School ties

A retired teacher recently received a letter delivered to a Virginia high school for him more than 50 years ago — then reunited with the student who wrote it.

In 1967, Henry Wheeler was an engineering drawing instructor at Douglas Freeman High School in Richmond when Jerry Williams, a former student serving in the Air Force, mailed him a letter.

Williams was requesting a character reference after learning he needed the recommendation to date students attending a private women’s college near his Biloxi, MS, base.

The letter was delivered on time but it apparently became lost at the school, where it was recently discovered. Another teacher then brought the unopened envelope bearing an 8-cent airmail stamp to Wheeler.

“I don’t know where it was or where it was found,” said Wheeler, now 88. “I’m guessing it was stuck in a file cabinet.”

He shared the letter with a social group of former Freeman High teachers and students. One of the members contacted Bill Lohmann, a columnist with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, who found Williams’ contact information online and gave it to Wheeler.

“Henry felt terrible he’d let this guy down,” said Lohmann.

Williams, now 71, said it “boggled my imagination” that Wheeler found him after so many years and relocations.

“When Mr. Wheeler left the message, I caught his voice right away. I remembered it — and I graduated in 1966,” said Williams.

Lohmann covered the pair’s January reunion for a story that was published in both the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Biloxi Sun Herald.

“We made each other remember things the other had forgotten — where some people ended up, how times have changed since then,” said Williams.

When Wheeler didn’t respond to the letter in 1967, Williams forgot about it. While he never got that date he wanted, he eventually married and had a telecommunications career with the Virginia State Police.

In addition to underscoring the enduring importance of mail — and journalism — the coverage of the reunion has prompted other former students to contact Wheeler.

“I’ve received about seven letters since the story [came out],” said Wheeler, who keeps in touch with many of his former pupils. “I worked with my students like they were adults, I never used the word ‘kids.’”

Said Williams: “We all looked up to Mr. Wheeler. He was interested in the students and the school. He has set a good example for all of us.”

Racing report

Postal Service employees have raised more than $368 million in estimated annualized revenue for the organization since the Race for a $Billion campaign began last fall.

The initiative calls on employees to submit $1 billion in sales leads during the current fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1, 2019-Sept. 30, 2020.

The Small Business Sales team is spearheading the campaign and producing a weekly ranking of the 67 USPS districts.

The most recent ranking, released Feb. 20, shows that some of the top districts include San Diego, where employees have submitted leads that will generate $18.2 million in estimated annualized postal revenue; Rio Grande ($13.9 million); and Dallas ($11.8 million).

“This campaign is off to a great start, but we have a long way to go,” said Mary Anderson, small-business engagement director at USPS headquarters in Washington, DC. “We’re calling on every employee to do his or her part and submit at least one sales lead before the end of this fiscal year.”

Sales leads can come from virtually anywhere — a new restaurant in town, a home-based business owner who uses a USPS competitor to ship his or her products, or a shopkeeper seeking new ways to advertise his or her wares.

Employees who spot these kinds of opportunities can use one of five programs to submit the lead: Customer Connect (for letter carriers), Clerks Care (for distribution clerks, machine clerks and retail associates), Mail Handlers (for mail handlers), Rural Reach (for rural carriers) and Submit a Lead (for everyone else, including Executive and Administrative Schedule employees).

The Sales Blue page has more information about each lead generation program, including instructions on participating, as well as the latest district rankings.

“I’m always looking out for my customers,” said Tara Bird, a Clinton-Macomb, MI, rural carrier who recently submitted a lead through Rural Reach.

“I want [my customers] to be successful. That’s my motivation.”

Higher learning

Rasmussen College is offering a 20 percent tuition grant to Postal Service employees seeking to start, resume or finish their education.

The grant is also available to employees’ spouses and dependent children.

Rasmussen, based in Bloomington, MN, offers more than 50 certificates; diplomas; and associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Fields of study include business, technology, education, design, justice studies, nursing and health sciences.

The college has 24 campuses across the nation and offers many programs online.

For more information, go to Rasmussen.edu/usps. Current Rasmussen students who wish to take advantage of the discount should contact a student adviser.

The Postal Service’s Employee Deals LiteBlue page has information about other higher education opportunities available to USPS employees.