Quarantine story: Mr. Lengel’s there and back again

Mr.Lengel and family at Brother Andrew ’17, June 5 2017 – courtesy of Communications

Few students find themselves awake at 4:45 a.m., and those who do likely never went to sleep. While some students switch the light off after a long night of studying, Mr. Lengel switches the light on and begins his strict daily routine. Anyone who has spoken to Mr.Lengel in the morning knows that “sleepy” is the last word one would use to describe him. An entire pot of Folgers coffee sweeps away the sleepiness that one would expect of a man who rose so early. His deep voice describes the poetic bliss he finds in the wee hours of the morning, “I make my coffee, my first 30 ounces, I turn on some podcasts, and I sit back and see the sun start to filter through the window. The ambient glow of rosy-fingered dawn.”

     After two hours of tranquil intellectual stimulation, Mr.Lengel dons his pristine white shirt and ever-present bow tie before embarking for work. He pulls into spot 16 and walks to his desk. He remembers the first time he walked from the parking lot into the school. It was fall of 2000 and Mr. Lengel had just moved to the area from Detroit after the school offered his father the position of Head of the Upper School. Mr. Lengel, a nervous sixth grader, knew the tumult that lay ahead of him, “I was born in New Jersey and I moved to San Francisco when I was three, Detroit when I was nine and Philadelphia when 11. By that point, I had gotten used to the sense of moving and having to make new friends, and so I knew the drill.”

Mr.Lengel and the cross country team at a meet, October 16, 2018 – Mr. Jim Roese

     Mr. Lengel was quick to adapt to his surroundings, and within a few weeks he began to enjoy himself. He described trying to find his “thing.”

“In middle school I really thought I was going to focus on running,” Mr. Lengel said. “I was a crosscountryman of some talent.”

Yet despite his ability, Mr.Lengel found himself drawn in a different direction as he matured. “As middle school went on and into From III, singing really became my thing, and it was the Notables that really got me. So for me singing became a real, true passion of my life,” Mr. Lengel said. “It got me through high school and college.”

     Some of Mr. Lengel’s teachers would be familiar to most current students. However, just as many have since left the school. This served as a preview for Mr. Lengels description of life at Haverford; similar yet still extremely different from a current student’s experience. Mr. Lengel’s Haverford — often referred to as the “Old Haverford” and seldom missed — was “a much less user-friendly place.  “There was a whole lot of competition between the students. I remember one of my classmates would leave fake (and incorrect) study guides around the school because your grade in chemistry was determined by your standing in the class. I think that story describes the vibe of the older place.”

     Some might assume that Mr. Lengel was extremely sad when his Sixth Form year ended and that this was why he returned so soon. After all, he had a connection with the school like no other. His father had been the Head of the Upper School from the time he was in sixth grade through the end of his junior year, and both of his brothers attended the school. On top of all that, his mother worked, and still works, in Palmer House.  Yet Mr. Lengel said his senior year was not marked by abnormal sadness. In fact, he greatly looked forward to college and the opportunities it presented.

     Even then, Mr. Lengel knew he might become a teacher.

“I knew I wanted to study history and music and in the back of my mind I think I always wanted to become a teacher,” Mr. Lengel said.

It may surprise students to learn that Mr. Lengel was not the type of kid who came back and visited frequently. In fact he only visited once to see the new Wilson Hall. 

     Mr. Lengel insists, however, that Haverford did not fade from his memory, “I continued to think about the people and all that I had learned. On a more fundamental level, I really believe that who I was in college and who I am today is directly related to my time at Haverford.”

     Upon graduating Williams College, Mr. Lengel first dipped his toe into the world of teaching. He began a teaching fellowship at a high school in Richmond, Virginia, but quickly realized that he was not made for that region.  He said, “one of the things I learned was that I was a man of the Northeast and certainly not a man of the South.”

     To escape, Mr. Lengel threw his name into a “big meat market where you chuck in your resume and see what schools have an opening.”  Upon doing so, Mr.Lengel was delighted to see Haverford pop up on his profile. “How cool would that be,” thought Mr. Lengel as he clicked “Apply.”

     “I had not lived my whole life dreaming of returning to Haverford, however I am enormously proud of it,” Mr. Lengel said. This series of events strengthened the already rock-solid connection between the Lengel family and Haverford. As already mentioned, both Mr. Lengel’s father and mother worked at Haverford. Mr. Lengel’s two brothers Matt and Andrew both attended Haverford as well. Mr. Lengel grinned as he recalled the struggles that came with teaching at the school his youngest brother still attended.

“It was really weird, not so much with Andrew but his friends, as I had known them since they were very young,” Mr. Lengel said. 

“I love teaching, it is important work and noble work.”

Mr. Tim Lengel

     On top of all those early mornings and long days of teaching, Mr. Lengel still has energy to take evening classes to get his Masters degree. Mr. Lengel is “close-ish” to finishing his Masters in Liberal Arts at The University of Pennsylvania.

     Mr.Lengel has no doubts about his future, “I love teaching, it is important work and noble work. I also love this place and I think this is my calling. In 30 years, will I still be teaching in the same classrooms and the same courses? Well, maybe or maybe not, but I will certainly be teaching.” 

Author: Jonny Sonnenfeld '20

Jonny Sonnenfeld '20 is a journalism student who has written for The Index throughout the past four years. He is in honors English and won a gold key this year from the scholastic arts and writing. His chili in a bread bowl article was responsible for the reintroduction of the meal in the surrounding area.