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William "Bill" Marty Fitz-Gibbon

Below is an excerpt from an email sent July 21, 2012 to Sorel Fitz-Gibbon, "Fitz's" daughter.

(IHP is the acronym for "Individualized Honors Program" founded by "Fitz" in 1971.  See below "Los Angeles Daily News" article, June 22, 2003.)


"I have not met 'Fitz'--- as everyone seems to refer to him and I hope is okay for me to as well---but my family is about to benefit in huge ways from his legacy.  Josie enters IHP at Walter Reed this fall.

"We thought of Fitz this morning, and the amazing opportunity he has created for some rather avid learners over these last 30 or 40 years.  We were at a picnic to meet Josie's future classmates.

"Thank you, Fitz!"

2012 IHP Students
Walter Reed Middle School
Los Angeles, California


"I am passing along this photo and this tiny, tiny video  in hopes that you might still have the opportunity to share them with your father.

"The message is simple---the kids are shouting it:

"Thank you, Fitz!

"Your incoming IHP class sends you warm greetings and all best wishes, with much gratitude and admiration.

"They plan to make the most of what you created."


Sunday, June 22, 2003


Teacher who turned school into mecca for geniuses to retire

By Dana Bartholomew
Staff Writer

NORTH HOLLYWOOD -- The question would flummox most college graduates: What are the fundamental laws of thermodynamics?

But when posed by maverick teacher William Fitz-Gibbon to his class of eighth-grade physics students at Walter Reed Middle School -- the nation's only known middle school with an Advanced Placement physics course -- almost every hand shot up.

"To not know the second law of thermodynamics for physics is not to know Shakespeare if you're studying English," the pedagogue informed his students.

Master AP physics, chemistry and biology, he advised, and "that will put you in an elite group in this country; even senators -- you'll know more than they do."

Fitz-Gibbon, who in 1971 founded the Individualized Honors Program at Walter Reed that spawned gifted studies programs beyond grade school throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District, will be feted today by officials and students during a "Farewell to Fitz" bash.

The science-and-math whiz who led math teams from Walter Reed -- and California -- to numerous top awards will officially retire June 30.

"Fitz, as he is fondly known, was one of the first who understood that highly gifted students are overlooked in our schools," said Alvaro Cortes, LAUSD director of support services for Northeast Valley schools in District B. "He has worked tirelessly in assisting (them).

"He will be sorely missed by the community."

Fitz-Gibbon almost missed teaching. The Ohio native with an IQ of 180 was a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he spent a summer in Louisiana searching for oil.

It soon dawned that he could contribute more to the world by cultivating young minds than squeezing oil from the bayou.

As a teacher, Fitz-Gibbon saw bright students -- including his own gifted children -- go unchallenged, he said. After he helped launch a gifted elementary program, he found there was middle school to follow up. So he founded IHP, turning Walter Reed into a citywide mecca -- and teaching model -- for budding geniuses.

"He takes 'em beyond places they've never been -- it's unbelievable," said Vice Principal Paul J. Scibetta, director of the 200-student Walter Reed AP program. "He lets kids know that there's nothing they can't handle, and they all rise to his levels of expectation."

The chiseled Ph.D scholar sat before his physics class, beside a wall of ancient radiators, gushing fundamental foundations of the universe. His collar lay unbuttoned, his shirttail ballooned untucked. His hands, when not scribbling physical platitudes, swirled to make his point.

Students engaged, and responded, to every Fitz formula, every Fitz smile, to every Fitz request as inscribed on a needlepoint in the back of the class: "More work, less talk."

For Fitz demanded thought.

"Really, the kids enjoy doing what they're doing," he said later. "Why can't they enjoy studying physics as much as playing video games? Is it right to let these kids move ahead? I feel strongly, yes. These kids, when they grow up, they'll give back much more to society than they've been given."

Students, bored in mainstream classes, seemed to agree.

"Fitz is the coolest guy," said Jesse O'Connell, 14, of North Hollywood, who like many of Fitz-Gibbon's students received extra tutoring at his Brentwood home on Saturdays and Sundays.

"I'm not the best math student, but he's really helped me out in physics."

Each day, Erich Sorger, 12, of Beverly Hills, joins other advanced students from the Westside in a 45-minute taxi shuttle to Walter Reed.

"He's a different kind of teacher," said Sorger. "He really motivates us -- maybe I'll become a physicist, too."

Added Lauren Kim, 13, of Studio City: "He is sooo devoted and committed to the cause. His basic mentality is, he could have had such a better job, he could have been a nuclear physicist, but he chose to be a teacher.  "I feel grateful."



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