"A Strong Foundation"
Jeff Topham
(Kentucky Country Day School, "Connections", Winter 2003, pp.25-27)

Success stories don't just happen, and it's often the case that the foundations of success are laid during the school years.  For many students, high school is an especially important time when character, values, and personal goals first begin to take shape.  With its fierce dedication to honor and accountability, its emphasis on teaching students independence, and its commitment to high standards, it's no surprise that many KMI graduates have gone on to become the success stories of their communities.

In order to find out how KMI prepared its graduates for success, we talked to three alumni who have gone on to become leaders in their chosen fields.  We asked them to share their favorite memories of KMI and to describe how their alma mater laid the foundation for their success.

Bert Klein graduated from KMI in 1948 and then from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.  After service in the Air Force, he started a banking career in Louisville, where he eventually became President of the Bank of Louisville (now BB&T).  Mr. Klein has also been a leader in civic affairs in Louisville.  He has four grandchildren attending KCD: 1st-grader Casey, 5th-grader Chelsea, 9th-grader Kathryn, and 12th-grader Erin.

Steve Miles graduated from KMI in 1947 and from Washington & Lee in 1951.  After graduation, he served until 1953 in the U. S. Army during the Korean War.  In 1964 he received a business degree from the Stonier School of Banking at Rutgers University.  He was named President of the First National Bank of Louisville in 1974, and in 1987 he became the President of National City Bank.  He has also been widely involved in civic affairs in Louisville and has been a strong advocate for the Boy Scouts.

Colonel A. Park Shaw is a bona fide war hero.  He graduated from KMI in 1942, the summer after Pearl Harbor, and immediately enlisted in the Army.  At 19 years old, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, infantry, at Ft.  Benning, Georgia.  He served extensively in the Southwest Pacific during World War II and participated in the initial assault wave on Luzon, Philippines, in 1945 and in the initial occupation of Hokkaido, Japan.  Following the war, Colonel Shaw served as member of the General Staff at the 6th Army Headquarters at the Presidio in San Francisco.  His final duty assignment as a Colonel was as Military Aide to the Governor of Connecticut, Thomas J. Meskill.  In 1990, Colonel Shaw was inducted into the Infantry Officers Hall of Fame at Ft. Benning, an honor bestowed on only 1% of its 200,000 graduates since 1941.

KCD - Jeff Topham: How did the experience you had at KMI shape the way your life and career developed?

Bert Klein '48: Going to KMI shaped my whole life.  When I was a mid-term junior at the University of Pennsylvania, there was an announcement in the Daily Penn that there were 20 openings in Air Force ROTC.  There were several hundred students that applied, but because of my military grades at KMI, I was one of the 20 accepted, and I became a lieutenant upon graduation.  It was while I was in the Air Force that I met my wife.  She was going to school in Madison, and I was stationed in Milwaukee.  We'll be married 50 years on March 1 [2003]

Steve Miles '47: In retrospect, KMI built a pattern of successful achievement, and I know that carried on to Washington & Lee.  When you go to college, you really find out who the strong professors were in your preparatory school.  For me, it was a very significant building block that helped me have confidence to go on to the next level.

Colonel A. Park Shaw '42: Due to my four years at KMI, I was given the opportunity after basic training to go to officer candidate school at Ft. Benning, Georgia.  I graduated from there and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the infantry.  The next thing I knew, I was in New Guinea. [Laughs]

KCD - Jeff Topham: Did the values or traditions of KMI play an important role in the success that you've enjoyed?

Bert Klein '48:  The most important thing I got from KMI was the importance of a very disciplined routine.  You learned to discipline yourself.  I was 13 when I first went there, and I learned how to take care of myself at a very young age.  Even though there were instructors around, you didn't have Mommy and Daddy at your beck and call.  KMI taught me discipline and military organization, which has been very useful in running a company.

Steve Miles '47:  Success is made in small steps, and that was one good thing about KMI - there were a lot of ways that you could be successful.  You could be successful on the military side, or you could be successful in the classroom, or you could be successful in athletics.  All these things build confidence, and I think that the building block that I got at KMI was extremely good, and I'm not sure I would have gotten that at another school.

Colonel A. Park Shaw '42:  Without any question, the training I got at KMI was instrumental in preparing me for the Army, and very particularly in preparing me for getting into OCS and getting a commission.  I wouldn't have had a chance if I hadn't had the background with KMI.

KCD - Jeff Topham: Do you have any favorite memories of KMI, or anything that stands out about the time you spent there?

