Tuesday, May 9, 2017


        When McDonogh was a military school, all of us boys had to memorize a poem entitled "The McDonogh Uniform," written by Eustace S. Glascock, Class of 1879. I hadn't recited it for many, many years, but having just been back for my 75th class reunion, I decided, on a nostalgic whim, to see if I could recall the words to all seven stanzas. To my pleasant surpise I was able to do so, before looking at the framed copy of the poem I was given for being the oldest returning alum. Here's the poem as I remembered it:
My graduation picture, copied from
  The McDonoogh Legacy of 1942

THE MCDONOGH UNIFORM                                                                                                  .  ,
A McDonogh suit for your son to wear?
Ah, Madam, they’re not for sale.
And he who dons must never doff—
as a Nun who takes the veil.

‘Tis a matter of years to make the fit;
and the cloth is rich and rare,
with “Lyle thread” running through warp and woof,
and woven with scrupulous care.

With labor and patience, with wisdom and love,
every thread is drawn to its place.
 ‘Tis dyed in the colors of honor and truth,
 with industry’s infinite grace.

The dirt and grime of strife and of toil
Image result for mcdonogh school  PHOTOS
The Allan Building, built in 1929, was named for 
McDonogh's first Headmaster, Col. William Allan.

only brighten its marvelous hue;
But the shiftless shame of an idle life
will rot it through and through,

Measures we take, but not with the tape,
for we tailor to fit a man’s soul
with a garment to wear thro’ life’s arduous race,
and bring him in safe and the goal

Our trademark is woven into every suit.
‘Tis a vow that each wearer must make
how low or how high in the world he may be:
“We give something more than we take.”

Yet we have no weaver of magical skill.
Our tailor’s no fairyland elf.
We’ve merely discovered that to wear such a suit
the wearer must make it himself.

Eustace S. Glascock, 1879

Friday, May 5, 2017


Image result for mcdonogh school
Part of the beautiful McDonogh campus. This is the Finney Building, named
 after  a former Board Chairmen, whose grandson  John was my roommate my
freshman year at Princeton.,before I joined thr Navy and  John the Marines in
World War II.
        I had an idyllic boyhood, growing up on the beautiful campus of McDonogh School, where my father was athletic director, head of the math department, and coach of the varsity football, hockey, and baseball teams. It was an all-boys, semi-military school at the time, spread over 1000 acres in the rolling countryside about fifteen miles northwest of Baltimore, Maryland.
My prize for being the oldest returning
alum was a framed copy of "The
McDonogh Uniform," which in the
olden days every student had to
 memorize. Standing behind me is
Headmaster Charles Britton. 
        I returned to the campus this past weekend to attend my 75th class reunion. As it turned out, I was the only representative of the class of 1942 and, to my surprise, the oldest alumnus present for the event. After being so recognized at an early gathering, I was treated as something of a” phenom” (that’s a kinder word than “relic”) by the younger alums and current faculty and staff, who could not have been more attentive and helpful.
        Having entered McDonogh as a second grader in 1931, I was asked many questions about the way things were way back then, and although I loved my eleven years as a cadet, I could honestly and enthusiastically assure everyone I talked with that McDonogh has come a long way since then. McDonogh ended its military program in 1971 and became coeducational in 1975. It is an amazing school of close to 1400 students , with an outstanding full-time faculty of about 180 extremely dedicated teachers, an expansive and beautifully landscaped campus with sprawling athletic fields and superb facilities. Having been founded originally as a school for poor boys, McDonogh continues to maintain a need-based scholarship program of several million dollars annually for  worthy boys and girls.
        What is most impressive and heart-warming to older alums like me is that the school has maintained its commitment to the ideals of its founder, John McDonogh. Students, faculty, and staff are imbued with the core of its mission, which is, in the founder’s words, "to do the greatest possible amount of good.” Every aspect of their educational experience is geared to prepare the students for life and to make a positive difference in the world. What a refreshing atmosphere that shared purpose creates for the entire McDonogh family;  the McDonogh spirit is palpable.
        I attended every key event, walked all over the campus, visited with teachers and students, and inwardly reminisced  about the days when I was climbing some of those same trees and playing on those same fields. I cannot adequately express what I was feeling throughout the reunion – so many long buried experiences vividly recalled, the faces of so many beloved teachers and friends appearing clearly to my mind’s eye, so many memorable moments.
        One of those unforgettable moments was the morning of December 8, 1941, when Major Louis E. Lamborn, our awe-inspiring Headmaster, at a specially called assembly of the Upper School, interpreted the instantly life-changing significance of the attack on Pearl Harbor. With trembling voice and tear filled eyes he expressed his assurance that we McDonogh boys would serve our country well in the war from which he knew some of us would not return alive.
Tagart Chapel, where I attended vespers as a seven-year-old
       All of  the reunion events were well planned, expertly conducted, and meaningful. Perhaps the most moving for me was the memorial service in the lovely stone chapel, when the roll of all the alumni who had died in the past year was solemnly read. The student choir sang beautifully, and I was vividly recalling the times I had lead services there, including the memorial service for my older brother Herb, who graduated from McDonogh in 1936. My thoughts ranged all the way back to my earliest days at the school, when as a seven-year old boarder I sat in those same pews at the Sunday vespers. Many years later I came to realize that for me the seeds of faith were sown in Tagart Chapel, which is now the oldest building on campus.
        On the drive home I had time to process my three-day experience at McDonogh.  I was so happy and grateful that I could be there for what was a most amazing reunion. There was really no one for me to “reune” with, but I mingled with many wonderful fellow alumni and alumnae, whom I had never met, and a handful with whom I had overlapped a few years but didn’t really know well, since they were several years younger than I. Even so we had things about which we could reminisce a bit. Indeed, I felt connected with everyone there, for we all had McDonogh in common, and we celebrated each other’s unique experiences.      
          It was, of course, a nostalgic, sentimental, wistful time for me, as I thought of the days long gone by. But it was also an exciting, encouraging, and extremely positive experience, as I listened to the hopes and dreams of the students and faculty, and marveled at the commitment and enthusiasm of every member of the staff. They were all immensely happy and grateful to be part of the McDonald family.
        Overall it was what I would call a sad-happy time for me – happy because of the sheer joy of experiencing the McDonogh of today, sad because I was missing the wistful days of long ago and all my long lost friends. Sad, too, because I was all the more aware of my own mortality and wondering how many more reunions I’ll be able to attend.

