The Old Diocesan Issue5 Mar2020 - Page 52

Finding your way
When you don’t have a clear path in life defined for you, how do you
end up being a person of influence? Zandy Bicket tells his story
t was 45 years ago (give or
take) that I walked out of the
Memorial Hall, now the Mallett
Centre, having just written my final
matric exam, and with no idea
what life had in store for me.
I was a less-than-mediocre student
at school – I have my matric
results to prove it! – and I had no
overwhelming desire to become
or do anything in particular. How,
then, did I end up a criminal court
judge in the United States?
I thought of a teaching career
– at Bishops, of course, because
I had enjoyed my time there – but
first came compulsory national
service. I decided to get my military
service out of the way, and go
to Stellenbosch University. I then
completed a teacher’s diploma at
UCT, which required me to teach
at Wynberg Boys’ High School for
a year to pay off my bursary from
the Department of Education.
That’s when fate intervened.
I met a young lady who was
completing an internship at Groote
Schuur, before moving to New York
to do a medical fellowship at
Columbia University. She invited
me to join her, promising that
when we completed our studies
we’d return to Cape Town and
live happily ever after. That was
1982. She finished her fellowship,
decided to stay in America, and
moved to Pittsburgh to do her
registrarship. After completing my
master’s at Columbia University,
I then headed to Pittsburgh to bid
her a fond farewell and return
to Cape Town, where I had been
offered a job at Pick n Pay.
The day after arriving
in Pittsburgh, my girlfriend,
unbeknownst to me, responded
on my behalf to an advertisement
in the local newspaper for an
opening at a local school. They
wanted someone to teach Latin
and English. I reluctantly went
to the interview, was offered the
job and received a promise from
the school that they would apply
for my green card if I accepted.
I jumped at the opportunity, as
it gave me more options, and
for the next seven years I was
the Latin and English teacher at
a government high school I had
never heard of before in a country
where I didn’t want to live.
As it turned out, I loved my years
as a teacher. In hindsight, it was
the perfect environment in which
to learn the American culture
through the eyes of enthusiastic
youngsters. When I eventually
received my green card, I decided
to continue teaching for the five
years needed before I was eligible
for US citizenship – another way
to keep my options open. Soon
after, my South African girlfriend
and I went our separate ways, and
in order to fill my evenings while
single and teaching, I applied to
and was accepted at a local law
school. For the next four years
I attended night classes – five
nights a week, three hours a night
Looking preppy: Zandy (right) with
twin brother Nicky, mother Noelle and
grandmother René Ahrenson (founder
of Maynardville Open Air Theatre),
circa Standard 4, 1967.
– all the while fully intending
to return to Cape Town to work
for Pick n Pay.
By now I had learnt to respect
the hand of fate, and a few days
before the final exam of my final
year at law school, it led me to
a lovely young fellow student in
the law library. Our first date was
dinner with Wendy and Raymond
Ackerman (1948S), who had flown
to Pittsburgh for my graduation.
I asked Raymond for his advice.
“Stay in Pittsburgh, work as a
lawyer, build a nest egg, see what
happens with this young lady,” he
told me. “And if things don’t work
out with her and you want to
return to South Africa, there
will be a job for you.” The rest is
history. I married the lady I met in
the library, stayed in Pittsburgh to
practise law, and today Susan and
I have two wonderful children.

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