As the country mourns the death of former President George H.W. Bush, a local educator is looking back at a letter the former commander in chief once wrote to Sherman students. Bush, who served as president from 1989 through 1993, passed away Friday in Houston at the age of 94 following a fight with Parkinson’s disease.

As part of a project aimed at studying and setting goals, Bush wrote to students at Piner Middle School in the mid 1980s, when he was vice president, about the traits that made him successful.

“It was early in my own life that I decided my primary goal would be that whatever job I was given, whatever the circumstances I found myself in, I would try to do my best,” Bush wrote in 1983. “The rewards were invaluable. I strongly recommend this as a successful goal for your young people.”

Former Piner Middle School Principal Jack Noble said the project started in 1980 as a way to encourage students to set goals going into a new decade. As part of the project, Noble said students nominated people they felt were successful to reach out to for comment on the project.

Noble said many of the students nominated celebrities, athletes and musicians. However Bush, who served as vice president under President Ronald Reagan, was also included on the list of individuals the students felt were successful.

“He was probably the most committed to answering the question in a helpful way than anyone else was,” Noble said.

The letters were sent out over a period of years, with several celebrities responding. In addition to Bush, Noble said he received responses from several people associated with the Dallas Cowboys, including Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett and Tom Landry, and actor Tom Selleck, among others.

Noble said Bush responded to the letter in late 1983, and it was received in early 1984. Noble said Bush’s response was longer than most, and was arguably the best of the letters he received.

“Full attention and obedience to situations, both good and bad, has without exception produced important benefits,” Bush wrote in the letter date Dec. 28, 1983. “We learn from each of our experiences, and the more we put in, the more we get out. Each of us is called to special gifts or jobs, but all of us are called to excellence. It is vital that we teach integrity, industry and humility to our youth. Each job, as every person, deserves respect and commitment.”

While many of the responses carried themes of perseverance, Noble said Bush’s focus on humility stood in contrast to many of the other responses.

“That (teaching humility) probably isn’t happening as much as it should,” Noble said.