WorldStrides is celebrating 50 years as the leader in student travel by sharing the stories that have shaped our company’s past and will propel us into the future. Throughout the year, we will highlight stories from our history, many of the people who have made us what we are today, and some of the special ways travelers have been impacted by their experiences in our blog series, 50 Years of WorldStrides Stories.
WorldStrides’ on-site coordinator Dick Mann has spent his life traveling. He grew up exploring the country by train, visiting family and friends during the summer. As a Chicago-area science teacher, he took students to Washington, D.C., with WorldStrides. His first program was in 1970.
“Phil Wendell was actually my account rep,” he says. “I think it was ’75 or ‘76 when they asked if I would be interested in doing [onsite coordinating]. Originally, I worked down in Williamsburg. Then, I went up to D.C. I’ve been there ever since. Sometimes I work in New York, sometimes Gettysburg, but 99 percent of the time I’ve been in D.C.”
Mann made a connection with William “Fishbait” Miller, House Doorkeeper of the U.S. House of Representatives, which allowed him to get his students onto the floor for a memorable experience.
“He came in with I think Roosevelt and went out with Clinton,” Mann says. “He would put my kids through a mock join session of congress. There would be all of these kids running around on the floor and the people up in the gallery would wonder what is going on. Those students all remember it. When they watch the State of the Union Address, they know each part, each seat. I think that was a real high point for the kids later on in life, realizing what they experienced.”
Over the course of Mann’s time as an on-site coordinator, he has attended six presidential inaugurations, beginning with Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration in 1981. He and two co-workers were in charge of the Illinois Republican Delegation.
“We were included into all kinds of things as far as the inauguration was concerned,” he recalls. “We went to receptions and on the morning of the inauguration, we met several senators and had reserved seats for the swearing in, the parade. It was a great psychological high.”
Another memorable inauguration was Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. “It was just the size of the crowd. For that many people, it was completely peaceful. There was a certain energy in the crowd that was particularly great.”
Mann strongly believes that travel is essential. “You learn by experiencing things. I have two daughters and we traveled during the summer all the time. Those trips would unintentionally develop them. With my youngest daughter, a history instructor in high school said he asked the class a question and when he looked at her, it was like she was opening a file cabinet in her head and pulling out experiences.”
When one of his daughters approached her parents about studying abroad, they didn’t hesitate to agree. “We’re willing to invest in experiences, not things, because they become part of you,” he says. “That’s the whole thing with travel. My wife and I have been fortunate to travel around the world. It’s like a huge file cabinet in my head of the places I’ve seen and the things I’ve learned.”
While Mann is gearing up to return to Washington, D.C., for a busy spring of helping WorldStrides travelers have the best trip ever, he’s also got one eye on his own travel itinerary.
“I have a bucket list that is very long,” he says. “There’s no way I’m going to get to all of it, but I’m going to try.”