Time-Tested Wisdom Prevails

By Michael Best. Photos by Larry Kauffman, except as credited.

Michael Best, the fourth of former college president Kenneth E. Carl’s grandchildren to graduate from the institution, in one of the college’s robotics laboratories.

As a young child, I can remember arriving at my grandparents’ home filled with excitement. I would wait for the car to come to a stop and jump over whichever sister happened to be in my way. I would greet my grandmother at the door with a hug, “hello” and a kiss. Through the hallway to the living room I went, maybe to scour the porch for a moment, or raid the candy jar upon entering the kitchen, and then complete the circle near the bathroom. The door to the basement was across from the bathroom, and if I saw light escaping from under the door, I knew my grandfather was down there working hard.

The cellar steps were steep and always seemed dark.

If I went straight at the bottom of the steps, I would enter my grandfather’s greenhouse, filled with orchids. My grandfather had beautiful orchids. As an adult, I appreciate and respect the amount of talent and patience it takes to keep orchids. As green as I’d like to believe my thumb is, and the different plants I have in my home, I’ve tried an orchid, and the orchid won.

Samples of Carl's handiwork: a tie tack worn by Best.

But, if I took a right at the bottom of the steps, I would enter my grandfather’s workshop. Quiet in nature, and an observer by trade, I would usually remain unseen until the lathe stopped, the drill silenced, or the chisel rested, until I investigated his latest masterpiece. His workshop was always such an amazing playground. Ducks, geese and other birds seem to come alive in wood. I’d look around his workshop and see pieces of wood that were twice the size of me. Their unique colors, age lines and distinct smells I can still remember to this day. The tools my grandfather had on his workbench looked so intriguing to my young eyes. As soon as my cover was blown, he quickly embraced me, and off to play with my cousins I went.

Samples of Carl's handiwork: a bittern on display during an exhibit of Carl’s carvings at The Gallery at Penn College in 2007. Photo by Phillip Warner Kenneth E. Carl talks with Barb Danko, then-director of alumni relations, during dedication ceremonies for the College Avenue Labs building on Aug. 12. 2003.

As I grew up, my family would give my grandfather a hard time around Halloween because each year he insisted to give out apples instead of candy. I wasn’t informed until much later that each year he took the time to travel to the orchard and hand pick, off the tree, only the finest and reddest apples. One Halloween toward the end of my high school years, he set out to prove us wrong. He went to the store and the orchard and returned with only the finest treats for young souls. The test of time and wisdom defines ages. The basket of candy did remain full. The apples, gone. ■

Michael J. Best, who earned an associate degree in electronics and computer engineering technology: robotics and automation emphasis in May, is the fourth of Kenneth E. Carl's grandchildren to graduate from the institution.