By Kaitlyn Chan & Herman Peng, Editors-in-Chiefs
The school year seemed to begin as every year at Mills begins, the tantalizing last moments of summer vacation drawing to a close as we all made our way on board the Viking ship. However, this time around, the Viking ship unfortunately kicked off its yearly voyage without the guidance of a crucial member – Dean Tim Christian.
“I did not choose the war,” Dean Christian told The Thunderbolt in a recent email exchange. “ [but] I do have to fight the battle.”
“I did not choose the war, I do have to fight the battle.”
Around mid-September, Dean Christian announced to the Mills community that he was diagnosed with Germ Cell cancer. With the discovery of a tumor above his kidney, he was forced to take off the fall semester in order to receive chemotherapy treatment at Mills Peninsula Hospital.
Although Dean Christian does not sugarcoat his words when describing his battle against cancer, he counters every mention of fallen out hair and arms poked sore by IV drips with his trademark spirit, expressing thankfulness for every small victory made possible by the support of caring doctors, modern medicine, and – most moving of all – the love shown to him by the Mills Community.
“I have really been touched by the Mills kids who have emailed me or when they have seen me gave me a hug,” he explains. “The staff at Mills has been awesome! They have really rallied to help me and my family stay in the game.”
“I have really been touched by the Mills kids who have emailed me or when they have seen me gave me a hug. The staff at Mills has been awesome! They have really rallied to help me and my family stay in the game.”
Dean Christian points to the individual acts of love the people of Mills have shown him, and cites them as an inspiring source of strength. In particular, he gives gracious thanks to Mills teachers Margaret Peel and Nils Headley. While Dean Christian has been receiving treatment at Mills Peninsula, Ms. Peel organized a faculty-wide program for staff to contribute months of prepared meals, the products of which Mr. Headley dutifully delivers to Dean Christian’s home. When discussing the Mills community reaching out to do their best in helping him, he simply states, “This is a village coming together.”
Despite the challenges he faces, Dean Christian takes a positive outlook on his experiences, explaining that “with so much to live for, I suck it up each day and thank the cosmos for letting me stand and celebrate small victories.” Furthermore, he frames having cancer as “a new lense on a wonderful world of groovy details that makes me appreciate the opportunity to do my thing, in the time I have, with really neat people.”
Dean Christian’s seizing of opportunity is undeniably present in the passion he has for Mills students. “Being able to teach at a great school with nice kids who care about themselves and others makes me proud,” he elaborates. “I love being a part of the Mills community.”
“I love being a part of the Mills community.”
His love for Mills has undoubtedly shown, as well as his goal to ensure that the community is the best it can be. Over his past ten years at Mills, he has developed a method of helping students through the experience of high school. “I had to master a process that guided students to understand how to better play the game of school.” Even if it included the tough act as the Dean, his mission was always to let every single Viking know that they belong and can succeed at Mills.
Senior Jocelyn Benjamin exclaims, “Dean Christian is one of the most positive and outgoing people I’ve been lucky enough to get to know. [He] is truly an amazing soul and he has pushed me to do great things in my high school years here at Mills. I greatly appreciate everything he does for this school, as well as each individual student, and I have nothing but love for Dean Christian. We couldn’t thank you enough.”
Reflecting on a more serious point, Dean Christian continues to make it a goal of his to show kids the power of valuing each day. He explains how he hopes students can enjoy living their lives in the present. Rather than solely focusing on achieving for the future, he advises students to slow down and savor the time and opportunities they have.
“Many students are pretty wired tight,” he observes. “Achievement at any cost comes with a price. I want students to be well-rounded. Care about grades, sports, music, food, sleeping, [and] being open to new relationships with others… Let’s spend more time talking in person and less time posting.”
“Let’s spend more time talking in person and less time posting.”
While the process of treatment and recovery is certainly not easy, Dean Christian is not letting his cancer slow him down. He has made numerous visits to Mills since his diagnosis, often bringing coffee to faculty members and catching up with students.
For now, Dean Christian’s position is being covered by Ms. Donna Krauss, coincidentally the dean at Mills prior to Dean Christian’s arrival. When asked her thoughts on Dean Christian’s absence, she replies, “I’m not here to replace Dean Christian, but to be an addition to him. I’m really happy to be back at Mills, and the staff have been very welcoming. I will continue to do the best that I can to ensure that the students remain happy and successful, and I’m only thinking positive thoughts for him and his return to good health.”
Mills teacher Alexandra Dove solidifies that sentiment, saying, “Dean Christian has been an integral part to our Mills community, and his absence is deeply felt. We all wish him nothing but the best.”
With the school waiting for his return to Mills come spring semester, Vikings have been rallying together to show their support for Dean Christian and wish for his recovery. The absence of Dean Christian’s witty comments and sharp fashion sense has created a sense of emptiness at Mills, and students and staff eagerly anticipate his homecoming to fill that void.
As for Dean Christian, our number one cheerleader, he makes a promise to Mills in his typical can-do spirit and gregarious sense of humor.
“I will continue to fight the good fight… and return to Mills in the spring like a cherry blossom after a long, cold winter.”
In the meantime, don’t be a stranger the next time you see Dean Christian, pull out your snazziest tie, and stay classy, Vikings.
Photos: Mills High School Staff