WAYLAND — After 40 years the Wayland Class of 1977 got to visit with their Swedish exchange student Mats Nermark.
Nermark sat down with Genesee Country Express at the Wayland Historical Society Aug. 4 to reflect on his time here, and what it has meant to him all these years.
Roy and Marilyn Robinson of Wayland hosted Nermark of Sweden in 1977 when he came to America for the first time as an 18-year-old student. Todd, Roy, Tom, and Kurt Robinson were like brothers to Nermark, and he has kept in touch with all of them. Todd sadly passed away, and he was the one who was in classes with Nermark.
Nermark has two sons, Jonas, 25, and Christoffer, 23, with his wife, Inger. Youth For Understanding Program helped him get a second family in America as a foreign exchange student at Wayland High School.
“I was placed in the ‘good group’ when I came here, and I thought ‘how can I possibly fit in,” he said. “We learned British English in Sweden, so the other kids teased me for that. It was all in good nature. I never felt bullied when I was here.”
There were a couple of teachers that really inspired Nermark to become a teacher himself. His English teacher, Margaret Hargreaves and his Music teacher, James Houser.
“My grandfather started a good business in Sweden, and I thought I would end up doing that, but my teachers inspired me to be a teacher,” he said. “I enjoyed music all of my life. I became a English Teacher and studied music as well. With music it doesn’t matter your religion, age, gender, or education. All that matters is the passion that comes from it.”
Nermark has been involved with music for decades, and had a trip to Nashville, TN after the 40th Class Reunion.
“I am in the pictures with all of her (Marilyn's) kids, and I feel like a true member of the family,” he said. “When I moved in with the Robinson family we hit it off from the start. They are a warm open-hearted and very trustworthy family.”
Nermark has been back eight times since he graduated in Wayland, but this will be his first class reunion. He recalls bringing his sons here, and they loved seeing where their father got his inspiration.
“My main motivation here was the show the good teachers that they mattered to me,” he said. “I had many good teachers here.”
Nermark said he feels like he was truly born in 1977 when he came to America.
“Being here had such an impact on my life,” he said. “How will any of this survive is no one is here to teach it. In America you can be whatever you want to be. In Sweden it is very strict, and you do whatever your parents did. The sense of being what I wanted to be saved me.”
His journey through music has taken him all over the world, and he even records his own music. Nermark visits Los Angeles every year, and he visits the same clothes store. He visits the Muslim man who owns it, and will talk to him for hours while he is there. To Nermark this is what it means to be human.
Nermark said that he has always felt a strong connection to Wayland.
“I was on Facebook when I heard about the reunion coming up,” he said. “I was let into the group about six months ago, and I wanted to go to the reunion.”
The Class of 1977 had their 40th Class Reunion at the Wayland American Legion on Aug. 5. Nermark wanted to get back in touch with his teachers and let them know how good his life is because of them.