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  • Ingrid Nilsson

Life Lessons from Mr. Sam Durham

“A lot of the things that are electrical problems, they can also be mechanical problems,” says Mr. Sam Durham. “I mean, everything is tied into each other. Like how the door closers work. That’s mechanical, but it’s also hydraulic. So you have to know all the little things, like how the pressure on the inside works with the arms swinging. A problem could be with either one of those.”

Mr. Durham has worked at Athens Academy as the maintenance technician since 2013 while pursuing a degree in geology at UNG. Next year, he will transfer to Georgia Southern to complete his bachelor's degree. Before coming to Athens Academy, Mr. Durham worked in the marine corps in supplies for four years. His diverse experiences have provided him with a unique and broad skills set and a thoughtful, singular vision of the inter-relatedness of human life. “Humans by nature we are the most adaptable species out there. We’ve adjusted ourselves to different environments we are just naturally disposed to, and that’s the kind of thing I’d like to see more. Students and teachers and everybody will gravitate towards filling a certain niche, when really, you’re capable of so much more. You should never sell yourself as just being able to do one thing when you can do anything.”

Because his mother taught art at Athens Academy, Mr. Durham often spent parts of his breaks enjoying the campus. He remembers when the school was half the size of what it is today. Mr. Durham appreciates his close relationships with his parents and brothers, and makes a point of maintaining relationships with his extended family as well. “There’s about 200 of us all together, and family history and oral tradition was always very important to us. All of us could go onto stories about everybody since we actually came over.”

Whether it’s the connection of the past and present of family life, the nexus of an individual’s academic course load, or the interrelation of the physical world, Mr. Durham celebrates the interdependence of life. “That’s the big thing about school that y’all are going to be realizing really fast. Your science classes, your math classes, your history classes, all of them tie into each other. I mean right now everything’s compartmentalized but y’all are going to get outside and realize that you’re going to have to use something you learned in math to help you solve a science problem.”

Special thanks to Ms. Kate Towery for sharing Sam Durham’s yearbook photo.