Henry Buhl and the yellow socks

Henry Buhl ('64, '74M) in his element, surrounded by students.

Today is Groundhog’s Day, a day that optimists love and pessimists dread.  The sun is shining here in Harrisonburg and in Punxsutawney, so according to the legend, we can expect six more weeks of winter. Call me a doubter, but I don’t see how we can have  six MORE when we haven’t had six YET this year….but weather aside.

Groundhog Day, always hold a different meaning for me.

It’s Henry Buhl’s (’64, ’74M) birthday. Mr. Buhl was my high school U.S. history teacher and adviser to many senior classes at Harrisonburg High School. The year I took his class, our class gave Mr. Buhl a pair of yellow socks for his birthday. I’m not sure why. That part of the story I don’t remember, but I do know that the birthday gift was rooted in the admiration and affection we all held for him. The yellow socks represented more than a simple, practical and somewhat silly birthday gift. They said, in the awkward way that teenagers can say things, that we all loved Mr. Buhl.

Mr. Buhl was an exceptional and beloved teacher for more than three decades. In fact, when he retired in 2005, the senior class of HHS chose him as their graduation speaker. And if you need more proof, the last time I looked, he had almost 450 Facebook friends and his own Fan Page  —  no doubt started by former students.

The incomparable Mr. Buhl.

Many teachers are excellent at their craft. They know their subjects backwards and forwards. They are experts in their given fields. After years of teaching, many can recite lessons in their sleep. But one characteristic always distinquishes the very best teachers: They care about their students. And second only to Mr. Buhl’s wife — the “luckiest woman in the world” — Mr. Buhl cared about his students. And we all knew it.

Mr. Buhl’s classes in U.S. history and A.P. government were not easy, but the academic material was always secondary to us. Mr. Buhl understood intuitively that his first concern should be our lives, not our grades, although he cared about those too. Throughout his career, he influenced thousands of lives and helped launch careers in medicine, business, law, education, journalism and dozens of other fields.

The very best educators are those who see students as people first, as Mr. Buhl still does. Today, when former students run into him, they see that familiar little half grin and that ever-present twinkle in his eye. He’s genuinely glad to see them.

So here’s a shout out to Mr. Buhl.  Happy Birthday!  And say hello to the luckiest woman in the world. We all like her too.

In honor of Mr. Henry Buhl’s birthday, I would like to propose that everyone who reads this, do something in his honor — thank a teacher who cared about you.

Many, I am certain, will thank Mr. Buhl.

To learn more about JMU’s College of Education where Mr. Buhl got his start, visit http://www.jmu.edu/coe/index.shtml

About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

One Response to Henry Buhl and the yellow socks

  1. That second picture is Mr. Buhl at my wedding! (I’m the one holding the flowers!)

    Mr. Buhl has always supported me, even a decade after I graduated from HHS!


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