Dancing at the Castle

While coming to work and enjoying the beautiful campus that surrounds us, it is almost impossible not to think of the Castle, above all this summer with the construction of the new wing almost completed. Due to the nature of my work, I find myself often speculating about the days gone by. How was life in the Castle when the Nickerson family lived there, and what about those first decades of the school in Dedham?

Most often than in the most recent decades, the smaller size of the schools allowed the Castle to be used for student events.  Proms used to be held at the castle, as were school dances through the year.

Last week, I came across a picture of such a dance, date unknown, but I would date it somewhere between late thirties, early forties.  As always, when I look at old pictures, my mind fills with questions.  Who are the young men and women enjoying themselves in the festive evening of long ago? What happened to them? Where are they now?

Dancing at the Castle. Date unknown.

From the wrist of every girl, a little dance card swings away. Dance card…  a convention long lost… when a young man would ask in advance a young woman to reserve a specific dance for him and, if she accepted, she would write his name on her card.

In the School Notes of the Nobleman of March 1935, we learn of the upcoming April dance and are informed that “for the benefits of those who do not know, the dance is open to members of the First and Second classes, and to lettermen of the Third.”

The Foxtrot was definitely the dance of choice!

Posted in Campus Buildings, Castle, Student Activities | Leave a comment

The Case of the Missing Clock

Surprises and the chance of solving “mysteries” are some of the advantages of working at the Archives.

When I get to work in the morning, I cannot help but think that maybe it will be the day when I will find somewhere a picture of the class of 1867, or I will discover a book with John Kennedy’s grades, when he attended Nobles Lower School, in 1925.

Realistically, most days do not bring such treasures, but when I do come across a “treasure,” it usually keeps my curiosity engaged for a long time. Quite a while ago, I was checking out a scrapbook. The original owner of the book is unknown and there are no dates to help along, but I would place it somewhere in the late ’70s. There were a few pictures particularly intriguing, showing men on the flat bed of a truck, unloading stones?! A caption said “Stones and clock from Volkmann School Building.”

The clock looks both beautiful and of large proportions, not an item for a mantelpiece, but for the side of a building. I have worked at Noble and Greenough since the late ’70s, so why have I never seen it?

Asking around brought a possible answer and another picture.

Mark Harrington, who has been here even longer than I, revealed that sometime in the ’80s, a student had come across the broken marble still showing the “Fortiter Fideliter” motto and had taken a photo for one of Mr. Swayze’s photo classes.

The question remains: what has happened to the clock?

Posted in Joseph Swayze, Mark Harrington, Volkmann School | 2 Comments

The Day Is Here

One year ago… the Class of 2011 gets ready for the Graduation Ceremony

On June 1st, 2012, the 146th class of Noble and Greenough School (The Class of 2012) will graduate. I often wonder about that first graduation, in June of 1867. Was there a special ceremony for the seven graduating students, or did they simply get congratulations and a handshake from Mr. Noble? We know their names, but we do not know their faces.  No pictures remain of those days.

Graduation has become an important celebration in the life of a Nobles student, a participatory event for students, teachers and families. Through the years, traditions have been made, some have been left behind with the changing times, other have been transformed, several continue.

“Hail to Nobles,” the song written by Francis Hatch (a graduate of the Volkmann Class of 1915**) was still played at last year’s graduation.

Up to 1990, the day was called Prize Day since prizes were awarded for academic and athletic achievements. In 1991, Mr. Baker, Head of School at the time, decided to redirect the attention from individual accomplishments to the collective purpose of the graduating class. Awards Night was created to honor individual achievements. Six major awards are still given out at the event that has been called  “Graduation Day” since 1991.

The Award for Academic Excellence, given out at graduation, is named after Edward S. Gleason, the fourth Nobles Head of School. Mr. Gleason had a major impact on the way the ceremony looks now.  In 1975, planning for the first Graduation with female students, Mr. and Mrs. Gleason came up with the idea of white dresses and a garland of flowers for the girls, so to complement the blue blazer with white pants worn by Nobles boys for years.

David Roane speaking at the 2008 Graduation

It was also Mr. Gleason’s idea to have the First Class choose a faculty member as the main speaker of the day.  He believed that the words of a person who had known the graduating students for years would have far more of an impact than the words of a stranger.

Mr. Nickerson congratulates a student at the 2009 Graduation

Many graduates remember fondly the walk after the ceremony, shaking hands and exchanging embraces with the faculty lined up to congratulate the graduating class. The Faculty  Receiving Line was another tradition established by Mr. Gleason.

Congratulations to the Class of 2012!

** The Volkmann School was an independent school that merged with Noble and Greenough in 1917. The graduates from Volkmann School have been considered Nobles graduates since then. After the merger, most of Volkmann graduates participated actively in the life of Noble and Greenough School.

Posted in David Roane, Edward S. Gleason, Nobles Graduation, Nobles Traditions, Prize Day, Richard (Nick) Nickerson, Richard Baker | 1 Comment

It all started in 1913….

It was the last week of school of the Academic Year 1912-13.

Volume 1

A small volume was distributed to the students. A new publication had been born:  the Class Book. The book, with a blue cover and the name of the school embossed in gold letters, was dedicated to George W.C. Noble, who had completed his 47th year as founder, headmaster and teacher. It chronicled the activities and events of the students of the Class of 1913.

