I was Harry Markowitz for a day.
The 1990 Nobel laureate in economics was being honored by Carl Schurz High School, his alma mater, as a distinguished alumnus.
How many high schools can boast of a single Nobel Prize winner among its alumni?
The day I was Harry Markowitz, I discovered Schurz has two. Its wall of fame, which spreads along a first-floor hallway, includes the picture of Vincent du Vigneaud, who received the Nobel for chemistry in 1955.
Nowadays, Schurz shows little evidence for such acclaim.
Situated on the northwest side of Chicago, Schurz is on academic probation, a new designation of the Chicago Board of Education for schools whose students have performed terribly in testing scores.
Bestowed with such a provocative label, Schurz is what one might expect, being in a city whose schools a few years ago were called the worst in the country by a secretary of education.
Mr. Markowitz received his Nobel for his seminal analysis of security selection for an investment portfolio.
But at Schurz, security is a more ominous concern.
The day I was Harry Markowitz - and every day of the week - students and anyone else who enters the building must pass through an arched metal detector, just like the ones at airports. For further security, the Chicago Police Department stations two uniformed officers at the school. In the afternoons, a couple of squad cars are parked out front with their officers monitoring the crush of students streaming out at dismissal.
The school can take pride in its principal and staff and teachers who are trying to return the school to the fine institution it must have been to have graduated students who became such important people. Others among its distinguish alumni include William S. Paley, patriarch of CBS.
The day I was Harry Markowitz, the school was honoring 10 new inductees into the National Honor Society, bringing the total at Schurz to 48, a record for it, a sign one hopes of an academic richness blossoming amid academic probation.
I nominated Mr. Markowitz for the Schurz honor. A tiny notice in a Chicago schools publication announced Schurz was seeking nominations for distinguished alumni. Mr. Markowitz, who lives in San Diego, was traveling to Japan and was unable to attend the induction, so I was asked to receive the Schurz award and make an acceptance speech on his behalf. The day I was Harry Markowitz, few - if any - of the students in the 2,500-seat auditorium probably ever heard of him or his pioneering work of modern portfolio theory.
The induction ceremony was colorful. The high school ROTC color guard led the pledge of allegiance and then the school orchestra played the national anthem, with everyone standing for both with a hand over his or her heart.
At the end of the occasion, Principal Sharon Rae Bender, who mentioned the academic probation in her brief remarks, closed by saying, "God bless you."
God bless Harry Markowitz, too, I might add.