Dr. Middleton

Dr. George Middleton

Guest Book Entries

We invite you to share your thoughts, stories, and remembrances of Dr. Middleton.
 May 5, 2008
  What can one say about Dr. Middleton? Only that had he never existed, my life would have been very different. I might not be here today, and I would have been far less happy and well-adjusted than I am (and I still have a long way to go!) The threads of the Program and its influence spread out in a million different ways through the fabric of my existence, making life richer, more complex yet easier, helping me to make sense of it all. There I met others like myself (and unlike myself) whom I had never imagined could have existed, until I found myself among them for seven glorious weeks of learning to be who I was, and learning that it was okay to be me. If the measure of a man is how many lives he changed for the better, then Dr. Middleton's measure is full indeed. 
         anonymous     (GPGC Student)
 May 5, 2008
         Doug Trotter    (GPGC Student)
 May 5, 2008
  "A Celebration of the Life of George Middleton, Ph.D." Memorial Remarks Delivered in Lake Charles, Louisiana On May 1, 2008 By H. Paul Honsinger.

We are here today to celebrate the life of an extraordinary man. And, I will not shrink, even on this sad day, from the use of the word "celebrate." Dr. Middleton spent virtually every day of his adult life doing what he loved. Dr. Middleton spent virtually every day of his adult life surrounded by people whom he loved, and who loved him. He spent a lifetime married to the love of his life. He enriched and transformed the lives of thousands of people and made a great difference in his world and ours. None of us will ever forget him.

That is a life worth celebrating.

And, notwithstanding the heaviness of my heart, I will do my best to keep my words in that spirit, because I believe Dr. Middleton would have wanted it that way.

It has been my privilege to know this amazing man and have the opportunity to work with him for most of the years of my life, and I will tell you right now where I stand on the subject of George Middleton. You are not going to hear an historically balanced and objective appraisal from me. I make no bones about telling you that he was without exception the most decent and honorable man I have ever known. I admire him more than I admire anyone I have ever met. He was my mentor and my role model.

He was my hero.

I apologize for the inadequacy of my words today to capture the essence of a man who has meant so much to so many. I feel as if I have been asked to depict a glorious sunset. On an index card. With a number two pencil.

The tools are wholly inadequate for the task.

Dr. Middleton achieved a great deal in his lifetime, as you can see printed on your programs today. And, some of the people who have the kind of achievements that are on Dr. Middleton's resume are petty well defined by those achievements. These people are defined by what they have done. Dr. Middleton, however, is best defined, not by what he did, but by how he did it.

Everything he did, everything he did, he did with incredible decency and love.

He was decent beyond my ability to believe a human being could be decent. Even under stress. Even when people were criticizing him. Even when it would have been easy and comfortable and convenient and expedient to do something that was ever so slightly less than decent. Even when the people around him were advising him and pressuring him to do something ever so slightly less than decent.

It did not matter. The decent course of action was the only one available to George Middleton. Because, George Middleton was not governed by consensus; he was governed by character.

And, the man had character. Here are just a few of the ways he displayed it.

He never took credit for anything, even seminal concepts about the GPGC. He attributed these to Mary Hair or Jerry Crews or Josh Brown or Paul Honsinger or someone else.

He rarely got angry and, when he did, he rarely stayed angry. He certainly never carried a grudge. He speedily forgave those who wronged him.

He was unfailingly gentle and kind. He was especially gentle and kind to me on several occasions when it would have been very easy to do otherwise. And, he manifested his care for the people he loved in a manner that was always supportive but never intrusive. For example, when my legal career hit an iceberg, I was working as a car salesman. Dr. Middleton wanted to make sure I was doing all right. Did he call me on the phone and ask me a bunch of diagnostic questions? No. Did he ask me to come into his office and see him, knowing as he did that I would never refuse any request from him? No.

He came into the dealership. For a test drive.

Of a GMC Yukon.

I think you all know that Dr. Middleton needed a GMC Yukon like I need a Mini Cooper.

