It’s not his height, his beard or his “elfin face” that make Dick Hemann stand out, said United Educators of San Francisco President Dennis Kelly. It’s his jokes. 

“They teetered on the edge of wholly inappropriate and were often interrupted by Dick’s laugh, yet we all waited for them,” Kelly said when introducing Hemann, the recipient of this year’s Ben Rust Award, which is the union’s highest honor given to a member for his or her commitment and involvement in education and the union movement.

After noting he came from a long line of union printers and carpenters, Hemann talked about how his manager at his first job out of high school — selling Fuller brushes — gave him some good advice that he later applied to union work: to remember the law of averages would be on your side as long as you were persistent and kept knocking on doors. 

During Hemann’s 20 years as a high school English teacher, he was told to shave off his beard; a teacher was fired for wearing a miniskirt; and an administrator told him he needed to censure satirical stories for the school paper he advised such as one a student wrote about a wagon train throwing the schoolmarm to the wolves. He refused. 

Hemann, a field representative for CFT for 18 years, spoke about his pride in having worked with his CFT colleagues, but also called out certain “pigheaded administrators” for getting him involved in school politics. “So thank you, you boorish dumpkopfs,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

He summed up lessons learned, like this: Remember the law of averages, don’t wear a miniskirt or a beard, and stay away from wagon trains. As promised (or threatened), he closed with a pretty terrible pun that went like this: He called the Marriott to see if they could make eggs Benedict for breakfast, but they told him they didn’t have enough Buick hubcabs. Why would they need those? Here he channeled Perry Como and crooned to the tune of “Home for the Holidays” “There’s nothing like chrome for the hollandaise.” Bada bing, bada boom.

>Learn more about Hemann’s life in the union and the CFT Ben Rust Award