Let Every Man’s Hope Be in Himself

April 25, 2013

The Nobleman issue published at the end of April 1913 opened up with a page added at the last moment: the obituary announcing the death, on April 25, 1913, of James Jay Greenough. Mr. Noble’s partner at the helm of the school had died.


When people think of the school, James Greenough is mostly forgotten, in part because our institution is often referred to by the shorter moniker of “Nobles.”

While George W. C. Noble was the original founder and the man whose vision started the school, James J. Greenough should not be overlooked. In 1892, at a time when the school’s fortunes were in decline and Mr. Noble was aging,  James Greenough offered to step in and revitalize the school.

In a letter to a friend, he wrote:

My idea is that if we get a good location and fit up a building with all that a modern school should be, with some enterprising young blood in it, we can stop this existing decline….”

On September 26, 1892, the school opened with a new name, Noble and Greenough School, and at a new location on Beacon Street.

Richard T. Flood, in his book, The Story of Noble and Greenough School, pointed out thatarchive_1 “Mr. Greenough provided the perfect complement to Mr. Noble…. (Mr. Noble) loved his boys and loved his teaching… but was not a great disciplinarian nor a great administrator…. Mr. Greenough was both. He was a bundle of forceful energy. The boys compared him to a Boston terrier and called him ‘Black Jim’ because of his dark complexion, black hair and bushy mustache.”

James Greenough was an excellent and demanding mathematics and physics teacher. Under his leadership, the curriculum expanded to offer more sciences. By 1897, the faculty included a new chemistry professor, while Mr. Greenough made physics a more challenging course and continued to teach mathematics. German was introduced, in addition to the French courses offered in previous years. Mr. Noble taught his beloved Latin and Greek. English, history and literature completed the curriculum. Faculty 1896

James Greenough encouraged sports and soon the newly organized teams began to win competitions against more experiences school teams. In 1907, Mr. Greenough suggested awarding prizes to the winners of events in the intramural track meet. While considering several sketches, he proposed that a motto be added: Spes Sibi Quisque (“Let every man’s hope be in himself”) from Virgil’s Aeneid.

The motto is used to this day.

shieldJames Greenough was eclectic in his interests that ranged from writing articles on pedagogical subjects to being active in Cambridge Social Dramatic Club.

His role in the development of the school is not as well know or as often mentioned as George W.C. Noble’s, but James Greenough’s contribution to the continued operation and success of the instituiton proved to be just as important, if, unfortunately, of much shorter duration.page 47-sub

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

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