George Middleton aimed high. For other men, the GPGC might have been a pet project, a political tool, a research program, maybe a pool of young minds to be indoctrinated in some partisan political agenda, maybe a fiefdom to be protected, perhaps a stepping stone of ambition.

Not for Dr. Middleton. He viewed the GPGC as nothing less than this: a critical means of transmitting the core values of 8000 years of human civilization to the leading intellects of the next generation; [in response to laughter] and that's just the first part! AND, to help them develop into healthy and well adjusted adults. AND, also, to raise them up to be good citizens of our great republic.

In seven weeks.

One time, when Dr. Middleton and I were talking about the ancients (and we used to talk about the ancients a lot) and their ideas of education, I told him what one of these guys, it might have been Pythagoras, I don't remember now [it was actually Plutarch] said: "the mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lighted." You should have seen Dr. Middleton. He just lit up with excitement. "That's exactly right. You've got it precisely. We're here to light the fire."

He spent a lifetime lighting that fire. And passing out torches to others so that they could spread the flames. Lots of you in this room have held those torches.

George Middleton never succumbed to the temptation to which many other people who run programs like the GPGC might fall prey: to "cherry pick." His life, our lives, would have been so much easier if the GPGC stuck to students who did not present any meaningful behavior problems, who were compliant, who got along. Dr. Middleton would not even think of such a thing. And believe me, it was suggested to him. Frequently. So, he made sure that the GPGC would admit less, often far less, than perfect students (and, I see some of you out there--if you won't raise your hands, I won't point you out), so long as those students met the program's other intellectual criteria.

And, once they got into the program and started causing issues, he was very slow to give up on them. When faculty and counselors would be clamoring to send some particularly difficult child home, Dr. Middleton was always putting on the brakes. If it had to be done, it had to be done, but never because the child was inconvenient or difficult or otherwise a problem for staff. He knew that just one more failure experience might be the one that turned a kid to the "dark side" and that if we could manage to give the child a few success experiences, we might turn him around. He repeatedly said that if we gave up on a student we were surrendering forever any ability we might have to help that student. And Dr. Middleton never wanted to do that.

George Middleton was full of love. Not the demonstrative, gushing, obvious kind of love that is in fashion these days, but a gentle, warm, compassionate, accepting love, that he bestowed with kind eyes and a subtle smile. He could be tough when love required toughness (and he was tough with me on more than one occasion) and he did not use a lot of words to express those feelings, but he conveyed them nonetheless.

George Middleton had no ego. And, lest he appear here right to correct me, I hasten to add that I am using the word "ego" in the conversational and not the psychological sense of that word. He always had a hard time grasping how much he meant to us, how much people loved him, and how far his influence ranged. In any disagreement over GPGC policy, the issue was never him and his prerogatives and what he needed, but always what was best for the Program as an institution and what was best for the students.

George Middleton empowered everyone around him. Dr. Middleton was a super hero in real life, except in reverse. If you think of Dr. Middleton in terms of "Superman" he was Clark Kent, but he stayed Clark Kent all the time while conferring superhuman abilities upon the people around him. He had this way of looking into people and seeing the core of them. He'd say, "you have a gift for leadership," and "you have a gift for explaining complex ideas in simple terms," "you have a gift for seeing patterns in disconnected information," and so on. This room, and the world, are full of people who thought they were ordinary, who thought they were losers, who thought they had nothing to contribute, until George Middleton convinced them otherwise. I know, because I am one of those people. He believed in me when no one else did, and when I had stopped believing in myself.

George Middleton understood that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and he always tried to play to people's strengths while being understanding of their weaknesses. He wanted people to succeed, not just for the program, but also for their own sakes, and he knew that this meant he could not treat people like interchangeable ball bearings. He knew he was surrounded by bits of oddly shaped material and knew how to assemble these pieces into a marvelous jigsaw puzzle, rather than knocking off the edges and cramming them into the pattern he wanted.

