In an age when the educational mantra is keep it simple so we can measure it, Mev Good keeps proving that complexity makes life more interesting. Thanks to Mev, students at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School have learned to appreciate the wisdom one accumulates through a variety of life experiences and the value of simply listening. Over the last 10 years, Mev has been a substitute teacher and frequent guest speaker at the high school.
On November 30, the high school celebrated Mev Good Day. Now 88, Mev and his wife, Anne, moved to Vineyard Haven in 1989, after retiring from Aetna Life Insurance Company in Hartford, Conn., where he was a senior administrator of training. Since then he has served on several town committees in Tisbury, among many other activities.
Mev’s life has included so much, celebrants agreed on Friday. Students recalled stories of a young man of privilege growing up in a segregated society who drew comfort from the family maid when his flying, pioneer aunt was lost. As an 18-year-old, Mev left Princeton in 1942, to enlist in the U.S. Army.
The Irish history class at the high school created a bulletin board display showing Mev in 1972, standing at Kilmainham Jail, the museum of Irish national independence in Dublin. When high school principal Steve Nixon mentioned that he vacationed each year in the Scottish village of Ballachulish, Mev recalled that his family made their home there before moving to Northern Ireland.
It is not just Mev’s many and varied experiences that have impressed history students at the high school. It’s also that life has always been and continues to be a learning experience for him. He has never seemed to lose his willingness to reflect on his experiences, and he’s always ready to delve more deeply into them. “Knowledge is power,” he says often, “and it helps us to stand up to authority and combat bigotry and intolerance.”
We believe that students have realized that they’ve been very fortunate to have an elder from their community as part of their lives — someone vital and engaged in every aspect of the school. Mev is a part of an ancient tradition of sharing wisdom gained with those who follow, teaching them the values of their community and placing a human face on the long march of history. He’ll be the first to say, “That’s the point, we’re all living history right now, and we all have choices to make in any given moment.”
Looking back at his personal story as it has woven through nearly a century of world history, Mev makes that greater story come alive and makes it real for students
On Friday, all those whose lives he touched celebrated Mev. With balloons, banners, posters, and cakes, various members of the school community dropped in to greet him. Mev wiped his eyes.
“This has been such a moving experience,” he said, wiping his eyes. “You could have knocked me down. I had no idea.”
Not only will Mev Good remember the celebration fondly, but so will all the young people who were so happy to see him and join the celebration.
“I am so glad that I got the chance to be part of this,” senior Bella Bennett said. “I got so much pleasure out of honoring Mr. Good. I won’t ever forget how this day made me feel.”
Kate Holter is a history teacher and Elaine Cawley Weintraub is history department chairman at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.