Celebrating 100 Years of Oakland Technical High School
Michael Potts ’59
Above the basement classroom door, a sign: Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here. On this, our first day at Tech, the halls felt cavernous, the upperclassmen loomed huge and intimidating, and we were nowhere near prepared for English with Mr. Joseph Domenic Tranchina.
Bell rang, and in stormed a furry, gum-chewing fireplug of a man. “Welcome to college. I am going to make you work like you never worked before. Take paper and a writing implement and write a review of the best book you ever read. You have ten minutes.”
My memory of Mr. T. remains vivid despite 55 years of vigorous living. There were many memorable teachers before, but never one so charismatic or demanding. Mr. T. taught the joy of over-achievement, of playing above our game. Mountains of homework; massive, challenging reading assignments; pages upon pages of written work in every imaginable genre: haiku, essay, quatrain, dialogue, blank verse, sonnet, story, all assembled into a notebook he graded once a report period. His comments, scrawled in green ink, were sometimes scathing, sometimes profound, but just often enough, and best of all, his rare “Well done.” To this day, when I offer someone my highest praise, it is with T’s words: Well done.
A half century later, Joe Tranchina’s spirit and inspiration touch me every day. He passed to me, and, I imagine, to many, a love for heroically undertaking insurmountable opportunities.