I know. I see you GPGC faculty out there. You guys are thinking, "I'm not the one who was an 'oddly shaped bit of material.' I'm not eccentric. All those other people are eccentric but not me."

And, I'm sure you are absolutely right.

George Middleton was the most patient man I have ever known. He was certainly patient with me, but also patient in more settings and given more excuse to be less than patient than I can ever recount.

George Middleton never forgot that, when working with children, one cannot ascribe a problem to the students. If there is an issue to be dealt with, he never allowed people to think, "the kids need to _________" but always focused the discussion on what we as adults needed to do to foster the behavior or the thinking we needed to foster. He insisted that we maintain an internal rather than an external locus of control because, if we did the latter, then the problem would persist. We, not the child, were the problem. We, not the child, were the solution. We, not the child, had to do something. George Middleton taught that to me and I never forgot it. I employ this lesson with my clients every day.

It was always about the students. It was always about the people he was here to help. It was never about him.

Working with Dr. Middleton was one of the great experiences of my life. But, I have to admit that working with Dr. Middleton is different from working with anyone else in the world. I remember one time when I told him that I was thinking about giving some short quizzes in my debate class, just to be sure that the kids were getting the core concepts. They were going to be really short little quizzes and I wondered whether they should be true/false or multiple choice.

So, I asked Dr. Middleton. Now, most people in his position would have said something about the quizzes needing to be multiple choice because gifted children tend to be very deep and critical thinkers and they will over-think true false questions and will answer "false" too many times. By the way, I believe that to be the conventional wisdom on the subject.

But, not Dr. Middleton. Dr. Middleton's answer to my question consumed just under an hour, in which time he discussed Guilford's structure-of-intellect model, Erickson, the Dialogues of Plato and the Socratic Method, as well as the types of GPGC student populations produced by various IQ tests, with particular emphasis on the Stanford-Binet (form LM) and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children.

I don't actually remember what he said, though, about the true/false versus multiple choice part.

He knew so much on any topic, he just could not boil it down to a few sentences. I used to have an answering machine that would record for just one minute. Just one. Dr. Middleton could never finish his message before getting cut off. And, because of his hearing issues, I was sure that he couldn't hear the little beep that told him that the machine had stopped recording, so I could picture him standing there long after the machine had cut off just talking to nothing. I had to stop him from wasting his time that way. So, I told him that the machine would record for just the one minute. He replied gravely, "I see. I'll remember that."

Well we all know what happened.

I got another machine.

Now, I would give almost anything to hear again about Guilford's structure of intellect, the "three Michaels of history" or the "swoop down" speech just one more time.

When I said earlier that Dr. Middleton could not boil it down, I "misspoke." At the 40th Anniversary GPGC reunion someone, I believe it was Mike Chambers, asked Dr. Middleton the famous question from the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy books: "what is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything."

Dr. Middleton took exactly two seconds to consider his answer. It was one word.


And that sums him up.

We will all cherish his memory. We can continue to celebrate his life by carrying on his work, by emulating his kindness and his decency and his love, and by doing what he did for us--nurture in ourselves and in those around us the unique potential that lies within all God's children.

Long ago, I was in several dramatic productions at the GPGC. Now, I offer, at last, these twelve words of Shakespeare:

"Goodnight sweet prince. Let flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."  
         H. Paul Honsinger    (GPGC Student)
 May 5, 2008
  It's 2:00 in the morning and I cannot sleep after the reflective three hour drive back to Houston from Dr. Middleton's memorial service.

How great it was to see old friends and new ones at the memorial. How much I treasured Max's and Paul's and Josh's words. Perfection. How jealous I am of their deep, long term relationships with this prince of a man. (And how blessed I feel that I had one more chance to see him and visit a while at the Dig this Spring.) And then, at the reception, new friend Max's mom (who, surprise, was a high school classmate of mine!) told me that she had spoken of me to Dr. Middleton and that he thought highly of me ...