From then on, every year, the graduating class created a new Class Book. The cover and the format of the volumes remained unchanged until 1943, when different covers and formats began to appear.

In 1968, the Class Book was renamed Yearbook, possibly to reflect a changing emphasis from the history of a class to the chronicles of an academic year.

Through one hundred years, the publication has reflected the mood of society and of the school community.  While glancing through the pages of past volumes, it is possible to catch a glimpse of the hopes, dreams and vitality of the young boys and girls who have attended Noble and Greenough School.

Volume 100

This week, the 100th volume of the Yearbook will be released.

Its pages are filled with pictures of the students and events of the Academic Year 2012-13. Just as the pioneer book of 1913, the 2012 Yearbook will become a repository of the school history, a volume to treasure and peruse through the years.

Posted in Class Book, Nobles Class of 1913, Nobles Class of 2012, Nobles Student Publications, Yearbook | Leave a comment

Wedding Bells at Nobles

Over the course of 146 years, Noble and Greenough has been the “school” for thousands of young men and women. During Reunion weekend, and many other times during the year, graduates return briefly to capture again the feeling of being back on familiar ground.

Sometimes it is easy to forget that the grounds of Noble and Greenough have been home (literally) to many families that have lived on campus, since the move of the school to Dedham, in 1922.

I came across this picture in one of the many stacks of unidentified photos. At first I was wondering who was the couple. It did not take me too long to recognize Eliot T. Putnam and Laura Wiggins on their wedding day, clearly standing somewhere on the Nobles grounds.

Eliot T. Putnam began teaching French and Latin in 1930, right after graduating from Harvard University. In 1931, he began coaching football and hockey.  At the time, the Headmaster was Charles Wiggins.

In 1938, a young Eliot married Laura, Mr. Wiggins’ daughter.

In 1943, Eliot T. Putnam became the third Headmaster of Noble and Greenough School. Up to his retirement in 1971, he was loved, respected and admired by his students and his colleagues,

Laura too was a beloved and recognized figure on campus. During those years, faculty wives fulfilled a nurturing and supporting role.  During the years from 1952 to 1961, Laura, a graduate of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts taught Art: the first female teacher since the closing of Nobles Lower School.

Eliot and Laura Putnam are an intrinsical part of Nobles history .

Posted in Charles WIggins, Eliot T. Putnam, Eliot T. Putnam, Laura W. Putnam, Nobles Faculty, Nobles Head of School | Leave a comment

In search of a building….

What I love most in my job is coming across intriguing “finds” which excite my curiosity and usually send me searching through books, magazines, journals and web sites.

Today I came across a picture of a building, with no date and no explanation of what it was and where it could be found. I couldn’t place it, and yet it looked familiar. It was the sweep of the road that called to me, evoked a memory.

I went back to Richard Flood’s “The Story of Noble and Greenough School”, and indeed I came across the picture of the original barn of the Riverdale Estate, which was “used from 1922-1930 as Nobles Gymnasium.”

the Barn, as it appeared when the School purchased the Riverdale Estate from the Nickerson Family.

When I compared the two pictures, I could see that the building was the same, with a few alterations. Now I could recognize also the structure on the left: the Boat House, which was originally built in 1924. This is the picture of Nobles original “Athletic Center”!

In 1930, one end of the old barn was torn down and a new brick gymnasium began to be built. Construction took over six years to be completed and for years the edifice was a mixture of bricks and wood, but in 1937 the last wooden section disappeared and the brick building, later on known as the “Old Gym” after completion of the Richardson Gymnasium in 1964, stood there for many years.

Both the Old Gym and the Richardson Gymnasium are incorporated in the Morrison Athletic Center (most often referred to as the MAC) which extends over the area where, once, Model A Ford cars parked.

The Archives Office is located temporarily in what still exists of the Old Gym. Now I know why the road looked familiar: I drive over it in the morning to reach my office.

Posted in Athletic Facilities, Campus Buildings, Nickerson Family, Riverdale Estate | Leave a comment

Morning Assembly in 1947

Sixty five years ago, morning assemblies were very different events from the ones taking place currently in Lawrence Auditorium.

The students, properly attired as the dress code required, sat in the space known currently as Gleason Hall to hear Mr. Putnam read favorite passages. One of the favorite morning readings was the poem “Casey At The Bat” which the Headmaster would read, in his own particular style, each spring.

On Reunion week-end (May 11 to May 13, 2012), several members of the Class of 1947 will be on campus to recapture and share the memories.

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As the Archivist of the School, one of my favorite tasks is to prepare exhibits that emphasize interesting aspects of our past or present.The exhibits are showcased in the Schmid Lobby, right across from the Admission Office.

 The current display calls attention to the development of technology at Noble and Greenough School.

From the first instruction classes in 1969 to the present use of the most up to date tools, the Computer Department (currently known as ISS) has been integrating a wide range of technology into the School’s rigorous academic environment.

Teachers and students are encouraged to explore the many ways in which technology can enrich and assist the learning experience.

Nobles uses a unique program called the Academic Technology Advocates (ATA), teachers who are assigned to assist and train other teachers so that they can better integrate the available technology into the educational process.

To  know more about Nobles  progress through the decades, stop by the exhibit case.

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Spring Crew – 1974

These high waters would serve today’s crew teams well; the lack of rain has made navigating the Charles very challenging this season.

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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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