Noble and … who?

It is a typical work day and I am contacting a supplier “Hi, I am Isa Schaff, Archivist of Noble and Greenough School …” We engage in a fruitful conversation that very often ends with “… and the name of your school is Noble and…. Greenboro?” Or Greenblatt, or my personal favorite: Gringo!

Please meet James Jay Greenough, the often forgotten member of a successful partnership.

James Jay Greenough

James Greenough was born in 1861. His father was a renowned professor of Latin at Harvard University, but James Greenough became a mathematician and a scientist. While teaching at Hopkinson’s School (one of the most prestigious schools of the time), he married Katherine Noble, daughter of George W.C. Noble, the founder of Noble’s Classical School.

By all accounts, James Greenough was a man of boundless energy and ideas. Recognizing that Noble’s School had lost some of its luster and was falling behind, he proposed a partnership to his father-in- law. As he wrote in a letter to a friend: “ I went to him and was received with open arms, so to speak. He and I will therefore, start in October, a joint school –Noble and Greenough. …” The year was 1892.

100 Beacon Street

With a move to a new location where ampler space allowed a laboratory, science became part of the curriculum, and the teaching of mathematics was strengthened.  Mr. Greenough revealed himself a great disciplinarian and administrator; he taught mathematics and physics and supported the development of the athletic program. It was also on his suggestion, that the motto “Spes Sibi Quisque” was added to the image of the school shield.

James Greenough was a man of eclectic interests and abilities.  He wrote several articles that were published by The Atlantic Monthly (one of the leading magazines of the time) on such different subjects as “The Basic of Our Educational System” and “The English Question. ” One of his articles on  “The Present Requirements for Admission to Harvard College” (published in May 1892, the same year that he joined Mr. Noble) is still being quoted in a 2010 post on the Harvard Political Review.

 James Greenough was very influential in steering the school out of difficult times into a new era of prosperity. Sadly, he did not live long to see the full results of his efforts. James Jay Greenough died of cancer at the age of 52, in 1913. As the Obituary in the Harvard Crimson noted: “he… was respected and beloved by his many pupils.”

[letter as cited in The Story of Noble and Greenough School by R.T. Flood, 1966]

[photos of James Greenough from the collection of the Greenough Family]

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