Dr. Middleton thought highly of me? Now, obviously, Uncle Middy would say exactly the same thing about any one of the 1500+ gifties he has taken under his wing. But MY name came up and he said he thought highly of ME - a singularly unremarkable student at the program, in my opinion. And one he hadn't seen or heard from in probably 25 years. But it is no surprise he would say such a thing. He was ever kind, generous and encouraging and always thought the best of people, whether they deserved it or not.

The real surprise is how deeply this affected me. I melted inside. (On the ride home I melted outside.) Why? As stated, I have had little interaction with Dr. Middleton in many years. My adult life has gone fairly well without his physical presence. I feel valued by family and friends. So why would this affirmation from the great beyond swell my heart so? It is partly, of course, that he did play a role in shaping my values and my view of the world at a formative stage in my life. But more than that I think, maybe, it is because there are precious few genuinely good people in this world. And when one of these rare souls smiles on you, you have received a gift beyond measure. George Middleton was one of these. Lord, I miss him already. And, Lord, I thank you for the privilege of seeing him again on this side of Heaven.

Enjoy your reward, Dr. Middleton. It is well deserved.  
         Robin Tanner    (GPGC Student)
 May 5, 2008
  The Governor's Program was immeasurably important to me. We all will miss Dr. Middleton greatly. Mary Ellen Roy GPGC, 1971-74 
         Mary Ellen Roy    (GPGC Student)
 May 5, 2008
  What an absolutely amazing man.  
         Steve Hennigan    (GPGC Student)
 May 4, 2008
  I can't imagine how I would have turned out if it weren't for GPGC. Thank you, Dr. Middleton. You made the world a better place and a kinder one.  
         Phaedra Kelly    (GPGC Student)
 May 3, 2008
  I was so saddened to hear of Dr. Middleton's passing. I had looked forward to thanking him at the reunion for those wonderful summers that shaped and changed my life. Thank you, Dr. Middleton. We will always remember you. 
         Susan Yager    (GPGC Student)
 May 2, 2008
  Dear Uncle Middy: I hope that your heart is peaceful and calm now that you are laid to your rest. Our hearts will never be the same without you, but our souls were enriched by you. Thank you for everything. 
         Elizabeth Masters Fraley    (GPGC Student)
 May 2, 2008
  As I looked through the choices on this guest book of how to categorize my relation to Dr. Middleton, I found it difficult to make a choice. I was not a GPGC student, however, I did have the privilege of working for and with him, he was my friend and for virtually all of my life he and Mrs. Jackie have been as close as family. Even though I was not a student of the program, Dr. Middleton taught me so many things. I will miss him dearly.  
         Shelly Ardoin McDonald    (Friend/Colleague)
 May 1, 2008
  My dearest Uncle Middy - Thank you for giving so much of yourself to everyone who was fortunate enough to have known you. You are a tremendous part of who I am today and who I will hopefully be tomorrow. The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.  
         Ethel Grimsal Pourciaux    (GPGC Student)
 May 1, 2008
  Dr. Middleton's impossible dream brought true magic into the lives of many, many people. I will always be grateful for the summers I spent as a GPGC student and counselor. I feel gifted to have had the opportunity to be a part of Uncle Middy's legacy. Adriane Swalm Durey (Student 1987-1991, Counselor 1995) 
         Adriane Durey    (GPGC Student)
 May 1, 2008
  Dr. Middleton made it possible for me to have magical summers on the McNeese campus. While I found school to be somewhat boring, the remarkable teachers he assembled and the courses they constructed for us reminded me that learning could be great fun. Those experiences have remained some of the most positive in my life. I am now 57, but I remember those years in the GPGC like they were yesterday. As for Dr. Middleton personally, he was one of the most congenial, positive, and caring people I ever encountered. He always had a smile on his face and showed great affection for his "gifties." I will always be deeply grateful for what he did for me and hundreds and hundreds of others who were blessed enough to be a part of the GPGC. My only regret that I did not get to see him as much over the years as I would have liked.  
         J. Michael Veron    (GPGC Student)
 May 1, 2008
  Uncle Middy, I thank God that he allowed me to know you for a while, during the all-too-brief time you spent on this Earth. Though we will miss your physical presence, it is a comfort to know that your imprint will remain in so many souls that yet reside here. Rest easy after your long labors, my friend and mentor. 
         Mike LeDoux    (GPGC Student)
 May 1, 2008
  Every once in a while, a true innovator comes along whose legacy far outlives himself and those who directly knew him. Dr. Middleton is one of those people.

