With colorful yarn hugging my voluminous black plaits, knocking knees and pristine saddle shoes, my fascination with human connectivity found its start on a stage at Lincoln Elementary. This school was located in a close-knit town resting in the cradle of pine bespeckled Appalachian hills. I remember fondly my participation in the 5th grade Speech Contest. I had worked obsessively on the concept and the body of this speech with my visionary teacher, Rosemary Brunner. I flourished under such academic freedom that the entire faculty supported. This was the kind of school that allowed me to write and act in a one “woman” play as Harriet Tubman (with a stage crew, mind you) for the whole school. This was a place where learning took place unconventionally and easily. Money did not appear to hamper our education. I suppose that we had a guardian angel that put intellectual exploration over expansive campuses. This was a place where my mother taught art when we lacked an art teacher and she treated me like any other kid struggling with her Plaster of Paris. I found safety in a cadre of kids where being weird was okay. I had the protection of my cousin, Terry (“Bing”) to walk his geeky cousin home when I felt “too different”. Bing and I would often be the last ones standing during any trivia contest in Brunner’s class. It did not matter if it was the states, presidents or Black history. When I could not remember Bismarck or Millard Fillmore, Bing did. I would marvel at how Bing (who had a open smile, infectious personality and unbelievable intellect of the MIT flavor) and the rest of us felt safe and valued. I needed that school.
Back to that standing room only speech. I vividly remember the title of that speech, “Tie the Bow for Those You Know”. It was my first parlay into complete networks. Go figure. I colored an off-scale drawing of the world’s continents and drew a large red bow cradling Africa to Asia, North America to Europe, and the Outback to the Andes. I spoke of a world that was “small” in terms of community but large in terms of land mass despite unfathomable distance across salty waters. If I had only known “small worlds” then, imagine the applause! Seriously, my fascination began with a win in that contest to my eventual discovery of human and social complexity using social network analysis and theory. A small bronze plaque now rests where the school and its Waller Spring once stood. From Waller Spring to Orgcomplexity, thank you to that school for making me.
Dedicated to Terry “Bing”- my guardian angel