Jack Dirmann

A Road Less Traveled…

Summer of ’64 started the job that would see me through college - Jonathan Beach Club.

Late August, hopped a Greyhound to New Orleans and enrolled at Tulane… happy to get a long way from home… didn’t quite realize how entirely different the culture would be. Come October it took all of a week of Basketball practice to settle my future … I wasn’t going to play hoops! Instead, I hit the books, pulled a 3.8… Phi Eta Sigma induction…spiced with some Cajun’ country adventure.

Winter left me longing for the sun and surf of California… Santa Monica here I come! Before I left…I wanted to give one more family-legacy-thing (boxing) a shot… although I never was able to walk in my Pop’s footsteps, SEC Middleweight Champion, big part of why I went to school in NOLA.

Showed up in Palo Alto, January 1, 1966. Had a ton of fun, lots of new friends…Dean’s List… by now my interest in academics plummeting… if a study didn’t apply to my life, got no time for it. New friend showed me a Lacrosse stick and I was hooked. Reading, lots of reading… loved the Great Philosophers of Western thought… but still found them wanting, no real road map to happiness. Within a year, my brother, Jim (former ASB President at LaSalle High School) was deep in-country in a very hostile Vietnam as the campus was exploding with drugs and the world was being turned upside down. I transferred to UC in part to continue to stay out of the draft and in part to cut my costs. It didn’t take too long living in Berkeley to grasp how devastating the electrifying, turned-on lifestyle was to kids and any hope they had of getting a useful education. The toll on society was equal parts maddening and saddening. Made several lifelong friends at both stops.

1968 returned to Palo Alto finished what I started at Stanford. Brother makes it back alive!

1970 Enough talk, enough books… time to act. I started, with a friend, the first Non-Narcotic drug abuse treatment group in Northern California in 1969. (Successor non-profits today have over 200 beds in Nor Cal… very effective. Our daughter runs one such in FL of 60 beds… immensely proud of her!)

Academic life seemed pretty unreal… rejected completely the idea of grad school… My alternative? Why, of course! With my old college buds start a company, Ad Lib Enterprises, (absurd, right?) doing renovations in the gorgeous horse country of Woodside, CA. Education was now learning to do practical stuff – like I am the world’s worst mechanic so I apprenticed on how to rebuild a VM from the crank up. Guess what? It ran!

Found my secret sauce for happiness – helping others. Practiced it and discovered more happiness than I ever thought existed. As if I could be so lucky, another of life’s great fortune visited me - love... I met Irene, my beautiful wife to be. Four kids who filled our lives, sent our hearts soaring and made us immensely proud.

1980 my work in drug abuse treatment and prevention had broadened to include policy responses to a wide range of environmental contaminants and overprescribed medical drugs. In 1982, partly in response to two environmental disasters I hooked up with a partner who had successfully blown the whistle on the Feds illegal experiments giving BZ to Vietnam era veterans (Remember the movie “Jacob’s Ladder”?) With my partner leading the way, we founded the Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education (FASE). Strategic alliances with researchers in the EPA helped lay out a plan, ambitiously called, the Unpolluting of Man. Our work in this field the last 32 years has been published widely and used by a large number of clinicians and governments as a practical means of detoxifying workers, military, first responders (especially smoke eaters) and just regular folks exposed to environmental and other contaminants. Success has kept the phone ringing off the hook from doctors in need all over the US and in many other countries.

1984 I became friends with Jaime Escalante at Garfield High School. It was my great fortune to help him and, in a small way, create opportunities for so many minority kids. (This story was covered by Jay Mathews of the Washington Post in his best seller “Jaime Escalante, The Best Teacher in America”.) I established a special Fund within FASE to support Jaime’s work (Photo 18 ) and we enjoyed unprecedented success in helping kids in the barrios of East L.A. achieve at the highest level of AP Calculus. 1988, my good friend, Eddie Olmos, was nominated for the Academy Award for his role as Escalante in Stand and Deliver, interest in our programs was at an all- time high.

1989 my genius partner at FASE conceived the idea of a PBS video series featuring the inspirational and always entertaining Escalante as the “star” and I raised the money for this series from a wide range of government agencies, private foundations and public companies. FASE’s first production won the Peabody Award and before we were finished we had produced over 100 titles, including some of the longest running programs ever on PBS for teachers... won two more Peabody’s amidst 150 other awards for the impact our programs had on math and science teachers. (I’ve always been lucky and have a skill at finding and working with really smart people!)

Today all our programming can be found in the digital library of The Futures Channel on the web along with my writings on the program.

1995 My wife, having enjoyed great success as the Executive Director of the Beverly Hills Playhouse both theatrically and in visual arts Photo 19, 20, (amazingly the Playhouse gang are having their reunion the same month as ours) and I each turned over our work to others …moved to Florida after a long trip to Southern Africa... Time to once again re-invent ourselves.

In our non-traditional way, we continue to find new and interesting things to do and right now she splits her time between volunteering, the grandkids (are those two really any different?) and consulting. I am involved in two exciting biomedical companies – one in orthopedic diagnostic devices and the other in the treatment of heart disease using adult stem cells – and believe that we can really make a significant difference with these platforms.

My wife has regularly travelled in Europe and Africa and I have been to Mexico, Nicaragua, England, Greece, Sweden and Germany but not much lately and don’t have anything close to her travel chops. She’s ready to go at the drop of a hat and is the consummate travel pro.

The love and fascination of our life remain our many grandkids who we spend a lot of time with. Looking forward to helping them have as much fun in their lives as we have in ours. I try to find time every day to either ride a bike, swim, kayak (we live on the water so the kayaking is spectacular) or when time permits to hike, sail, or fish and even have taken up standup paddle boarding. I want to get into Kite Surfing (er…maybe that’s grandkids only!) and also get back to the Caribbean where we first learned to SCUBA… and to California where there’s some decent surf! What they call surf down here would make you laugh or cry. We want to show our grandkids the beauty and bounty of the world’s waters and that there are ways to better protect these resources.

If you are still reading then maybe there’s time for one more little story… and then I am done.

I was starting a consulting gig with a new client in New York City on the morning of September 11, 2001. We were having our kick-off breakfast meeting when it all went down. Prior to that day I hadn’t been to NY in many years. That I would be mere blocks from the disaster and then spend a week pretty much marooned on Manhattan gave me some new insights and a very definite focus on the direction my life should take. I try to help others, practice some measure of tolerance and hopefully set a fairly good example (most of the time!) I think we can, little by little, make a dent in some of the bad conditions which we all know are there but which sometimes seem too daunting to tackle. I am giving it a go and having fun at the same time!

I can’t wait to see you all have a ball at our Reunion!