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Rick Mullen '77
Posted 04/19/2016 02:07PM

When you think about your time at TASIS, what immediately comes to mind?

When I reflect on my TASIS years I have a great feeling of happiness and nostalgia and think of the friends I made and grew up with. I was lucky enough to spend ages 14-17 at TASIS and made some great friends and shared some very deep emotional experiences. Ages 14-17 are very important in the development of young adults and from the moment I arrived I loved being there. I usually did not want to leave when it was time to come home. I savored every moment and I knew that I was very fortunate to be having that experience.

What was your favorite spot on campus?

I started out with 60 others in the Middle School in Vezia, which was a unique experience. That is where my TASIS emotional roots are and I can remember everything about that place so vividly. But, without doubt, the view of Lake Lugano from the Montagnola campus was incredibly spectacular. For two of the years I was there, my sophomore and my senior years, I lived in Coach House which was a big room with 8 boys. We had a great time together and shared some wonderful memories in that very unique living arrangement. We grew up together. I had 7 close brothers during very formative years.

Tell us some of your best-loved memories.

I loved the small class sizes and the layout of the campus. It was a peaceful and serene setting. I vividly remember all of the places we went on In-Program Travel, walking down to Lugano, or up that path to Montagnola. Springtime in Lugano was especially beautiful. But it was the great friendships I made there that made my experiences at TASIS so lasting. We had a great time together and we used to talk about how incredible that period of our life would seem when we looked back on it. We were right about that. The timing was great and the mid-70s were an interesting time to be at TASIS, both historically and culturally. Tony Gautreaux turned us onto “Dark Side of the Moon”, “Tres Hombres”, and “Led Zeppelin IV” in 9th grade. Need I say more about a “classical” education?

Who were your favorite teachers?

I thought all of the teachers at TASIS were great and I hesitate to mention any because I might leave some out, but our Dorm Dad and Science teacher in 9th grade, Steve Robinson, taught us some very important things for the larval stage of life that we were in. I know that sounds weird, but right up front, he armed us with some very important knowledge to successfully navigate the rocky shoals of the teenage years that lay ahead. He also took us skiing every weekend in a Blue Bus to San Bernardino and Splugen. Those trips were a lot of fun and we only did those in my Freshmen year.
Cynthia Whisenant, who was also sort of a Dorm Mom our first year, introduced us to Emerson and Thoreau which were important influences on my life. John Stifler opened our eyes to the wonders of William Shakespeare and Thad Logan and Miss Jankowski enabled The Illiad and The Odyssey to sink into my bone marrow, where they still reside. Jay Devine and Mark Roth were not only great academic mentors but both provided great examples of how to live and enjoy life. Kurt Petersen was another Dorm Dad who had a big influence on us and introduced rock climbing to all of us, as did Dick Ginns and Chris Frost who got us out and into Valle Versasca on the weekends. Fernando Gonzalez had a huge influence on us through our photography class as well as Horst Dürrschmidt. Kate Gonzalez, John and Michelle Watson, and Akbar Kahn were all wonderful teachers. Gus Ritson gave us a great introduction to Western Civilization and Alexander the Great as well as great lessons on the rugby pitch. I had no bad teachers there and they all left an imprint that I carry with me today. DeHaven Fleming was a great Headmaster of the Middle School and did a great job shepherding a bunch of young rascals.

Describe your life today. How did your time at TASIS impact your life since graduation?

At TASIS, I learned how to live with and get along with people “not of your own choosing” in confined spaces. While in college and later the military living in dorms, ships, huts, and tents in close quarters all over the world, this life skill would serve me well. I have the ability to get along with a broad spectrum of personality types and different cultural backgrounds which is something I learned early in TASIS. I also treasure my exposure to the Homeric classics and the History of Western Civilization along with the ability to see much of it first hand on In-Program Travel. Those years gave me a solid foundation for the “mystery tour” of life that lay ahead of me. I remember the lessons of Thoreau: “live deep and suck out the marrow of life” and “in all things, keep your life simple”. Today we have no television and my kids spend most of their time outside and the “simple” approach has worked well. Our family is very close. Those are lessons I learned at TASIS. Thank you, Mrs. Fleming, for my wonderful childhood learning experience.

30-Year Reunion in Aspen, 2014

Old friends from 9th grade

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