Achilles Perry and the proud graduate

Achilles Perry, president of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Association, and the proud graduate

Happens that I never graduated from high school, the reason being that I quit school as soon as I was old enough, which was 17. I had several reasons for doing that, but the one I prefer to give when asked that question is the one given by my friend John Brunner when he quit in England, at about the same age. That was, “I had to leave school, because it was interfering with my education.” (In case you wonder, I didn’t go to college, either. I did teach at several and lectured at scores if not hundreds of them, all the way from local community two-year schools to the Ivy League, in maybe a dozen different countries as well as our own, but I never attended one.)

My diploma

My diploma

Anyway, this summer, along comes a letter from a man named Jeffrey Haitkin, who is a successful businessman and an officer of the Brooklyn Technical High School Alumni Association. He states that he had been reading me since he himself was in Brooklyn Tech, but he had had no idea I had been to school there until he read the novel I co-wrote with Arthur Clarke, The Last Theorem, where it was mentioned. Jeffrey checked me out in the school archives to make sure I wasn’t some impostor falsely claiming an illustrious past, and then wrote this letter that said that he liked my novels, etc., etc., and it was a pity I hadn’t got a Tech diploma, etc., etc., and would I like them to give me one now?

I was flabbergasted. It was one of the kindest things that any total stranger had, without warning, ever stepped up and done for me. I showed the letter to Betty Anne and she was as touched as I was. So I wrote him to say I would be honored to accept and so on August 20, Jeff Haitkin, with Achilles Perry, the president of the Alumni Association, and Ned Steele, their volunteer press person, flew out from EWR to ORD and wound up in the library of my home, where the presentation was made before their cameras and one from the New York Times.

And I couldn’t be more pleased.

I do have one problem, though. I remember matchbook ads for a correspondence school, back in the days when people still carried matchbooks, which promised that people who got a high-school diploma would get $25 more a week. The problem is I don’t know whom to bill.

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  1. Jeff says:


  2. Stefan Jones says:


    As for what you do next . . . one word: Plastics!

  3. A. Shelton says:


  4. christine says:

    My sincere and hearty congratulations!

  5. Farah says:


  6. Jennifer says:

    What a kind thing to do, and how wonderful for you. Congratulations!

  7. Cass says:


  8. Elizabeth Bear says:


  9. James A. Owen says:

    That’s the coolest thing I’ve seen all year. Very happy for you, Fred!

  10. Chaz Brenchley says:

    Heh. That is so cool. Congratulations!

  11. whump says:

    Well done!

  12. Ellen Asher says:

    Mazel tov!
    Now maybe you can make something of yourself….

  13. JJ Brannon says:

    Fred, you’re an inspiration to us all.

    I haven’t seen you since the Heinlein Centennial, when you only a struggling high school dropout, but I knew you had it in you, kid. :>)

    To the question of what you could have accomplished if only you had stuck it out earlier, I believe Somerset Maugham’s “The Verger” handily answers.



  14. Chookie says:

    Congratulations on your graduation… I suppose that the extra $25 won\’t be backdated, though! Pity!

  15. Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey says:

    Have you given any thought to which college you’d like to attend?

    A lad with your brains really ought to go on to higher education. I’m sure you could major in a subject that would ensure you a good job after graduation…

  16. PJ says:

    So… college next?

  17. Marc says:

    What a lovely gesture. Congratulations!

  18. Bekbek says:

    This is interesting! I, too, left high school at 17. It would not have been around the same time because, actually, I would have already heard you speak at science fiction conventions a couple of times at that point. Huh. Come to think of it… how often did you mention this brilliant idea of ditching school?! When all is said and done, I think it worked out well for me (so if it was even partly your influence, thank you!), although I did somehow manage to accidentally acquire a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. It wasn’t my intention. And I still don’t have the HS diploma, so you’re easily ahead of me! (Not to mention the successful writing career!) Congratulations!

    By the way, my husband and I both happened upon your site by searching for personal (user-generated) photos of the Ryndam. We will be sailing for just a week in March 2010 and are a little over-eager. When I followed the photo to your blog, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was hosted by a very familiar name. Thank you. When we get on the Ryndam, I will try to sneak one of your books into the library shelves…