Master Professor of Social Studies Instruction.


Charlie Crosthwait looked
after his graduate level social studies students with a great professionalism
and kindness.  I was very fortunate
to have Charles as an instructor and main advisor for my Ph. D. program.  He was like a father to me with his
calm and wise advice and probably the major reason behind my wife Sue for my
making it through the program.  Sue
and I attended a retirement party for him and shortly after received the
following lovely thank you note.


I am sorry for my being unable to find a photo of Charles to
include in this testimonial.  Two
years ago, I tried to look him up while visiting my son Sasha who was working
in South Padre Island, Texas, at the time.  Charles had retired to nearby Harlingen after the death of
his beloved Lillian.  He took a
call from me but age had brought on dementia and he quickly ended it because he
could not follow the conversation. 

Northside High
Student Protest over Lecture Series Censorship


For the full description of the seminar’s cancellation,
please access web site


I was very proud of the way North Atlanta students conducted
themselves during the turbulent week and consider the free speech grievance
suit one of the best teachable moments in my career. 

Billy Densmore:
Master Showman & Performing Arts Instructor

I had the great privilege and pleasure to accompany Billy
during the 1989-1990 tour of Russia and Ukraine.  Mr. Dom Fusco produced a video of the Northside School of
the Arts exchange with Soviet Youth Visa of the Moscow Aviation Institute.
Please access:


Billy Densmore was a model teacher for me.  The sheer scale and size of his arts
program, the cost of producing the Tour Show, the fees he commanded with his
talented group of show biz kids influenced me to build the International
Business Program and student run Atlanta Caribbean Trading Company, ACTCo,
which was modeled by high schools in seventeen countries on four
continents.  The Georgia State
University School of Music honored Billy’s memory and contribution to Atlanta’s
arts with a glorious concert that featured many of his favorite and most
successful former pupils.


Billy and I raised over $20,000 to reciprocate for our tour
of Moscow, Kiev and St. Petersburg, then Leningrad, to host Soviet Youth Visa
for three weeks in March of 1991.

March 21, 1991, at Papa Pirozki’s Restaurant on
Roswell Road.

The weather was unseasonably warm during the Russians’ visit
– many enjoyable evenings were spent in Buckhead saloons’ outside seating areas.  Our guests loved Northside High and
Atlanta so much that Billy and I prepared for possible defections at the end of
the exchange – one was nipped in the bud. 
The end of communism had happened and Russia was beginning the
transition to capitalism and democracy. 
It was a great student exchange and an exciting and hopeful time in

Andre Gavrilov, Soviet Youth Visa group leader, is seated in
the bottom row, second from left, with sunglasses. 

Rosalinda Scheer
Auerbach – my sweet mother-in-law

Herman Auerbach, my father-in-law and a great restaurant man,
passed at age 90.  My mother-in-law,
Rozzie Auerbach, survived Herman by eight years and is pictured with her son
Marc (top left), daughter-in-law Lisa Black Auerbach (top right), Maggie
Auerbach Bolstad (bottom left) who holds Rozzie’s great granddaughter Talulu, and
(bottom right) Maggie’s husband, Paul Bolstad – four generations of
Auerbachs.  Rozzie passed at age 94
a few months after this wonderful occasion. 

Herman and Roz Auerbach were like a second set of parents to
me.  I have frequently said that I
never told in-law jokes and I haven’t.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim


As a member of the Atlanta Sister Cities Commission since
1995, it is my belief that all of Atlanta’s Mayors during this time have been
very supportive of the seventeen committees and the volunteer work that the
Chairs and the committees do. 
Mayor Bill Campbell was especially generous and supportive in the
establishment of the Atlanta – Ra’anana Sister City Committee. 

But Mayor Reed, in 2015, visited Ra’anana and sat down and
broke bread with Mayor Zeev Bielski. 
It took seventeen years of praying to make that happen and for this Mayor Kasim Reed will always be my “homey mayor”.