Alumni Spotlight – Chris Ballard ’91

In early February, Chris, along with five other alumni, took the stage for the Literary Festival Alumni Panel and shared his experiences at Sports Illustrated with current MA students.

You were recently back on campus for Lit Fest.  Tell us about that experience.

It was a little surreal.  There was Jim Baldwin, seemingly ageless.  And the same campus I remembered, only now all the buildings are larger and far more impressive-looking. I was part of a panel of writers, a diverse mix that included a “steampunk” novelist and a sardonic music critic. The student crowd was remarkably attentive, especially considering it was a Friday afternoon. I hope we were able to pass along some wisdom.

Who from MA made the most significant impact on who you have become as an adult (classmate, teacher, etc.)?

That’s tough. Professionally, it was Timi Shays (Workman), who recruited me to help start the MA Voice and then gave our staff a crash course in journalism. Spiritually, it was James Shipman, whose world view shaped me in ways I’m still realizing. And finally basketball coach Larry Fulton, who took a bunch of soft suburban kids such as myself and gave us a much-needed kick in the ass.

Looking back on the classes that you took at MA, which one had the greatest impact on you and why?

There were plenty, but probably those of John Hicks. Not that I remember all that much from Chemistry – my fault, not his – but all those afternoons frantically transcribing his chalkboard notes, deathly afraid that if I didn’t I’d fail the test, had a profound impact. He taught me how to be organized, and how to outline, and how to be attentive. Those are lessons that serve you well no matter what you do or where you end up.

Describe your perfect day.

My two daughters both sleep until 8 AM.

If you were to re-enroll at Marin Academy, what would you do differently the second time around?

Honestly, I don’t know. I had a wonderful experience. I suppose I wish I’d spent less time worrying about all the social stuff and more time on the rest of it, but that’s hard for 16-year-olds to do. If anything I’d love to go back to that time – the mountain biking trips in Death Valley, the Vision Quest trip, soccer practice with Jerry “You meese von-hundred percent of zee shots you do not take” Fleischacker, listening to pre-Stroke 9 John and Luke & co. play “This is the MA Band as We Know It (and We Feel Fine),” and parties at Stacey Keegan’s beach house.  Those were great times.

Chris’ fourth novel,  One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, An Unlikely Coach and a Magical Baseball Season, comes out in May.

Interested in being in the spotlight?  Send me an email!

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