Bert Klein '48:  The thing that stands out most is the fact that for four years in the wintertime we would head on down to Florida.  We would take a train, and the first year I went down (the winter of '44-'45) the war was still on, and there were a lot of troop trains.  We would sit for an hour or two hours at a time while the troop trains had the right of way.  It would sometimes take 36 hours to get down there.  We all met down at 10th and Broadway with our duffel bags and ended up at the train station in Venice.  Just about every afternoon in Florida, when we were through with our military drill, we would take an easy 10-minute walk down to the beach and go swimming in the ocean in the little inlet there.

I also remember one time down in Florida during my freshman year, someone got the bright idea of melting wax over the sprinkler system.  One room got real wet. [Laughs] We were kids.  We had fun.  There was a real camaraderie with the other kids.  There was no air conditioning, of course, so to keep the bugs out of your room, you got little chameleons and put them on the screens.  They would eat everything before it could get inside.  By today's standards, I guess it was pretty primitive.  About the most complicated piece of equipment we had was a slide ruler.

Steve Miles '47: I started at KMI in the fall of 1944 and went there for three years.  It was during the heat of World War II, and it was a time when the military was held in high regard.  Equipment was hard to come by, and everything was rationed.  We had to drill with wooden guns because there was such a shortage of guns and ammunition.

When I first got to KMI, I wasn't sure that I was going to like this place at all.  It was pretty demanding, and I wasn't used to that military kind of discipline.  We lived in dormitories that were poorly heated and very drafty, and I just wasn't sure about it at all.  I was very interested in athletics, which was a big help in getting over my homesickness.  I started playing intramural football, then the next year I played on the junior varsity team, and the year after that I was on the starting varsity team.  There were only about 25 players on the whole team - you played both offense and defense.  We really had a pretty good team and we were undefeated going into our big game with St. X. We had a coach named Rabbit Pace, who was a tough little guy.  He got us down in that locker room beforehand and said 'We're gonna beat this team'- well, we didn't. [Laughs]  They were about third or fourth in the state, I think.  I also played on the basketball team, and we had an undefeated season my senior year.  I was also captain of the track team that year, so that added a dimension to my KMI experience that made it a lot more fun.

Of course there was the trip down to Florida, and at first I really didn't look forward to that very much either.  My first night in Florida I got so homesick I laid awake thinking how I could get back home!  But being away like that really increases the bond between you, because you're together all the time.  It took us about three days to get to Florida because we would get sidetracked to let the troop trains go by.  We did not have Pullman berths - we were just in chairs.  Well, you know how boys will be.  There were things going on 24 hours a day.  By the time we got to Florida, we were all in a state of total exhaustion!  Right across the street from the Venice hotel was a big drill field, which we also used for our track meets and things like that.  It was a pretty nice facility, and it was only about a half-mile down to the beach.

There were only maybe 250 or 275 students, and we consequently felt very close.  We had an awful lot of really outstanding people that I really came to like and admire.  There were also some extraordinary teachers.  Captain Pace was just terrific; Eddie Webber was the basketball coach and the chemistry professor; he was a terrific guy.  There were just a lot of very good, caring professors.  And then Colonel Richmond and Major Hodgin - they were two exemplary men.  They were very, very good examples for us, and they were terrific leaders.

Colonel A. Park Shaw '42: KMI was a splendid military school.  I think the military training that the cadets received was superb.  For those who liked that kind of thing - who liked the military- it prepared you thoroughly for the Army.  There were some who went to KMI who didn't fit that kind of military bracket, I guess, and they kind of fell by the wayside.  I liked it.  I enjoyed it.  The military staff was exceptional.  Sergeant Ghee was a great guy who was there for many, many years.  Colonel Dooley was another fine man.  These were the people that inspired me.

I also enjoyed participating in athletics.  I was a member of the track team and the rifle team.  I was on the swim team and won the backstroke championship in 1941.

There was also an honor code that cadets didn't lie or steal or cheat.  It was part of the life there.  It was very strict during those years.  We had a lot of systems that were similar to what they had at West Point.  KMI, you know, was patterned a great deal upon West Point.

First year guys were called rats, which I remember well. [Laughs] Of course I was a little Yankee guy from Massachusetts down there in Kentucky, where they were all still fighting the Civil War.  Of course we all bonded together, and I still keep in touch with people that I've been friends with since 1940.  My roommate that I had for three years there just died a few years ago, but we kept up all through those years.  There was definitely a bonding that was highly unusual.

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