So Long to My Favorite Chess Teacher

May 7, 2013 at 10:09 am 1 comment

I’m writing this en route to Williamsport for the first stop on the second leg of the Penn State Coaches Caravan, with field hockey coach Char Morett ’79 and men’s volleyball coach Mark Pavlik joining Bill O’Brien on the bus. I’ll have more from the Caravan—on our blog, and on my Twitter feed—over the next couple of days.

Being on the first leg of the Caravan last week, I was mostly out of the loop for graduation weekend, and I’m already missing the energy that a town full of students brings. Like many of us in the Alumni Association, I’m lucky to occasionally get to know some current undergrads: interns, student leaders, Lion Ambassadors for whom the Hintz Family Alumni Center is a second home. Over the past year, my family and I have added “chess teacher” to that list.

James Bischoff ’13 graduated last week, and my 8-year-old son is still getting over it. James is outgoing president of the Penn State Chess Club, one of a handful of students who restarted the dormant club a few years ago. My son had developed an interest in the game playing with his grandfather, and since my wife and I aren’t players, we thought we’d try to get him lessons. Last fall, I emailed the chess club asking if anyone there gave lessons to kids; James replied, and nearly every Friday afternoon during the ’12-13 school year, he and my son sat at our kitchen table for an hour or more, working out the basics of the game.

I can’t say enough about this guy. James was a finance major, and I know he’ll do well in his chosen field, but I think he’d make a terrific teacher as well. He’s personable and patient, and he kept my son motivated with rewards for figuring out strategic puzzles, letting him “win” their matches just often enough, and rewarding him every couple of months with a new comic book. After their last session, James gave my son a trophy engraved with his name and the title “Chess Master;” my son gave him a copy of The Hobbit, which I trust he’ll read this summer…

We also started Spanish lessons this spring, and I’m excited that Suzy Peevey, our patient and trilingual tutor, will be back for her senior year next fall. It’s been a pleasure getting to know these impressive, conscientious Penn State students. I only wish we could keep them around for a few more years.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

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