New Fund Honors Lexington Writer & Educator

Bill Tapply

By S. Levi Doran  | 

The William G. Tapply Memorial Fund Will Support Sophomore Writing Program

Friends of a longtime Lexingtonian are merging with supporters of a high school writing program, to fund an important piece of the sophomore English curriculum.

Bill Tapply spent his childhood here, and graduated from the High School in 1958. He later became well-known for his mystery novels, and published thirty during his lifetime – in addition to at least ten nonfiction books which mostly deal with fly fishing. And within Lexington, he was also admired for his abilities in the classroom – as a teacher. He returned to town for a quarter-century as an English and social studies teacher, and house master, before moving on to Emerson College, Clark University, and a home in Hancock, N.H.

Tapply died of leukemia in July of 2009, and almost immediately, his high school classmates began thinking of how they could honor him within the town. The LHS Class of 1958 is closely knit, and Tapply was a prominent member. There were much smaller classes then, with about 200 seniors graduating in ’58.

It is “a very strong class,” according to member John Oberteuffer. “We were all very supportive of Bill and his writing. We have almost all bought and read his books.” Other classmates have died, “but Bill was the most prominent one so far,” Oberteuffer says. His death “had quite an effect on us.”

Other classmates have become writers, too. Jon Anderson ’58, a poet and longtime associate professor at the University of Arizona, published seven volumes (he died in 2007). And Oberteuffer himself published his first work a couple years ago, a mystery novel which he consulted with Tapply about.

There are around 10 classmates in particular who get together for lunch once in a while, including Oberteuffer and Mike Fosburg. They brainstormed ways to honor Tapply, and by the Spring of 2010 had formed the idea of the William G. Tapply Memorial Fund.

The Student Publishing Program, founded in 2002 by LHS grad Anthony Tedesco and LHS English Teacher Karen Russell, publishes an annual literary journal of work from the sophomore class. Every sophomore writes a piece of either poetry or prose. The first two years of its existence, it was published simultaneously in print and on the Web. However, funding became an issue and it has since been restricted to only an online presence.

For students in the 21st century, seeing their work in print is becoming a rarer and rarer experience. With the click of a few buttons, anyone can self-publish to the Web, which takes some of the thrill out of the student literary journal experience. This adds all the more to the importance of the Sophomore Writing Program’s hardcopy edition.

Oberteuffer, Fosburg, and Tapply’s other friends identified this problem within the English Department that Tapply devoted 27 years to. They felt the young writers at the High School deserved the satisfaction of seeing their work in print.

The solution to this problem? The William G. Tapply Memorial Fund.

LHS’s paperback edition this year will now be published using money from the Tapply Fund, with the goal being that profits from each year’s print book sales–which are donated back to LHS by The Student Publishing Program–would then fund the participation and print books and of each subsequent sophomore class. Those in charge of the program put in a good amount of work to make it possible, so the fund will also, when financially possible, allow for a “modest stipend” for the teacher.

Though Tapply himself maintained a presence on the Web for nearly a decade (williamgtapply.com), he was a master of print, as evidenced by his forty volumes.

“Bill was a teacher of writing,” Oberteuffer notes, “and the Sophomore Writing Program will use some of Bill’s teachings, … including his philosophy of writing, in the curriculum.” One of the pieces of this philosophy is “invisible writing.” According to Oberteuffer, Tapply believed “the author’s style shouldn’t be too prominent. If the writing is good, then the reader is not aware of the effort of the author.”

Bill’s classmates have set a fundraising goal of $8000. Currently, the fund has attained just over $4000. Any size donation is greatly appreciated – by Bill’s friends and classmates, by the leaders of the Sophomore Writing Program, and above all, by the sophomores themselves. Thanks to many generous Lexingtonians who’ve donated to The William G. Tapply Memorial Fund, English students at the High School this year and hopefully every year hereafter will be able to enjoy the gratifying experience of seeing their own work in a printed volume, along with the many academic benefits of writing for print publication.

Those interested in contributing to the remaining 50% of the fundraising goal can write a check to the Town of Lexington, memo line “For the Tapply Fund,” and mail it to: Lexington Public Schools, Business Office, 146 Maple Street.

The Student Publishing Program

The Student Publishing Program (SPP) is an award-winning creative writing program which brings the world’s top poets into classrooms through on-demand mobile video to help give students the skills and confidence needed to write for publication. SPP then secures the professional publication and promotion of their compositions—one piece of poetry or prose from every student in the grade—in a network of online literary magazines and a series of paperback books available in bookstores nationwide, with 100% of profits from book sales being donated by The Student Publishing Program back to the school.

Founded in 2002 by author and publisher Anthony Tedesco (LHS class of 1987) and LHS English Teacher Karen Russell, The Student Publishing Program supports language arts standards and benchmarks, while also helping students at all learning levels demonstrate their academic merit—to themselves and to the community at-large—beyond grades and standardized test scores.

To view past books and online literary magazines from LHS’s participation in the Student Publishing Program, you can go online to: lhs.225pm.org.

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