Dr. Middleton probably didn't realize in 1958 that his experiment with the Program would leave the realm of the laboratory and become a half-century formula for success. He just knew that he had the opportunity to bring together personalities who could improve the lives of kids who might then improve the lives of others.

But Dr. Middleton's ideas were like dropping a large boulder into still waters. Fifty years later, the ripples are still spreading and the results of his experiment are scattered around the country and the world. There is no telling how many kids from poor, rural parishes ended up at the Harvards and Yales or how many have gone from having an 11-year-old's stage fright to becoming professionally entertainers.

Some day, we might try to put into perspective what Dr. Middleton's work has accomplished in its first 50 years, and we'll probably attempt to do so in terms of what notable things his students did as adults. But that won't be half the story. Who can ever really grasp the full magnitude of his legacy-- how knowing him forever changed someone's temperament or how it influenced others to improve the lives of those around them? Things like that can be felt but never quantified. We feel it through our loyalty to Dr. Middleton, through the dedication of alumni who, 50 years later, are still actively involved with the Program, and through the many choices that we all made in life that we attribute in some way to him.

Dr. Middleton would correct anyone who called the Program a "camp". He made sure that we had fun and loved learning but that we also understood that we were part of something significant. He was proud of us, and we were proud to be part of what he created. In the generations to come, we will refer to him as the Founding Father, not only of an institution, but also of a mindset and a philosophy of life that has touched us all. His peculiar sense of humor and his kind and thoughtful ways have changed each of us in some way, and we have passed this on.

In another 50 years, I will be Dr. Middleton's age. I hope to have the opportunity to attend final performances and tell students celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Program that I knew him. They will probably look at me as if I claimed to have known George Washington. And I will feel just as proud as if I had.  
         Seth Hopkins    (GPGC Student)
 April 30, 2008
  I have many fond memories of the summers I spent with my friends and family at the Governor's Program for Gifted Children as a student and counselor. This was truly a unique opportunity Dr. Middleton has provided for which we will always be grateful. I frequently remember these special times and regret having lost touch with so many wonderful people. I hope the Program will continue to broaden the horizons of young minds for generations to come. Jason Gee (Student 1982-84, Counselor 1986-88). 
         Jason Gee    (GPGC Student)
 April 30, 2008
  The impact Dr. Middleton and the program had on my life was immense as is the feeling of loss I have right now. Thank you Dr. Middleton for the difference you made in my life and in countless others. 
         Dennis Newman Jr    (GPGC Student)
 April 30, 2008
  I cannot properly express to "Uncle Middy's" family my profound gratitude for the gift that he gave to generation after generation of Louisiana children. He was a great man who so profoundly changed the lives of so many of us that there is no adequate expression of appreciation and loss. Thank you for sharing him with so many of us whose time at the GPGC was a life shaping experience. We are forever in debt to you. I attended a reunion several years ago and had the opportunity to express as an adult my heartfelt appreciation for the remarkable gift he gave to all of us over the years. I wish I had done a better job of conveying to him how profound an impact he had on me. I am forever indebted to his vision for all of us. I can say with confidence that I'm not alone in that obligation.  
         Richard Barnette    (GPGC Student)
 April 30, 2008
  What a loss this is for gifted children in the United States. At the same time, what a personal loss for each of us whose lives were touched by Dr. Middleton as students in the GPGC. I would not be the person I am today if I had not spent five summers as a giftie----the physician, the educator, the mother, the human being that I am today were shaped in large part by the summers of 1974 to 1978. Frankly, my children would not be the young adults they are now if their mother had not known Dr. Middleton: so many of the ideas, ethical beliefs, and genres of music I began introducing to them as toddlers were gleaned from my giftie experiences. Because Of Dr. Middleton, I strive to give wings to the two gifted children in my home, as well as the many I teach in the medical school each week. Nothing I could ever say would be adequate thanks for his impact on my life. The best any of us can do to honor him will be to try to emulate his influence on so many decades of people, using the gifts we have.

