“We were a huge success, it just blew up. We went from making $30,000 in our first month in October 1985, and by Christmas the next year we were making $1 million a month,” said Skip Lovelady, Integrated and Honors Biomedical Science teacher at Redwood.
According to Lovelady, his life prior to teaching was unconventional. Caught up in the restaurant industry for 32 years, he didn’t attend college until 11 years after high school. Lovelady rarely had a full time job, but was very successful in the professional aspect of the restaurant business. He was Vice President and Director of Operations of a company called Super Shuttle, while owning an upscale restaurant in San Francisco. Going to college at Dominican is what ultimately led Lovelady to his teaching career at Redwood.
“My apartment in San Francisco in 1985 was $400-$500 a month, and I was making more than that a night in the restaurant business,” Lovelady said.
After working for many years in the restaurant business he eventually became disinterested in the daily repetition of cooking. To enliven his experience, Lovelady educated himself on details of the menu to present to customers. He loved having intimate knowledge of the food.
“I had much more fun explaining the food and selling the food and making them feel like they had a waiter who was just as knowledgeable as any chef would be,” Lovelady said.
Lovelady worked at an upscale restaurant in San Francisco on Bush and Octavia street called Robert’s and eventually was offered to run a business called Super Shuttle. Before taking the offer, he ended up making enough money to purchase Robert’s while still working for Super Shuttle.
“These guys who were opening Super Shuttle came to my restaurant and convinced me to run the company,” Lovelady said. His commission evolved from thousands of dollars to $1 million a month.
Lovelady’s involvement in the restaurant industry carried on for many years, which he said became exhausting. The constant requests for catering at parties got completely out of control. Overwhelmed by many customer requests, Lovelady decided to cut back on the exhausting work. Lovelady’s apartment at the time had a view of the UCSF Medical Center, which inspired him to pursue another passion: medicine. After running Super Shuttle, Lovelady was determined to become a doctor. He hadn’t even gone to college.
“My wife and I were having dinner one night and I said, ‘I think I want to become a doctor.’ And she said, ‘I think you have to go to medical school for that’ and I said, ‘Well actually I think I need to go to college first,” Lovelady said.
Lovelady started the pre-med program at Dominican at 32-years-old, moving to Marin in his sophomore year of college. After long school days, he would commute to the city about five nights a week to wait tables, still managing to
make valedictorian his senior year of college. When Lovelady graduated, he spontaneously decided to pursue education after a change of heart. He went to see the head of the education department at Dominican to see what it would take to apply and be accepted.
“The staff of the education department laughed at me. They tried to talk me out of going into teaching, saying, ‘You’ve worked too hard, you’ve done too many things, you need to go make use of your life’ and I fought through that and I stayed,” Lovelady said.
However, becoming a teacher at Redwood proved to be very challenging, according to Lovelady. He was just learning how to navigate teaching. Knowing that he was a ‘rough’ teacher, Lovelady saw potential for the future. He eventually learned that he enjoyed teaching students, had a knack for writing curriculum and liked the co-workers.
“It took me five or six years until I was fully convinced that I would start a school year and say, I’ll be back next year. Prior to that, all year long I would tell people ‘I don’t know if I’m coming back next year.’ Every summer I would think about it, but now I have 24 years of teaching here at Redwood,” Lovelady said.
Lovelady’s experiences teaching have kept him returning after every summer, despite the challenges. According to Lovelady, he has built his own community at Redwood. Lovelady created Honors Biomedical Science, a college level class and one of his many accomplishments. But above the homework, grades and attendance, Lovelady prioritizes his students’ citizenship when it comes to teaching.
“Nowadays I still cater occasionally, mostly for charity dinners. I probably have seven or eight more years here at Redwood, so I may do something in the restaurant business again as time goes on,” Lovelady said.