Sams, Duggan answer age-old question

Jake MabeHalls

You know that age-old question — “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I’ve got it.

I wanna be like Rusha Sams and Kathy Duggan.

Part of this was staring me in the face the first week I worked full-time for the old newspaper. When she left Halls High School in 2000, former assistant principal Rusha Sams said she’d like to travel, write and “be like George Plimpton.”

Rusha Sams

Well, dadgum if she hasn’t come close. No, she hasn’t struck out any New York Yankees or quarterbacked the Detroit Lions, but she’s been spotted at high schools, education-related meetings, the symphony and literary events around town. She and husband Bert travel when they can. They blog about it. China, Nepal, India, Russia, South America — their passports must be more withered than Anthony Bourdain’s. He’s too busy eating.

Nobody asked me, but it was a loss when Sams got passed over for principal after Dink Adams retired. She stepped into the classroom one day to fill in when an English teacher was out. We talked about “The Great Gatsby.” She told how she used to talk to her students about East Egg and West Egg, about the billboard with the eyeglasses, about the blinking green light across the bay, about why it was relevant to their lives.

Oh, well. It worked out, methinks. Looking for proof? Read about the Sams’s travels at

Kathy Duggan came to Adrian Burnett Elementary after another personal favorite, Connie Graham, retired. We bonded over books and Abraham Lincoln and I don’t remember what all anymore. She remains the only educator I’ve ever showed up for at 7 a.m. to be Principal For a Day.

Duggan did what Rusha Sams did. She came to Halls, rolled up her sleeves and got involved.

Kathy Duggan

Sams started the old Halls High Foundation which has evolved into an alumni association. Duggan joined the Halls B&P, brought husband Geoff to events, chaired the annual prayer breakfast for awhile, was Woman of the Year when a certain scribe somehow got it too — the difference there being she deserved it.

She ran a 5k or something close with daughter Samantha. She eventually moved to West Haven Elementary, and I’m sure she jumped into it with both elbows.

These days, she’s playing bridge and writing. Sixty stories for her 60th birthday. They’re on Facebook, so it may just be relegated to and for her friends, but what a way to live.

Part of the point of all this is continuing one’s education. Who was it said if you think the same way at 50 that you did at 20, you’ve wasted 30 years? Well, these two educators are still learning, still reading, still writing, still thinking.

Paul “Bear” Bryant died about a month after he coached his last football game at Alabama. Morley Safer filed the ultimate deadline the week his retirement tribute aired on “60 Minutes.” Charles M. Schulz passed the night before the final “Peanuts” strip rolled off the presses.

Well, Mom and Dad, I guess I can tell ya now what I want to do when I grow up.

Retirement ain’t in the plan.

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