“If you went to Cranbrook,” said a classmate, Peter “the Bird” Werbel. “You were creme de la creme.”
The Romney children walked under arches reading “A Life Without Beauty Is Only Half Lived”; past a field overlooked by Greek-style sculptures where the Detroit Lions practiced; and then a statuette of the school’s symbol, the archer from Book V of Virgil’s “Aeneid,” who “aimed an arrow high.” (In the mug honoring Romney’s Class of 1965, a naked woman replaced the aiming archer.) They looked out of leaded-glass windows in the academic buildings, crossed the spruce-spotted quad lined with modernist fountains and sleek statues of coursing hounds. They studied in reading rooms featuring frescoes and marble friezes. In the chandeliered dining room, students waited on fellow students and sat on straight-backed spindle chairs bearing the school’s insignia of a proud crane. After dinner, they wiped their mouths with cloth napkins.
Mitt Romney appeared on the Fox News Radio show “Kilmeade and Friends” and addressed The Washington Post article about pranks he played during his years at the Cranbrook Schools in Michigan.
Mitt Romney, responding to a Washington Post article, said he was sorry for high school pranks that “might have gone too far.”
As a student at a chaotic time for the Mormon school, he focused on family and his church.
Friends say the fun, affable man they know hasn’t appeared on the campaign trail — perhaps because he’s trying too hard.
In 1959, Mitt Romney enrolled at Cranbrook as a 12-year-old seventh-grader.
For the most part, the school broke down along the usual lines of jocks and brains, popular kids and introverts, all trained with the expectation of joining the next generation’s elite. The students gave one another chummy nicknames. There was Moonie and Butch, the Kraut and Flip. Romney, his name short to begin with, was playfully teased with chants of Wiiillard, Wiiillard by his friends.
Ron Sill, a Romney classmate especially attuned to the counterculture of the 1960s, rolled his eyes at the dance instruction and lessons on how to hold a teacup and properly shake a man’s hand. He preferred to listen to folk music in the coffee shops of neighboring Birmingham. Taro Yamasaki, the son of the architect of the World Trade Center and several Bloomfield Hills houses, then went by the name Michael and encountered what he called a “veiled racism.” “I was a linebacker in football,” said Yamasaki, who went on to become a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer. “And the coaches would call me Kamikaze.” Sidney Barthwell, the son of a prominent Detroit pharmacist, was the only African American student in Romney’s class from the seventh through 12th grades. Now a Detroit magistrate, he said he tried to introduce some west Detroit swagger to the school, but it was, he said, “pretty Republican and pretty WASP-y.”
There was a significant Jewish contingent, and several of those students said they never sensed any obvious prejudice. During Romney’s tenure, there were also Middle Eastern exchange students, usually from Kuwait.
Abdulhadi M. al-Awadi, a Kuwaiti student, had fond memories of the school and the respect and special attention he received from teachers. He recalled Romney as the “son of Governor Romney” who was “very sociable.” When some students put up pictures of Israeli statesman David Ben-Gurion in the hallway near his room, he did not believe it was meant intentionally to offend him, but he was bothered by it. “It’s human nature. But they did it. That’s their right.”