MEET MEMBER LARRY SCHWIRIAN: Drawing on Experience

MEET MEMBER LARRY SCHWIRIAN: DRAWING ON EXPERIENCE

Larry
Member and Writer Larry Schwirian

I was born and raised in a small town on the Monongahela River south of Pittsburgh, the second of five children. I guess you could say my father was a small business person–he owned a milk hauling route, picking up raw milk from farmers and hauling it to a dairy. As cows give milk twice every day, this was a 365-day a year job, so we never took family vacations. Still, he managed to serve on the town council for over thirty years and twice served as mayor of the town. When my mother was fifteen, her mother died, and she became surrogate mother to her six younger siblings. So, I grew up with not only an older brother and three younger sisters but with sixteen girl cousins who all lived within walking distance. Our house was where everyone congregated for morning coffee, gossip, and news analysis.

At eighteen, I went off to Case Institute of Technology to study engineering but decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, so I transferred to Western Reserve to study architecture. It was there that I met my wife Caroline. A year after graduation from Case Western Reserve University, we were married, and a year after that, we moved to the Boston area, working as architectural novices in large firms in Cambridge. Very soon after that, the first of our three sons was born, and a few years after that, we moved into our historic home in the Auburndale section of Newton.

Over the next forty plus years, I worked for a number of large firms in the area and eventually became a project manager and/or a project architect. I had the opportunity to work on projects all over the country in addition to doing local projects like the Harvard Square Subway Station, The Wang Ambulatory Care Center at Mass General Hospital, Josiah Quincy Elementary School in Chinatown, the addition to the old Ritz Carlton Hotel in Boston, and One Newton Place in Newton Corner.

In 2010, Caroline and I retired from our positions in large firms, and in 2011, we established our own firm, Caroline & Lawrence Schwirian, Architects LLC.  We still do some residential work, and I still do some technical consulting with larger firms, but for the most part, we have enjoyed retirement, watching our grandchildren grow, and trying to keep up with gardening, yard work, and house maintenance.

In the fall of 2015, we joined BOLLI, and, for the first term, just attended the Lunch & Learns. I also participated in the Sages & Seekers program and joined the BOLLI Writers Guild. For the second term, I signed up for Betsy Campbell’s “Five Stories in Five Weeks” writing class, Peter Carcia’s “The Art of Storytelling” class, Mary Ann Byrnes’  “The Elephant in the Room” class about metaphors, and Larry Koff’s class on “The Death and Life of Cities and Towns in Metro Boston.”  I enjoyed all the classes, but I especially relished the opportunity to refine my writing and storytelling skills.

Here is one of the nonfiction pieces Larry has done as a participant in the BOLLI Writers Guild.

GIFTED OR TALENTED

(In Response to the Prompt: “What a Remarkable Gift”)

What is the difference between being “gifted” and being “talented?” Although there are no generally agreed upon definitions for these two words, they are similar in meaning but are generally used in different ways.  The term “gifted” is most often, but not always, used in conjunction with intellectual ability and implies an innate quality. In many school placement decisions, individuals with IQ scores above 130 (the upper 2% on the bell curve) are generally classified as being “gifted.”  While a person’s IQ may or may not be a true measure of intelligence, it at least measures some innate ability. The term “talented” is most often used to describe someone with an acquired ability to perform significantly above the norm in any one of many different endeavors, including but not limited to music, art, food preparation, or athletics but typically not intellectual pursuits. A person becomes “talented” after much hard work and practice.

I am aware of no numerical scale that can be used to evaluate “talent” in music other than the number of records or albums sold by an artist, but it would be unfair and foolhardy to compare the “talent” of a classical violinist to a pop singer by this method. Similarly, there is no logical way to numerically evaluate a painter, a sculptor, or a chef.   Sports may be the exception.   In baseball, for example, the batting or earned run average can be used to evaluate a player’s performance.   In football, a quarterback can be evaluated based upon the percentage of passes completed, touchdown passes thrown, or number of games won, but you can’t really evaluate the “talent” of a defensive lineman by comparing it to the “talent” of a running back or quarterback.

Using the above meanings, it is possible to be “gifted” without being “talented” and “talented” without being “gifted.”   It is also possible to be both “gifted and talented,” which is probably the case for most people who rise to the very top in their respective vocations. It could be said that people like Madonna and Shakira are both “intellectually gifted” and “musically gifted” as well as being “talented.”   Many people would agree that Elvis Presley was “musically gifted” and “talented” but not “intellectually gifted.”  Many who don’t make it quite to the top can be very “talented” but not necessarily “gifted.”  Similarly, most lists don’t include Sharon Stone as being among the one hundred most “talented” actresses, but I have read that she has a nearly genius IQ of over 150.

While it appears there is at least some standard way to evaluate whether a person is “intellectually gifted,” there is no universally accepted, objective way to evaluate and compare the “talent” of two or more individuals.  One would have to say then that “giftedness” is innate, but “talent” is in the eye, ear, nose, or taste buds of the beholder.

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2 thoughts on “MEET MEMBER LARRY SCHWIRIAN: Drawing on Experience”

  1. Hi Larry. I, too, came to BOLLI in the Fall of 2015, but without the years of being a Bostonite that you and your wife have. I, too, lived and worked in and around Pittsburgh and was wondering what little town south of PB that you grew up in. The one I know best is Keyser, WV. Now that I know what you look like, I will keep an eye out for you. Perhaps in some of the courses in the fall. Looking forward to seeing you.

    1. Hi Sue,

      I grew up in Elizabeth on the east bank of the Monongahela River about 18 miles south of Pittsburgh and the most southern town in Allegheny County. My brother, three sisters their children and numerous nieces and nephews with their children still live in and around Elizabeth.
      Looking forward to meeting you.
      Larry S.

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