ST. PAUL'S: The Life of a New England School by August Heckscher

ST. PAUL'S: The Life of a New England School

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Heralding St. Paul's 125th anniversary, former New York City Parks Commissioner August Heckscher offers an affectionate and sprightly history of his alma mater (commissioned by the trustees), peopled with Louis Auchincloss sorts. Since its founding near Concord, New Hampshire, by physician George Shattuck, the Episcopal prep school has had eight rectors, and Heckscher's account is largely structured by their tenures. The first, Henry Augst Coit, came without any salary agreement, even borrowing $300 from the Board (to be repaid within one year) in order to get things started. The students, who rose at five a.m. for prayers, shared a house with the Coit and Shattuck families; Mrs. Coit cooked; and the rector conducted a semi-annual catechism where he grilled the students and exhibited ""his almost awful righteousness"" (according to a successor). Next came Joseph Coit (Henry's brother); Henry Ferguson; Samuel Drury, who treated new boys to a fall picnic and his specialty--eggs, bacon, and potatoes fried ""vigorously"" over a campfire; theologian Norman Nash, known as ""Norman the Doorman"" for his ability to terminate interviews; Henry Kittridge; Matthew Warren, who hired the first black master in 1956 (John Walker, now Bishop of Washington, D.C.), enrolled the first black students, and presided over the Sixties' drug problems and rebellion; and current rector William Oates, first to preside over a coed St. Paul's. Heckscher's access to school archives fills his narrative with details of building programs and charitable projects; two fires and a scarlet fever epidemic; the war years; administrative struggles; interesting board members (Richard Henry Dana and Samuel Eliot Morison) and famous alumni (John Lindsay and Owen Wister); and traditions--Heckscher says ""jogging"" may have originated at St. Paul's as the ""Thanksgiving Crawl"" in the Forties. Plenty here to please reminiscent alumns, with enough charm for non-preppies as well.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Scribners