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William Stork

The “Great” Storkey

Veteran HKIS teacher Bill Stork departs this summer after 19 years with the school. DragonTales spoke to Bill about his life and career...

Growing up in Ohio in the Midwest, Bill Stork had a passion for books. His dad was the headmaster of a school he had taken over during the Great Depression, and it was he who inspired Bill to be a learner.

“When I was quite young, dad gave me a ledger to keep track of the books I read,” says Bill. “When I look back, this was a clever thing to do because it motivated me to read more.”

“If my father was the educator of the family, my mom was the brains,” laughs Bill. “She saw her role as that of the supportive wife and mother, and did both excellently.”

When he was in his 10th Grade year at school, Bill’s family moved to California, where his father took a job as headmaster of Polytechnic School. This school; however, only taught up to Grade 9, which meant Bill had to attend Flintridge School in Pasadena.

Here he found himself in a class with some fantastic students. “We developed our own study groups to help each other. History was my forte, so I was the history coach. Other classmates were strong in mathematics or physics, so would take turns coaching these subjects. I grew so much in these years, and started to appreciate what it meant to teach and coach others,” says Bill.

Bill’s appreciation of teaching was cemented when a bridge partner of his mom’s asked him to tutor her son in math. “Her son was two years older than me,” remembers Bill. “But I was getting paid to teach him, did the lessons, and thought that was that.”

However, it wasn’t, because when the boy returned to school and did well, Bill felt a tremendous sense of fulfillment. “I liked the feeling of making a difference, this meant far more to me than the money.”

Yale Tercentennial Gala 2001, Hong Kong.  Yale
President Levin to William's left

Following school, Bill attended Yale University, mjoring in math and physics. But history was still a passion, and influenced by two exceptional History Professors, he switched to History in his junior year.

“The plan throughout most of my university years was to complete my studies and attend Law School,” says Bill. “However, by my Senior Year at Yale, I realized I did not want to be lawyer. I was a people person, not a paper person. Law might be lucrative, but it was not for me.”

It was at this point in his life that Bill realized he was destined to teach. “I knew teaching was no way to fame or fortune,but it was what I wanted to do. As a teacher I could make a difference.”
Bill applied and was accepted to do a Master’s in History at Brown University. “I figured if I worked hard, I could get my Masters in a year... and that’s what I did.”

His first teaching job was at a prep school in Boston, teaching East Asian history. The next year he headed the department and added a course in British history. The following year, Bill left Boston to return to Brown University with the intention of writing his first book. “The book was to be based on some rich resource materials I had uncovered while studying earlier at Brown,” says Bill.

“However, my timing back to Brown was inopportune, because the materials I needed were in storage and inaccessible owing to the old John Brown House being under renovation.”

Bill shelved his writing ambitions and started to look for a job. A stroke of luck was a chance discovery of an ad in the Brown teacher-placement office for a math teacher at St George’s School (Newport).

Bill called the number and a man on the other end of the line told him his name sounded familiar. Bill explained he had sent his CV earlier. He was the History teacher.

Within a couple of hours I was in his office. He wanted to know why I thought I could teach Math. I explained I was a Math major at Yale until the middle of my junior year...”

Brother-in-law and Father copying
Storkey's style (age 26)

“...He asked ‘if I would be willing brush up on my math skills by taking a course on number theory during the summer.’ To which I replied yes, knowing that Brown had a great course during the summer.”
The interviewer was impressed that Bill knew about the course at Brown. “But most of all, he was impressed by my East Asian history teaching experience, because St. George’s was planning to develop a program in East Asian history.”

Sure enough, Bill was hired, and in his second year at the school, he started an East Asian (Honors) program for sophomores. “Later I taught seminars in both Modern China and in Game Theory. I also got into administration: college advising and as Associate Dean of Students.

In 1971, Bill accepted a position as Director of Studies at Marlborough School in Los Angeles, where he was charged with developing the school academically. He also taught one course each year, and in 1978 was selected for a Fulbright to India.

In 1983, he moved to Polytechnic School in Pasadena to be Department Head, Mathematics. I was thrilled to return to fulltime teaching, and was able to concentrate my efforts on developing the K-12 math program.”

“Somewhere along the way, I was talked into heading the Polytechnic School’s Summer Session, and built it eight-fold to over 800 students.” Around this time, Bill also became interested in the special needs of gifted children, doing advisory work and teaching for Johns Hopkins’s Center for Talented Youth.

It was through this connection that he was asked by Hong Kong International School to develop an intensive math program for highly gifted local Chinese students, known as the HKIS High Achievers Program.

