On May 29, Head of School Darryl J. Ford Hon. 1689 wrote to the community to share remembrances of Reid Bush Hon. 1689, who passed away on May 13, 2020.
Reid Bush taught biology at Penn Charter from 1969 to 1982. In his 12 years at PC, he also served as Science Department chair, but more than that, Reid served as a mentor and inspiration to many Upper School students with whom he formed lasting friendships.
Three OPCs offered remembrances of Reid that illustrate his impact on students, and I would like to share them with you.
"Reid gave us our first taste of real science," wrote Brent Sherwood OPC '73. "Until ninth grade, science meant textbooks and wall posters and demonstrations. But in Reid's lab we found alive things! Weird beings, with little souls, living their lifecycles in tanks and dishes and under microscopes. Slime-molds, hay infusions, agar and loops and incubators and autoclaves, germinating plants, amphibians and fishes, even rescued baby mammals.
"Reid taught us to respect nature, be curious about its workings, and hold in awe the miracle that is life, in all its forms. Part of the lesson was that the myriad ways living things operate, interact, and interdepend should inspire us to think deeply about what we are, and to learn how we should live in a peaceful, inquisitive society. Orgs as bits of God, and ecology as metaphor for Quaker being. Even though – or maybe because – we were 14 years old, this stuck, and changed us. Many of us working today in technical fields, from medicine to marine biology to space travel, rooted our love of science in Bush's lab. Many more, who pursued other paths, absorbed his life teachings."
James Iademarco OPC '79 offered this: "Mr. Bush was my freshman biology professor, and I was blessed to have him as my advisor. He gave me my first job working in his lab, he arranged a 6-week summer externship with the National Science Foundation, and allowed me and others to learn valuable skills doing renovation projects under his tutelage at his 100-year-old Pennsylvania home and at Camp Dark Waters in Medford, N.J. Now, one has to be a little crazy to let untrained high school kids fix up your house. But Reid Bush was a teacher both on and off the field, so to speak. While he sparked my early passion for the life sciences and was arguably a key driver for my pursuit in biomedical and chemical engineering, more importantly he instilled a quiet confidence in my abilities.
"He would often talk about many of the PC students who came before and after me. And while I knew we had a strong and rich friendship, I realized he touched the lives of so many students besides myself. ... His personal satisfaction was generated not from his own accomplishments but those of others. But the truth is, Reid Bush had accomplished extraordinary things during his lifetime in a metric that cannot be quantified."
Bill Lesser OPC '74 remembered Reid in the same spirit: "For those of us who had him as a PC teacher or advisor, do you recall those moments when you might have had one-on-one time with him, after class? The world would stand still as Reid zeroed in on you alone, providing good instruction, encouragement and listening to what you had to say. Like myself, did you depart those sessions and step across the hall of Penn Charter thinking, I can do anything? Reid sent off legions of students into all professions and enterprises who were emboldened by his confidence in them to succeed, innovate and contribute.
"Reid's lifelong passion of sharing the wonders of the natural world was contagious. The beauty he saw through a microscope was as spirited as the smile across his face when following or listening to a bird above. For others of us with an innate draw to the adventure of the outdoors, natural places and the wildlife and plant life that inhabit these areas, Reid provided a special validation that our environment was beautiful, worthy of joy and deserving of protection. Many of us now hike trails, pull canoe paddles and peer through binoculars accompanied by memories of doing the same with Reid Bush.
"Several weeks ago my grandson, granddaughter and I were arching our necks to the top of an American elm tree, trying to spot a white-throated sparrow when off in the forest a phoebe blurted out. I said, 'Where is Mr. Bush when you need him?' My granddaughter, age 6, said, 'Yea, where is Mr. Bush?' He will be there with the sound of every birdsong."