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Biography: Laurence Bricker

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Laurence Bricker was born in 1964 in Lexington, Virginia to Beauregard and Agnes Bricker. Beau Bricker was the headmaster of a small prep school for boys, Virginia Barrie Institute. The prep school was originally known as a school of last resort for the wealthy but uninspired students of Virginia. However, Beau took it as a personal challenge to raise the level of performance at his school, and he created an almost military-like schedule and course load.

Beau was uniformly hated by all the miserable students at his school, but he did manage to get results. Within just a few years, he had driven out all the lazy, apathetic students until only the most hardened and rigorous pupils were left. Virginia Barrie Institute consistently ranked in the top of the South with its high test scores.

Laurence grew up and knew nothing but drive and discipline his entire life. Every night after dinner, his father would make sure that Laurence sat down and studied for three hours. Each night as Laurence grew up, his father would look over his homework and critique his writing. One of the headmaster's passions was the poetry of Milton, Donne, and Dante. He pushed Laurence into literature and the boy was explicating poems at an age when most other kids were reading The Hardy Boys.

Laurence's life was bleak – work, classes, and study. He played very few sports, although his father did instill a rigorous physical fitness program. He had very few friends and almost never played. Frivolous things like popular music, television and movies were off limits. In short, Laurence knew very little but work. Even the arts of poetry and literature held very little joy for him. Poems and novels were objects to be examined critically and understood. During all the years of tutoring him, Headmaster Bricker never asked his son, "did you like this story?" Emotion never entered into the equation.

Laurence attended Princeton and Yale for his college degrees. Even out from under the Headmaster's control, Laurence still kept to the same principles he had known all his life. He rose early, did his jumping jacks and sit-ups, went to class, went to the library to study, and went to bed. Very little else entered his life.

After finishing his Ph.D. in English, Laurence accepted a job at small military prep academy in Staunton, Virginia, so that he could be closer to his family. The Headmaster had retired and was in poor health, and Laurence's mother couldn't provide all the care necessary. It was decided that the Headmaster needed professional care and the Brickers hired a stern woman named Margaret Johnston to take care of the old man. Margaret was a plain but fierce woman who took good care of the elderly patriarch.

Finally, Beauregard Bricker passed away and, while Laurence was in the process of settling up her final paycheck, he asked the nurse to marry him. He hadn't thought about it before, but a man needed a wife and Margaret was certainly driven and determined enough. He had seen the way she treated Beau and knew that she would run a clean and efficient house. She accepted and they were married about five months after the Headmaster's funeral.

Laurence wanted to leave the small military school and teach at a more prestigious institution, preferably a university. However, he found it difficult to jump from a prep school to the Ivy League. Even though he certainly had the qualifications and the work ethic, the Ivy League schools weren't just going to hire someone who had only taught teenagers. Ultimately, Laurence accepted a job at the University of Mississippi. Although in some ways the school was not as rigorous as he would have liked, it was still a major institution and he thought it would provide a stepping stone to more hallowed halls.

There was one downside to Laurence's work ethic and his focused approach to his work – he often lost track of time. If you ask him why he married Margaret, he probably wouldn't be able to give a good reason. However, he would be able to tell you what he was reading at that time in his life. At Ole Miss, Laurence threw himself into his classes and went about separating the wheat from the chaff in his classes. He spent most of his time in his office, pouring over student materials and his research matter.

He was so focused on his work that he didn't think about the fact that he had now been at this "stepping stone" university for fourteen years. Laurence still wanted to get to a more prestigious institution, but he couldn't look up from his work long enough to go about a job search. The very skills that he prided himself upon – his work ethic, discipline, and focus – were also the very things to trap him at this university where the fraternity houses sat less than 500 feet away from his office and he could see their frivolity and laziness.

Over the years at Ole Miss, Laurence developed a formidable reputation. His classes were near empty because so few students would sign up to study with him. His low popularity suited Laurence just fine; he wasn't there to make friends, he was there to work.

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