I have worked with families for many years and have come to realize that there are many ways to be a parent and most of them work well. I usually trot this aphorism out when trying to talk a parent off the ledge as they are criticizing themselves for a mistake they made or, in rare cases, when parents are comparing themselves unsuccessfully to other parents. Fortunately, for all of us parents, God has a sense of humor and he made children remarkably resilient.
So was my thinking as I sat in the Thanksgiving Liturgy for Bittle Porterfield this morning. Both of Bittle’s boys graduated from North Cross where Bittle was a past Board Chair. He was one of the most generous donors to North Cross and his name graces our baseball park. In fact, nine years ago, he was one of my first annual fund calls, and I remember Chris Moore telling me that Bittle’s secretary, Artis, was a really important person for me to know. Bittle was always friendly and generous, and I enjoyed talking politics with him.
At the liturgy, Bittle’s son Wilson gave brief remarks about his father that told me a little about Bittle’s parenting style and which painted a picture of a loving man who took a deep interest in his family. His discipline style took the form of “office chats” where the boys would be called to Bittle’s office to discuss the merit, or lack of merit, that might be found in their most recent decision making. He taught his children to be there for others, “building a ladder to help people get off a limb that they found themselves stranded upon” and he taught his children that successful resolution allowed both sides to be happy with the outcome. I had a great appreciation for an exceptional parenting job.
Of course, parenting is much easier with a partner, and Bittle had Charlotte, his wife of fifty years. I would be remiss if I left out his son Forrest, who according to Wilson, was the primary beneficiary of Bittle’s “office chats.” Bittle and Charlotte were a tremendous parenting team, and the Porterfields, a tremendous North Cross family.
We will miss Bittle greatly as North Cross has benefitted from the same type of care and interest he gave his family. We are better people for knowing him.
Christian J. Proctor, PhD
Dr. Proctor is the ninth Head of School at North Cross and has served as such since 2011. He has more than 30 years of experience in education. He has served as headmaster at Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, South Carolina, St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Metairie, Louisiana, Grace Episcopal School in Monroe, Louisiana, and as Interim Headmaster at Wesley Academy in Houston, Texas. In each location, Dr. Proctor’s tenure was marked by creativity, innovation, and school growth.