Three Weeks in Hong Kong

Bill and Jasmine at Caesar's Palace

Bill arrived in Hong Kong in 1991, the same year HKIS celebrated its 25th Anniversary. This was his first trip to Asia.

He initially came for just three weeks as a consultant/teacher to set up and run the High Achievers Summer Program. The headmaster at the time, David Rittmann, had established the program to give back to the local Hong Kong community.

“I remember arriving in Hong Kong and being transfixed by the cityscape and lights. It was not what I expected; I was anticipating little squatter huts. Obviously, I was thinking of somewhere else.”

Bill will always remember his first glimpse of HKIS. “It was at night. We seemed to no sooner leave the city than we were in the countryside, a few bends later, Sam – the school driver [who still works for HKIS] – pointed out a shining oasis in the darkness and said, “that’s HKIS.’”

“Though I was only here for three weeks, it was a marvelous experience to be at last in Asia having taught the history of the place for so many years. I mean, what an opportunity for a Math teacher to be in Asia! I got a letter the next year and then the year after asking if I would come back to reach on the High Achievers Program. Of course I did.”

What started as a fun venture that Bill expected to last a summer, turned into something much more in April 1994 when he received a faxed message from David Rittman about an unexpected resignation of a full-time mathematics teacher.

“David asked me if I knew any suitable teacher to recommend to HKIS, or what about you?”

I came to Hong Kong for three years. Then it became another two years, and I have been happily teaching at HKIS ever since,” says Bill.

Initially Bill had planned to stay no more than ten years at HKIS, but in year nine, he met the love-of-his-life – Jasmine. “So the nine years has become 16 years most easily! And I don’t regret a single day.”

Bill's new office! The Foreign Correspondents' Club

Ask Bill about the highlights of his years teaching at HKIS and it is the names of students that roll off his tongue. “I have had many gifted and giving students. Far too many to mention each by name,” says Bill, who hands me a list fifty names long. He then asks that I do not quote from the list because he is sure to have missed someone. The list includes Captains of his rowing teams, HiMCM (High School Contest in Mathematical Modeling) team members, student leaders of Amnesty walk-a-thons, and many more.

But as the adage states: All good things come to an end. This summer, some 19 years after first walking through the gates of HKIS to start the Summer Program, Bill has decided to depart. “It’s just the right time... I have lots to do,” he says.

“Perhaps I’ll start a business, or do some writing... In the past, something has always surfaced to excite, intrigue or involve me. I will wait and see what comes up in the months ahead and then decide.”

Bill expects travel to occupy much of his time. “In recent years Jasmine and I have been to Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Bangkok, Budapest, Vienna, Prague, and St Petersburg. Hong Kong is a lovely hub for travel, and I am of a mind to linger here for several years, and enjoy all that Asia has to offer.

He hopes also to get back home more often to visit his Mom, who is now invalided. “When I went back to see her in December she told me she keeps outliving her doctors,” smiles Bill, who insists he does not know her age.

“I do have a sense that she is quite old, and when I was there in December, I noticed a congratulatory birthday letter from Michelle and Barack Obama on her mantle-piece. So I guess she could be 200,” he quips.

Bill asks alumni who know him to keep in touch. His email is william.stork@aya.yale.edu

Things you didn't know about William Stork...

• During ‘the Emergency’, had tea with Indira Gandhi and a private audience with then-Prime Minister Moraji Desai
• Was on the cover of CalTech’s magazine Engineering & Science
• Was Chair of the Yale Assembly, “The Internationalization of Yale”
• Raced own 1960 Alfa Romeo 2000 spider on same track at Laguna Seca historic car races as Juan Fangio, five-times F1 Gran Prix champion
• First course ever taught was ‘History of East Asia’
• Served for five years on Yale’s alumni Board of Governors
• Wrote a book on ‘social change in rural China’ while at East-West Center (Hawaii)
• Studied Mandarin at UCLA
• Co-chaired the 300th anniversary event for Yale’s alumni in Asia
• Served as Sports Information Officer for Soccer (Football) at the LA Olympics
• Recruited by NASA while undergraduate
• Owned for five years a center in mid-levels specializing in Conversational English
• Coached the HKIS Crew that won 10 medals at the HK all-Schools Rowing Regatta
• Worked on NASA solar wind investigation
• Serves as Regional Director (Asia) for the Yale Day of Service
• On steering committee for USC’s first International Alumni Convocation
• Invited by Columbia’s Institute of Far East Studies to work on the East Asia Curriculum Project
• Was honored by receiving Stanford University’s Teacher Tribute award
• Decided to leave HKIS after 9 years were over, but in that year met the love-of-his life, Jasmine, and no longer has plans to leave Hong Kong!

Source:  DragonTales Volume 13 Summer Edition 2010