Updated: Feb 7
At the Academy it’s become common to refer to a certain room in our building as the Rhetoric Room. That’s where the upper school humanities students meet to discuss big and eternal ideas. It’s also where the WCA Board meets monthly, in many ways to do the same. It’s become a very important room.
In that same room at the last hour of the last full day of school, Dr. Brunson, as he began to sift through his books to determine which he’d take and which he’d leave behind, turned to me and asked if I had read Kierkegaard. Some of us teachers had begun reading Plato’s Republic, and as such he inferred we might draw worthwhile parallels between the two. I then responded with the regularly cited, half-embarrassed “I’m familiar with Kierkegaard, but I haven’t read him.” Then in the same manner I quickly admitted that I hadn’t read Kant, either. At that Dr. Brunson’s brows raised ever so slightly, not in scorn, but because he knew deeply of those men’s works, and therefore had something to say.
And so, Dr. Brunson calmly paused his packing, swiveled his chair in my direction, and began to teach. I won’t tell you now all that he had to say, for I don’t want to stray far from the point, which is this: That that genuine teaching moment in the Rhetoric Room encapsulates Dr. Brunson's time with us at the Academy. For in that moment, like countless others, he taught freely, thoughtfully, and articulately (without any “uhms, likes, or you knows”). He taught without the need of a grand audience; if you would listen, he'd share. Indeed, in that moment, like countless others, Dr. Brunson was ever the teacher and ever the rhetorician.
Does it not make sense, then, that it is there in the Rhetoric Room where Dr. Brunson spent much of his time on behalf of our school? Rhetoric may refer to speaking excellently, and in classical education The Rhetoric Stage – the conclusive, climatic stage of our educational model – refers in large part to a student’s embodiment and expression of that same excellence in all things, in all places.
It’s towards that end of excellence that Dr. Brunson strived on our behalf, both as Headmaster for three years and teacher for one. His accomplishments at the Academy were significant and many, and they include but are not limited to these, the following:
· The Valley’s most comprehensive Singapore Math program
· The Valley’s sole FLEX Language Program
· The Valley’s sole classical Logic Program
· The Valley’s most robust Cambridge Latin Program
· The Valley’s most advanced and rigorous Humanities Program
Therefore, if you see Dr. Brunson before he departs our Academy and this part of Montana, tell him thank you. Tell him thank you for striving for excellence in all things, and for encouraging us – his students, fellow teachers, and greater Whitefish Christian Academy community – to do the same.
And then, ask Dr. Brunson to tell you something of Plato, Kierkegaard, and Kant. It’ll be as if you’ve entered the Rhetoric Room with him one last time, and for that you’ll thank him all the more.