I want to be at the Memorial Service for Dr. Middleton on Thursday. Unfortunately, my son will be having surgery Thursday morning, so I will not be at the service, but my prayers and thoughts will be with Dr. Middleton's family and his extended giftie family. - Ellen Lancon Connor, MD, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, University of Wisconsin at Madison.  
         Ellen Lancon Connor    (GPGC Student)
 April 30, 2008
  I was sitting in Squires one day watching the rehearsal for the musical, and I noticed that the dancers were obviously struggling. Dr. Middleton turned to me, smiled, and said, "Well...it almost looks like a waltz." During my two summers at the Governor's Program, I only had a handful of conversations with him, but he made a huge impact on me. I will always remember him as a witty, loving, and compassionate man. GPGC won't be the same without him. 
         Elizabeth Clausen    (GPGC Student)
 April 30, 2008
  For an example of a life well lived, one need only look to Dr Middleton. Many of us ask ourselves from time to time if we've ever really made a difference in this world. Dr Middleton never had to wonder about that. 
         Mike Simmons    (GPGC Student)
 April 30, 2008
  I'm at such a loss for words. How do you describe someone as influential and important to so many over so many years? Thanks Uncle Middy. We love you dearly. 
         Jana Whipple    (GPGC Student)
 April 30, 2008
  What a wonderful man he was. What a great life he lived.  
         Joe Barnes    (GPGC Student)
 April 30, 2008
  There are a series of moments in our life that define and determine who we are: for me this would include the decision to get married, the decision to go to graduate school, the decision to study Yiddish, the decision to go to Yale, the decision to study literature, the decision to go to the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts. The first decision of consequence in my life wasn't just to go to the Program but to stay there, in spite of my homesickness, my awkwardness, my doubts in my own abilities. I never would have done it and I never could have done it without Dr. Middleton's patience and assurance: his belief in me and in all of us. Through the Program I not only learned to love the life of the mind, but I also learned for the first time how to make friends and how to value friendship. Both of these discoveries were, I think, precisely what Dr. Middleton had wanted all of us to find there, in ourselves and in each other.

It is neither an indulgence nor an exaggeration to say that I owe the entire course of my life, all of my achievements and contentments, to Dr. Middleton and the Program. I am grateful every day for having had this experience, and I try to remember this as often as I can, not only for what I received but also for what I might pass on to my students and my family.

I'm sorry I won't be able to attend the memorial service this week or the GPGC reunion this summer: I will be thinking of Dr. Middleton, his family, and all of my friends from the Program throughout .

May we all see each other in happier circumstances soon,

Marc Caplan Tandetnik Professor of Yiddish Studies The Johns Hopkins University GPGC Class of 1982 
         Marc Caplan    (GPGC Student)
 April 30, 2008
  When I was a freshman and over-awed with the man who gave me that IQ test and said I was actually smart enough to be a giftie, I was in an art class where I somehow got involved with a project of making an almost life-sized paper-mache "Uncle Middy", and I was worried it might be disrespectful, well, a little worried. Of course he smiled. Of course he loved us. And yes, he created a beloved community out of a group of children who tended to be ostracized, asocial, and at risk. We are his children, intellectually and socially. And of course we loved him. I am so sad and my deepest sympathies go to all who mourn Dr. Middleton. What a dear man. He must have been incredibly gifted himself, in so many ways, but all I remember is the kindness that came out of every part of him. 
         Kathy Duhon    (GPGC Student)

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