When John G. Avildsen ’51 sat down with Head of School Jody Soja for a Q&A session after the screening of his film, Rocky, he automatically started rearranging the microphone to a better position on the stage, making sure the scene was properly set. Then he held up his iPhone to capture a quick video of the moment, the assembly hall audience in his frame. It was a charming snippet of what it must be like to witness the Academy Award-winning director at work. In fact “always working” and “a video camera practically glued to his hand” are common refrains from many of the actors he has worked with over the years–Sylvester Stalone, Jack Lemmon, Susan Sarandon, and Burt Reynolds, to name a few.

Besides stopping by his old alma mater, IMS, which he claims is the only school he graduated from, he was also in town for a private screening of the upcoming documentary about his life and career, John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs (2016). The film’s director, Derek Wayne Johnson, joined Avildsen at both screenings, as did John’s partner Janny Ock and his son Jonathan Avildsen.

John answered questions about his experiences in the film industry and also about his days at IMS. He shared that “of all the schools I went to, I enjoyed Indian Mountain the most. Without a doubt. The teachers were great. I played hockey on the pond and used the mountain to ski. The big field was beautiful to play football and baseball. I started studying Latin here. That was one of the best things that I did. Mr. Shutte was our Latin teacher. You know Latin is the basis for so much of our language. That was one of my favorite subjects. I had a great time.”

When asked what advice he had for our students, John was quick to respond. “Keep a diary. Nobody ever said, gee I wish I hadn’t written down all these things in this diary. You will look back through the pages in years to come and cherish those memories.”

He added, “This time that you have is a very unique time. The only thing you have to do right now is to learn stuff. The more you learn, the richer you will be as a person. The more things you know, the more you will appreciate. The effort you put in pays off down the road. Take advantage of this time and learn stuff!”

It was terrific to have John back on campus again. The last time he came was in 2006 for his reunion and to help IMS launch its film program. We look forward to hosting him again in the near future. Be sure to check out the documentary about his life of film, John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs, when it airs later this year.