By Jonah Ruddock
Philip Baillargeon showed up to our interview in one of his trademark flannels. “My favorite author would probably be Kurt Vonnegut,” he shared as I fumbled with various Zoom settings. “Cat’s Cradle is my favorite book… just the biting commentary on our scientific world, while also not being overly cocky or self-centered about it. I think it’s incredible.” This is a sentiment that I couldn’t help relating to as I spoke with him. Philip is a remarkable member of our school. An accomplished trumpet player, editor-in-chief of newspaper, president of wind ensemble, and host of The Bonfire, he is undoubtedly a force to behold–but, like Vonnegut, he remains humble. I was overwhelmed by his patience and friendliness during our conversation.
The pandemic era has been difficult for many, but Philip didn’t seem too devastated to be spending his senior year online. He mentioned putting together the play last year before the COVID outbreak and expressed that the absence of one this year was alright, “because we put on a really good show last year. If you’re living in the moment, you won’t have any regrets because you’ll know you did the best you could when you had the chance.” Although he admits it’s something he struggles with, living in the moment is something he tries to emphasize. He also mentioned that he’s been running his own Dungeons and Dragons game for the past six months, and his involvement in various clubs has no doubt kept him busy. In fact, it can easily become too much, but he says the key to balancing extracurriculars and rigorous academics is mindset. The trick is treating clubs as what they are. “You can take agency over them. If you say, I chose to do this, I chose to be here, then they’re not going to be tiring. They’re going to be energizing.” Clubs are supposed to be fun, and while, especially in past years, it can be easy for this to get lost amidst the sometimes grueling hours of stage crew rehearsals or early morning jazz band practices, remembering it can do wonders for your outlook.
A lot of Philip’s approach to life seems to have been cemented the summer after freshman year, a time he described as a turning point for him. After a year of challenging academics, he took some time to figure out who he wanted to be and what he wanted to do. It was then that he decided to teach– a job he’s aptly suited for. “I love helping people pursue what they’re passionate about. It’s my favorite thing in every club I’ve been a part of, and I’ve been around the horn. I’ve done stage crew, wind ensemble, newspaper, NHS. My favorite part about all of those things is helping the people that, you know, maybe stage crew is their only club. Helping them be successful. Maybe newspaper is the only thing they enjoy coming to school to do– helping them become a better writer, and seeing that improvement across all these different disciplines, is definitely my favorite part about being involved in all these different clubs… Leadership is about learning what not to do. It’s about letting people be successful in their own way,” he said. He’s going to Stanford in the fall for computer science and hopes to one day teach at the higher level and do research. (People may have been mistaking Philip for a senior for years, but this time it’s for real. He is actually leaving.)
He shared that his older brother, currently a sophomore in college, is one of his biggest role models. Watching him overcome the obstacles in his life has made him determined to do the same. “He’s had to persevere through so much. He’s on the autism spectrum. I’ve really taken to heart that if he can persevere and use his unique mindset to create some wonderful things, I have no excuse not to work just as hard.”
Many in the East community would say his hard work has paid off. Colleen Meosky said of him, “Philip has always been an outstanding editor-in-chief, always available for any questions or to fix any last minute issues. His energy is apparent, even through Zooms, with the newspaper and jazz ensemble, and I wish him all the best at Stanford.”
“He’s an amazing person,” Dr. Shewan said. “He’s the president of wind ensemble and he has insight and wisdom way beyond his years. He has a huge heart and always puts others first. Simply put, he’s a remarkably wonderful young man. When I grow up, I want to be like Philip… Truly a remarkable student, but more importantly, a remarkable human being.”
Full disclosure, I know he’s become one of my role models in the past few years, and it’s safe to assume he’ll go on to have that effect on many others. He has a lot to teach the world. He put it like this:
“It’s about being the kindest person you can, being the most diligent person you can be, and just trusting in the future and enjoying the moment while it’s here.”