Spotlight: The Path to the Front

Sam Cooley ’49 and grandson George Cooley ’14 reunite at reunion

Bryan Geary


“There he is!” shouts Sam Cooley ’49. His face breaks into a smile, as he points out a young man in a red St. Paul’s crew hat making his way up the steps. It is his grandson, George Cooley ’14, who is back in Millville to celebrate his five-year reunion. They embrace in a warm hug. Sam Cooley has seen two sons and six grandchildren graduate from SPS, but has never been on the same reunion cycle with one of them.

“I knew it instantly,” he says of the realization that his grandson’s reunion would align with his own. “It makes it more special for me, I’ll tell you that.” Sam Cooley is a regular at his reunions. In fact, he’s only missed one in the 50 years since he graduated from SPS. He makes the trip up from Florida with his wife of 66 years, Trig, and does it with a smile because he loves St. Paul’s School.

“I’ve been very happy here,” he says. Over time, Sam Cooley’s place in the annual Alumni Parade has slowly crept toward the front, so much so that the leader of this year’s parade – from the Form of 1939 – is only 10 years and a few dozen people ahead of him. All the while, one of his favorite people in the world is suddenly walking the same route Sam has so many times over the years, starting his own journey to the front. Standing on the Chapel terrace on Saturday morning of Anniversary Weekend, Sam and George Cooley talk about returning to SPS together. Their time at the School was more than 60 years apart. Sam Cooley remembers attending Chapel every day during the week and twice on Sundays. But there are some things that time doesn’t change.

“The community and the fact that mornings still begin by singing the same songs in Chapel,” says George Cooley. “Those things mean a lot to you when you come back.” George and his grandfather agree that what makes St. Paul’s special is that, while their experiences may have looked and felt different on the surface, many of the same elements still pull them back to Millville.

“Even though there are all these events scheduled, all anyone really wants to do is just hang out and explore the campus,” George says. “Going to the docks or the boathouses and just seeing campus again – that’s how we had fun while we were all here together.” After more stories and more hugs, the Cooleys move to take their places in the Parade line. George Cooley is in the back of the line now but, thanks to his grandfather, he knows the path to get to the front.

“This School has meant a lot to me over the years,” says Sam Cooley. “You never get tired of coming back. And that’s what I want to tell George – come back as often as you can. Don’t forget your formmates or your school.”

St Paul's School