Updating Sun Magazine cover stories from the past couple of years

SECOND LOOKS

January 01, 1995|By PHILIP HOSMER

Everything starts over on New Year's Day. It's a milestone, a time to both reflect on the past and ponder the future. It's a time for taking stock of our lives and perhaps for charting a new course. For many of us, New Year's Day represents hope.

The following people were all profiled in Sun Magazine in the past three years. Though their stories were diverse, a sense of hope permeated them all, a sense of the human spirit surviving.

Today is a good day to revisit these people, to see where their lives have taken them, to see if they are on the way to realizing their hopes and dreams.

Redmond Finney

True to form, Redmond Finney has plunged headlong into this retirement thing. After 49 years at Gilman School, he put himself out to pasture. Literally.

There's 190 acres of pasture, to be exact. And 350 Black Angus cattle. And 27 horses. And a pair of dogs. And, of course, a lot of work to be done.

At 6 a.m. every day, Mr. Finney puts on a pair of brown boots and slogs down to the stable on his farm in Upperco to feed and water the horses.

"They're waiting for me every day; they're glad to see me," he says. "Relating to a horse is one of the most exhilarating and meaningful experiences you can have. Their mind is like a computer. They remember good experiences. And they communicate nonverbally.

"Horses are similar to kids," he continues. "If you believe in them and trust them and show them you care, kids give you back one hundredfold and try their guts out for you. A horse will do the same."

By all accounts, Mr. Finney tried his guts out for the students at Gilman in his 14 years there as a teacher and athletic coach and 24 years as headmaster. In the latter role, he was largely responsible for Gilman's transformation from a stuffy, mostly white private institution into a progressive, diverse school with a 30 percent minority enrollment.

Sun Magazine wrote of Mr. Finney's long tenure at the North Baltimore boys' school on April 5, 1992, as he was preparing for his retirement two months away. He had decided to leave Gilman cold turkey to pursue a childhood dream -- raising horses.

"I've left one immersion and gone into another immersion," is how he puts his life after retirement.

On a typical day, he may cut deals with prospective buyers of his Thoroughbreds, shop his horses at auctions across the state, spend hours riding and training, or scout the area looking for horses to purchase. Oh yes, he also grows vegetables.

He and his wife, Jean, live in a restored farmhouse on the property. In the hallway of the Finneys' home are pictures from his 49 years at Gilman (he started there as a student). The pictures are vintage Redmond Finney: He's with students, and everyone is beaming and full of prep-school spirit and promise. The pictures seem like they're from another lifetime, far removed from the rolling hills and hay-filled stables of Mr. Finney's new home.

The former headmaster doesn't get down to Gilman very often these days. Not even to sporting events, which were his consuming passion.

"I don't want to be a thorn in anyone's side," he says ruefully. "I don't miss the administrative aspect of it, but I do miss the kids."

One suspects that as Redmond Finney is riding through the green fields surrounding his farm, fond memories of those students drift into his head.

Not that he's got a lot of time to reminisce. After all, he's got 350 head of cattle. And 27 horses.

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