SPS Today: Recognizing Tradition

Alumni sacrifices remembered on Memorial Day at SPS

Jeffrey Selesnick

2019 Mem Day.jpg

Spring at SPS is largely a time of celebration; a joyous sequence of events that reaches a crescendo at Anniversary Weekend and Graduation. There is a brief pause in the levity every May, when Chapel is held on the steps of Sheldon and community members gather for a poignant Memorial Day ceremony. A tradition that dates back to 1906, the service pays tribute to those who served, and informs the School’s current occupants of the role former St. Paul’s School students played in major conflicts.

“The solemnity of this SPS tradition,” said Interim Rector Amy Richards, “serves to remind all of us of the sacrifices previous generations have made on our behalf.” The centerpiece of the ceremony is the Spanish-American War monument, dedicated on June 6, 1906, during the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the School. The piece is a tribute to SPS alumni who lost their lives during the conflict, including Hamilton Fish, Jr. (Form of 1890), the first American casualty of the war. Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt visited the School shortly after the dedication of the statue to express his admiration for Fish and the five other SPS graduates who served in his regiment. The bronze figure at the top is a soldier, described by August Heckscher in A Brief History of St. Paul’s School as “… at ease but tense, committed but with an air of youthful insouciance. It seemed a perfect tribute, and typified the attitude toward war of that innocent generation.”

This year’s Memorial service began with Sixth Form President Estela Lacombe França ’19 leading the crowd in “America the Beautiful,” before reciting the Gettysburg Address. Per tradition, the youngest student at the School then laid a wreath at the base of the monument, and onlookers stood at attention while Richards read the names of those SPS alumni who lost their lives in battle. The list began with William Hall Turner (Form of 1861), the only known SPS alumni casualty of the Civil War, and continued through the Vietnam War. Following a rendition of “Taps,” students and faculty proceeded to classrooms to start their days, having taken a collective pause to honor and appreciate those who gave their lives in service to this country.

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