1999 former Headmaster Desmond Cole (B.1923 D.2008) delivered to Bruce Sterling this
poignant recollection of excellent teachers and the vitality of
student life at early 1960's EA.
View of Escola Americana, 1960-1964
By Desmond Cole
In 1960 I came to E.A., a raw, arrogant, young Englishman who believed people that told him to give those Americans some DISCIPLINE! I left it four years later greatly impressed with the academic discipline throughout the school; with the unique clubs for sports, entertainment and for community service; and with the glorious happiness which suffused the classrooms from Kindergarten to the mighty Seniors.
Take the faculty for example. In the high school, we had a dozen teachers, four with doctorates, who had served the school for 10-30 years. Who ever had a stricter teacher than Dr. Flarys? Or a kinder one than Dr. Amaral? Or the dry wit with which Dr. Fox sprinkled the abstrusities of mathematics? The warm enthusiasm for everything of that firecracker, Pettinati. The charm and the politesse of Mlle. Vasconcellos. The courtly style and exacting way in which Mrs. Stekly prepped us through Latin verbs, Roman heroes, and Greek gods. The calm nature and the winsome way of Mrs. Domotor. The heroic manner in which Henri Becht showed us every day that fitness mattered. Those irrepressible promoters of bilingual joy, Nadyr Collares, Angela Froes, and Paulina Becher... what a dynamic trio of happy teachers they were! And I bet that dear Rae Boone gets more letters from past students than anyone, she minded about them all.
And the administrators taught as well. The joyous Lucy Rachinsky loved and praised every one of her Lower School children, as did her successor, Barbara Smith, a ball of fire from the Midwest. Freda Skirvin made reading such a joyous activity in the Lower School, too. Didn't we all quiver when Linette Bridge came striding down the hall in Junior High? And when Wayne MacAfee thundered, didn't one feel the righteousness of this profoundly religious man? His successor, the charismatic Gil Brown, was an inspiration for a quarter of a century. Si monumentum requiris, circumspice. ("If you seek his monument, look around you.") He had, of course, the guidance of that heavenly pair, Isabel and Leonor.
Here were academic standards kept up with rigor, personality, and panache. When the 50 members of the Class of 1963 graduated in the garden of the US Embassy, Board members and Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek learnt that some 40 of them were going on to such colleges as Harvard and Yale, Stanford and UCLA, Universidade do Brasil (Fac. de Arquitectura) and PUC. What a class! What teachers! What standards! What a school!
Americans are unique in their cultivation of clubs. Parents bring children up to be unselfish and caring. Schools give them the maximum opportunities to become involved. Community service for all completes the academic program. Students rule and run the clubs. In every grade, they vie for them. Parents are proud of their children. I had never met this educational training for life before. I did now. Best learning experience I ever had.
Leafing through the pages of the 1960-64 Cariocas, I found there were some 30 clubs offered in the school at this time. How many do you remember?
CIVIC -- Student Council, National Honor Society, Welcome Committee, School Spirit Club, Cheerleaders, Pep Club, Assembly Programs, Fire Squad, Electrical Committee, Crossing Guards
PROFESSIONAL -- Carioca, Tatui, Drama Club, Talent Show, Fashion Show, Senior Prom, Glee Club, Dancing Club, Better Business Club, Junior Executive Club (*)
ACADEMIC -- Chess Club, Quiz Team, Trivia Contest, Spelling Bee, Debating Club, Discussion Club, Literary Magazine
SPORTS -- Softball Team, Baseball, Basketball, Volleyball, Golf Club, Judo, Modern Dance
(*) The Junior Executive Club made a mint one summer. They concocted a "Panduiche," added a scoop of Kibon ice cream, and sold them for lunch on the praia de Leblon.
The provision of these clubs gave students a tremendous boost of loyalty, a determination to work for the cause, a lift in self-esteem. Teachers remarked on the psychological value of becoming a cheerleader, or being chosen for the Trivia Contest, or even being a standby for the Theater Crew who was asked only to raise or lower the curtain.