Founders’ Week kicked off on Monday, May 21 with a first-of-its-kind assembly dedicated to MCS Founder Gus Trowbridge. Students, faculty and staff gathered in the gym for a tribute to Gus and his wife, Marty Trowbridge, and the school they founded. Marty was a special guest at the event, accompanied by daughters Katharine Trowbridge Carroll and Mary Trowbridge (MCS’ Lower School Director). The sixth-graders, who were at the Farm that week, participated via Zoom video conference.
The assembly began with everyone singing “This Little Light of Mine,” one of Gus’ favorite songs. Excerpts from his book, Begin With a Dream: How a Private School With a Public Mission Changed the Politics of Race, Class, and Gender in American Education, were read by members of the MCS community. G. Angela Henry—a former MCS board chair; daughter of Carl Flemister, MCS' founding board chair; and aunt of an MCS alumna—read a section of the book that described the inspiration for the school. She also recited the Langston Hughes poem “Freedom’s Plow,” which illustrates the concept of a “community of hands,” which Gus and Marty said was critical to building MCS.
Movement Teacher Jermaine Lloyd and Seventh- and Eighth-Grade English Teacher Tom Grattan read a section from the book that explained how the name Manhattan Country School was chosen. Long-time MCS faculty member and administrator Cynthia Rogers shared a piece about the day MCS opened (September 21, 1966).
Lois Gelernt, a former MCS teacher and administrator, shared her memories of learning about MCS when she was a young parent. Laura Swindler, one of our 6-7s teachers, reflected on Gus’ visits to her class. An avid philatelist, Gus taught the children about stamp collecting and even gave the students stamps to start their own collections. Ed Fersch, a member of the MCS Farm staff, told the story of an exchange between Gus and then Farm Director Walter Meade. While food was grown and raised at the Farm, Gus wanted Walter to understand that MCS’ most important product was the children they sent out into the world. (You can view Ed’s remarks in the video below.)
Music is an important component of MCS assemblies and this assembly was no different. In addition to “This Little Light of Mine,” students, faculty and staff sang “Dona Nobis Pacem,” another of Gus’ favorites. A third selection, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody,” was chosen because it was a core song of the Civil Rights Movement, which was a source of inspiration for Gus and Marty in starting MCS.
The assembly concluded with a special presentation to the Trowbridge family: 1,000 origami cranes—a symbol of hope and healing in Japanese culture—made by members of our school community.
Founders’ Week wrapped on Friday, May 25 with Founders’ Day—a day off for students, teachers and staff. Closing the school on the Friday before Memorial Day is a long-running tradition at MCS, one that occurred well before the observance received the official title of Founders’ Day.
Every May, Gus and Marty looked forward to preparing the garden at their summer home in Maine. Marty would begin growing seedlings in their Harlem apartment and then the two of them, their children Katharine, Stephen and Mary, and their dog would pile into their station wagon and head north to plant them. To ensure they were able to do this every year, they closed school the Friday before Memorial Day, which, with the Monday holiday, allowed ample time away for gardening.
Today, in addition to having some time off, Founders’ Day is an opportunity for the MCS community to reflect upon and celebrate what has blossomed from the seeds Gus and Marty planted when they created a school grounded in progressive education; committed to diversity, sustainability and activism; and skilled in developing critical thinkers and changemakers who are inspired to make the world a better place.