97-year-old teacher returns to UT Lab School to recreate class photo

Phyllis Richards' first class of 1948 (Courtesy: UT Austin)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — This is a story that gives true meaning to the popular term #FlashbackFriday.

Dr. Phyllis Richards, 97, paid a visit to the University of Texas Lab School to see how much has changed, and to take a trip down memory lane.

She taught hundreds of students, both preschool and college-age, at the lab from 1948 to 1987. It is one of the oldest operating lab schools in the United States where children and university students can learn from each other.

While walking through the halls looking at old black and white photos hanging on the wall, she pointed out children she remembers.

“There’s Artie Frankel,” said Richards who taught in a two-story house where the lab was once located.

She spotted another black and white photo of her standing next to several children on tricycles.

“They went on to do great things, which is what we do at UT right?”

“That tells you what year it was, the length of my skirt for instance,” said Richards with a laugh. Even though styles have changed, Richards’ passion for teaching is still relevant today. “Striking sparks in people, finding what turns them on to learn and grow.”

Her very first class of preschool students are pictured in a photo taken around Christmastime in 1948. The students are now in their 70s.

A handful of them met at the lab Friday, including Bill Raschke, a chemist who flew in from San Diego. He started attending the lab when he was only 2 years old. His father was an accountant for UT sororities and fraternities, and his mother was a teacher in the Austin Independent School District.

“I remember quite vividly the clock tower bonging from those days,” said Raschke. “It was quite loud. We were right underneath it.”

The goal of Friday’s reunion was to recreate the class photo. This time they gathered on a different staircase.

“Ben you’re up next, and then Paquita,” said one of the ladies who was helping arrange everyone in the correct order while referencing the old picture.

The group tries to get together four times a year for lunch, and Richards invites her former students to her home for a Christmas meal. She is still a proud teacher 69 years later.

“They went on to do great things, which is what we do at UT right?” said Richards.

The top photo was taken in 1948 of UT Lab School leader Phyllis Richards and her preschool class. Below: Now those preschool classmates, currently in their early 70s, and Richards, a 97-year-old professor emerita, are having a reunion this. (bottom photo courtesy: Christian Benavides)
The top photo was taken in 1948 of UT Lab School leader Phyllis Richards and her preschool class. Below: Now those preschool classmates, currently in their early 70s, and Richards, a 97-year-old professor emerita, are having a reunion this. (bottom photo courtesy: Christian Benavides)

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