Remarks for the Riverside High School Hall of Fame Banquet

Guest Author: Dr. Peter A. Lillback ’70

Editor’s Note: Because Peter Lillback was unable to attend the Hall of Fame ceremony, the Log is providing his speech below. Since his family and friends might not have attended the ceremony, the Log editors, along with Hall of Fame Committee Chair Marijane Watson, feel people should have the opportunity to appreciate Peter’s thoughts.

Fellow alumni, administrators and friends of Riverside High School:

I am grateful and deeply honored by the opportunity to address you at this auspicious occasion. Congratulations to all as you celebrate new additions to the Riverside High School Hall of Fame. Due to travel obligations as president of Westminster Theological Seminary near Philadelphia, I am prevented from being with you. Nevertheless, I am thankful to have the privilege to share these thoughts.

The opening stanza of T. S. Elliott’s The Rock written in 1934 offers three searching questions:

Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?*

As a 1970 graduate of Riverside, I can honestly ask, where is the life I have lost in living? In fact, the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the class of 1970 was postponed twice due to COVID-19. Those years weren’t really lost, but it feels like it!

The 52 years after graduation from Riverside include college, seminary, doctoral studies, pastoral work at three churches, teaching at seminaries, serving as president, traveling, writing and speaking. I have the joy of family—a wife of almost fifty years, two grown daughters and three grandchildren. I pray these years of life have not been lost but have been invested in others and future generations.

Elliott asks secondly, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?” I remain grateful for the learning that the Riverside faculty and staff afforded me. I can still hear Mr. Myers, a John R. Williams Junior High math teacher and football coach, teaching in class about the Cartesian plane and insisting on the track, the need to compete harder in pre-season football running and conditioning.

I can still see my photo as a sophomore wearing oversized football pads placed on my diminutive shoulders by Coach Girard, a photo that made it on the Telegraph sports page.

I can still say Spanish phrases learned in Mrs. Braden’s fourth year Spanish class.

Learning all the English grammar and verbal forms drilled into my head in Mrs. Price’s English class has stood me well as I’ve studied several languages for biblical and graduate programs.

Knowledge from Riverside imparted to me includes terms like logarithms, crab-soccer, ionic bonds, manifest destiny, Deoxyribonucleic acid, and a pulling guard’s role when the quarterback calls for wagon train right. Lots of knowledge.

But there was wisdom too. I remember learning of the risks of promiscuity, the deadly dangers of driving without regard for the speed limit—especially with alcohol, the link between smoking and lung cancer, the value of serving the community, the importance of considering faith in its diverse expressions, the abiding significance of physical conditioning, the folly of fighting and the dangers of drugs and addiction, the importance and fun of competition, patriotism, leadership and the value of being a learner that takes study seriously.

I hope those expressions of wisdom have not been lost as Riverside continues the pursuit of knowledge. May it not be asked at Riverside “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?”

As I conclude, I am struck by T. S. Elliott’s third question. It is a haunting question for all who live in an age of information overload: “Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” I’m sorry to say in spite of all the effort to ingrain it into me, I’ve lost all knowledge of note hand. However, the typing knowledge imparted in the same course granted me touch typing enabling the writing of many articles and books.

Information technology, while a blessing, may become a danger. Social media has spawned relationships, but it has also caused skyrocketing depression among teens. Dislocation of relationships has increased through excessive reliance on technology—which is not only due to pandemics. As real people in a real world, the loss of physical proximity should be a concern for all, whether families, school and communities.

As I conclude, again consider T. S. Elliot and the forlorn conclusion of his poem. Putting his three questions into context, he writes:

Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from GOD and nearer to the Dust.

As a Christian minister, I invite you to consider Elliot’s trenchant logic. If we can live life and lose it; if we can lose wisdom in knowledge; if we can lose knowledge in information, then, Elliot argues, we are moving farther away from God. However, we are not just moving away from God, we are traveling inexorably to the Dust. But must we move farther from GOD?

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus declares, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

May I suggest this is information you should know? For this knowledge brings wisdom, the wisdom that brings life. And this life is not lost in the living of it, but instead leads to life, a life that Jesus describes as eternal, that will never perish. (John 3:16.)

*Opening Stanza from Choruses from “The Rock” by T. S. Eliot (1888-1965), The Rock (1934).



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