Milwaukee Teacher Still Lecturing at 90

Video | January 20, 2017

Wisconsin Public Television

If you choose a job you love, some people believe you’ll never work a day in your life. Ed Drexler teaches genetics at Pius XI High School in Milwaukee. More than 75 years ago, during his 8th grade graduation, Pius chose him.

“The 8th grade sister said one of you is getting a scholarship tonight at graduation from Pius XI High School,” Drexler says, “The night of graduation they call my name off for the scholarship, which paid a full tuition, which was $50.”

Drexler graduated from Pius in 1944. After two years in the Navy he went to college at UW-Madison, where he majored in education. In 1950, he returned to Pius to attend a school play. During a conversation with the head sister, Pius chose Drexler again.

“I said well I’m looking for a teaching job,” Drexler recalls, “She said ‘Why don’t you teach here?’”

Now 90 years old, Drexler still teaches class three times a week. Generations of families have passed through his classroom. 1976 graduate Tracy Mazzeo fondly remembers Drexler for his calm demeanor.

“I think a meteor could hit Pius High School and Ed would walk in and say ‘Okay, let’s take care of the kids,’” Mazzeo quipped.

Spend a few hours at Pius and Drexler’s impact is obvious. The school’s main office bears his name. He still serves as a student advisor and organizes the graduation ceremony every year. The only thing Drexler hasn’t done is retire.

“I liked it. I enjoyed being here,” Drexler says, “There was no reason for me to retire.”

Drexler acknowledges that one day soon he may have to leave the lectern behind. He has no plans to fully retire though. He says even if he stops teaching, he’ll find other ways to serve the school. No matter what happens, Drexler claims he’s yet to work a day in his life.

“I go to school,” Drexler says,” I’ve never referred to what I do as going to work. I’m going to school.”

Drexler’s given thousands of lessons, but there’s one he hopes his students always remember.

“Love is the willingness to extend oneself for the benefit of another,” Drexler says, “If they accept that idea, that they’re in the world to do things for others, and not expecting to be rewarded for it necessarily, we’ve accomplished something.”

Tags: Ed Drexler / Pius High School / Pius XI / Milwaukee / teacher

Trevor Keller is a reporter for the “Wisconsin Life” project who loves photography and is always looking for a new Wisconsin park, trail or scenic overlook to explore.