Copyright © 1997 Henrietta W. Hay
Perry Carmichael, Teacher
November 15, 1994
Truly great teachers do not come along very often. When they do, the
people whose lives they touch are very fortunate.
I sat in the William S. Robinson Theater and listened to friends and
family celebrating the life of Perry Carmichael. They were speaking of
the brilliantly talented man of the theater, the outdoorsman, the loving
family man, all of which he was. But I was remembering, with slightly
misty eyes, The Mouse That Roared, the senior play of the Grand Junction
High School class of 1965, directed by Perry Carmichael.
I was thinking of Dave and Larry and Bill and Dave and Dawn, the stage
crew whose lives were so deeply influenced by Mr. C. I was thinking
about my son Dave and his buddy Bill striding around the stage in
tights and capes, arguing about whether or not to dilute the national
wine. They were making their on-stage debut in The Mouse that Roared,
possibly the hammiest production ever seen on the high school stage.
They and Mr. C. were loving every minute of it.
They are 47 now, this motley stage crew, solid citizens with lives and
careers and children of their own. But they have not forgotten those
days and they know that their lives were changed by Mr. C.
Dave has been reminiscing at length via E-Mail since hearing of Mr. C.'s
death, and these are mostly his words. I'll skip the quotation marks.
The community that we had around debate and drama was a family and we
had such a good time that I couldn't have asked for more. I have met
few people who claim to have had as rich a time in high school as I
did. And a whole lot of the credit for that goes to Mr. C.
In drama we were the stage crew, the gofers. For three years we built
and painted sets and ran the lights and sound system. But for our last
play, The Mouse that Roared, Mr. C. insisted that we be front and
center. What a great play that was. We didn't win an Emmy, but we
filled the house for four performances.
Debate was a remarkable class. There was no curriculum as such. A lot
of the time we listened to Mr. C. tell about a great movie or play he
had seen. But the course was about thinking. We could think about and
talk about whatever we wanted. The central topic was an issue of the
day which required us to look outside for information -- for our
Once we returned from a debate tournament by bus late at night. I sat
next to Mr. C., and we opened up to each other more than an adult and a
kid usually did. It was one of the most wonderful conversations I have
ever had. We each revealed a lot about who we were and what we wanted
out of life. I have rarely felt as close to anyone.
There was a dynamic between him and his kids which is truly rare between
adults and adolescents. It has to do with honesty about the world at
large. It has to do with not trying to protect the young person from
what's out there, but trying to teach h' (sic) how to meet it head on.
It is an attitude, towards life and towards young people. It is very
Yes, it is very rare. When it exists, it lasts a lifetime. Thirty
years later, Sarah was in Oliver at Mesa State, directed by Mr. C. To
her, he was just Perry. It didn't matter that he was 61 and she was 7.
The two of them were friends, and she lost her heart to theater and to
him forever. He ignited in her a passion that most seven year olds
never are lucky enough to feel. He was still the great teacher.
Perry was a mentor, a friend, a teacher, a father figure to my son. I
will be eternally grateful to him for that.
When David's book is published later this year, the dedication will
"To Perry Carmichael, my high school debate coach,
for teaching me how to ask questions,
and how to make sense out of the answers."