School Spotlight - David Benjamin

Author David Benjamin, with copies of his books and the literary magazine "The Id," in a hallway at LaFollette High School on Dec. 7. Benjamin is establishing a scholarship to remember his friend and fellow La Follette alumnus Bob Schuster, who started "The Id" at La Follette. The annual scholarship will be awarded for the best essays, short stories, short plays or speeches submitted by La Follette juniors and seniors.

ANDY MANIS, FOR THE STATE JOURNAL

Bob Schuster, a 1966 graduate of La Follette High School who started a literary magazine when he was a student, is being remembered with a scholarship in his name.

The Robert M. Schuster Short Prose Award will be given annually to winners of a themed writing competition.

It will be awarded for the first time this year on behalf of Peggy Benjamin from the Class of 1966. It is being administered by her brother, David Benjamin, who graduated in 1967 and contributed to Schuster’s magazine, “The Id.”

David Benjamin came up with the idea after his sister left him some money when she died in April 2016 and then Bob died that September of leukemia.

“I said to my wife, ‘Let’s do something that fulfills the spirit of Bob and his friendship with Peggy and also does something for the school they both graduated from,’” David Benjamin said.

In addition, David Benjamin, a Madison author who also has worked as a journalist, credits Schuster with not only changing his life, but defining it by giving him his first audience. David Benjamin has written several books including “The Life and Times of the Last Kid Picked,” published by Random House in 2002 and “SUMO: The Thinking Fan’s Guide to Japan’s National Sport.”

“Bob Schuster was the literary wellspring of LaFollette High School,” Benjamin said. “By starting The Id, he gave a forum to every aspiring author and poet in the school.”

In 1964, Schuster launched SRTB Ketchachokee Publications to start the literary magazine to be written by and distributed to students at LaFollette High School. It predated the creation of an official school-sponsored literary magazine at the school. The publishing “company” contained some initials from his name and those of his friends and collaborators — Tom Sundal (Class of 1966), Scott Rothney (1967) and David Benjamin (1967).

The first issue was printed on a hectograph machine and released in small numbers in fall 1964. Subsequent runs of The Id were produced on a mimeograph-type machine that Schuster obtained and totaled about 100 issues. It cost a quarter and always sold out.

Between 1964 and Schuster’s graduation in 1966, six issues of The Id were published. Students would read the magazine from cover to cover and it became “kind of a subculture at La Follette,” David Benjamin said.

Kathy Schuster, who was married to Bob for 44 years and still lives in their home in Fairwater, said she met him after high school. He counted many as his friends but was a humble and very unassuming person, she said.

“He would be just amazed, just overwhelmed that someone would think that much of him to do that,” she said about the scholarship, to which she also contributed.

La Follette juniors and seniors can compete this year by submitting a piece of original short prose — an essay, short story, short play or speech up to 2,500 words — this spring. This year’s theme is “I Have a Dream.” The winner will receive a $3,000 award, with $1,000 for a runner-up.

La Follette principal Sean Storch, a former English teacher and 1996 La Follette graduate, said the award also honors the legacy of the school’s namesake, Robert La Follette, who was an orator and writer. Storch said it will encourage, inspire and support students who dream of writing and being published.

“This will really target kids who aren’t supported and don’t have that voice right now,” he said.

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