- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 9, 2005

When President Bush nominated John Roberts to the Supreme Court, I felt an overwhelming surge of pride. I spent four years with John at La Lumiere, a small college preparatory school and a very special place that formed the character and drive we would retain for the rest of our lives. It was at La Lumiere that John and I grew from boys to men.

I knew him well. You can’t get up every morning and brush your teeth next to someone for four years without getting to know him. We were 15-year-olds in the rigors of an Ivy League education, speaking Latin phrases and reciting 200-year-old poems while putting on coats and ties for class.

La Lumiere was founded as a boys’ school only a few years before we arrived. A group of Chicago-area businessmen wanted to create a top-notch college preparatory boarding school in the Midwest. Today, it is co-ed and one of the most international high schools in the country: Nearly a quarter of its students are from Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.

John was No. 1 in the class, but what was most striking about him was what he did with his abilities. He was a workhorse. John always put in 100 percent.

I remember dragging myself out of bed at 4 in the morning, determined to catch up on my Latin. I tiptoed down to the basement, and there was John, already studying. I was trying to catch up, but he was studying to stay ahead.

One time in my senior year we faced a particularly difficult calculus exam. We were nervous, but our teacher told us not to worry because we would be graded on a curve. After the test, he was distraught when he had to tell us there were a handful of D’s and the rest were all F’s because one of the students had scored 100 percent. This was a serious issue, since we would all be applying for college soon. But we couldn’t keep from laughing because we knew who aced it. It was typical of John to excel in the final stretch. And it didn’t hurt us. We all went on to good colleges.

John didn’t just succeed in academics, but in every aspect of his life. And he was kind. He was always there whenever I needed help. He encouraged me to press on when things got tough. John was an inspiration to me — to all of us.

Each student was assigned to wait tables for an entire week every six weeks — breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had to bring out the food, keep the pitchers of water and milk filled and bus the tables at the end of the meal. John was no exception.

He was one of the smallest members of the football team. But somehow it was fitting he became co-captain. The team wouldn’t have it any other way. His determination and perseverance were truly motivational.

By our senior year, John and I were co-editors of the student newspaper, and I was the manager of the football team he co-captained. We were good friends. But John was a good friend to all of us. It was such a small school — 24 kids in our entire class — you couldn’t help but get close.

This was the world John Roberts lived in for four years during the most impressionable time of his life. La Lumiere set a very high standard for its students, and John managed to raise the bar. He inspired all of us, and I predict he will impress the entire country once people get to know him the way his classmates did three decades ago.

Douglas Newcombe is a data processing consultant who lives in Phoenix with his wife and their four children. This column is nationally syndicated. To find out more about La Lumiere School, go to www.lalumiere.org.

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