Friday, March 3, 2017


        Here is something you may not have heard about. On Monday, March 6, Princeton University is taking a day off from their regularly scheduled classes to observe a  Day of Action.
        A group of graduate students and post-docs calling themselves Princeton Citizen Scientists obtained more than a thousand signatures to petition the University officials not only to allow the day off but to support and encourage the amazing program that has been planned. More than fifty "teach-ins" led by a host of renowned professors, authorities, and activists and covering a wide range of pressing national and world issues have been scheduled. The day-long program is free and open to all.
        My grandson Seth Olsen, who is a graduate student in physics at the University, is one of the organizers and heads their Outreach Committee. He tells me that a similar day is scheduled at M.I.T, with other universities currently planning to follow suit. I predict that as the word gets around, the idea will catch hold and spread throughout many more if not most of the academic communities across the nation. The time is right for such a movement and judging from the immediate response, it should spread like wildfire.
        I urge my readers to check out the web site, where one can read the group's mission statement and peruse the impressive range of topics that will be addressed on March 6 (click on DAY OF ACTION).
        I am planning to be there on Monday. My one frustration is that there are so many of the teach-ins I'd like to attend, it is going to be very difficult to choose! The good news, however, is that every one of the discussions will be videotaped and available on-line. That will be a prodigious undertaking, but what a resource it will be when it is finally available!
        There are, however, two sessions I am already looking forward eagerly to attending. One will be led by my grandson Seth on Child Welfare Policy, a topic about which he has been passionate for many years. The other will be led my daughter, the Rev. Elsie Armstrong Rhodes, who will share her experience at Standing Rock and discuss the future of that continuing pipe line issue.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


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Caroline and Andy Armstrong
        I'm proud of my politically active family members. They are doing the right thing! Several are involved in the Indivisible movement. Others are busily engaged, in all sorts of useful ways. For example, my son and daughter-in-law, Andy and Caroline, as part of Indivisible  have been attending meetings and rallies, tweeting daily, making strategic calls, and writing letters.  Yesterday they shared a letter they had addressed to Congressman Leonard Lance, who represents New Jersey's 7th District. Below is the letter with their covering note. It could serve as a model for others to use in their efforts to hold their local representatives accountable:

Thought you might appreciate this letter, which went out in today’s mail.  Our latest catharsis.  We borrowed some language and the basic format of a brilliant letter written by our friend Pete Jaques to Lance, and took off from there....

February 16, 2017
Dear Representative Lance,
Over the course of the past few months following Mr. Trump’s election, we had been cautiously optimistic that you would be among those in your party who would place reason above ideological extremism; the health, safety and welfare of your constituents above self-serving interests (aka re-election); and stand firm in the protection of our fragile democracy. Sadly, in recent weeks and months your and your party’s actions have been shockingly callous, down-right dangerous, and truly disheartening. They make it perfectly clear that you and the majority of your House colleagues and Republican Senators, as well as the President and his Cabinet appointees, are opposed to the well-being of almost all of the American people and willing to sacrifice our democracy for self-serving interests. To wit:
(1) Your party’s tacit acceptance of Russian ties to and influence on the Trump administration is disturbing, to say the least. To our knowledge, no one in the Republican Party supports a House investigation – one that, incidentally, should be handled by an independent, bipartisan commission. Yet, you and your colleagues supported the FBI’s reopening of Hillary Clinton’s email investigation to ascertain whether any classified information was compromised on her private server. Your silence on this current matter is tacit support for ignoring a far more dangerous and insidious situation than Clinton’s emails.

Monday, January 16, 2017


        On the morning of April 5, 1968, the residents of Oak Lane and neighboring communities in North Philadelphia gathered in the schoolyard of the local Ellwood Elementary School with the children and their teachers for an interracial public memorial service, the morning following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
        People were processing a range of emotions, from utter grief to bitter anger. Fearing the possibility of a violent backlash resulting in severe property damage and possible loss of life, local officials had called for this public gathering to diffuse the tension, calm people’s fears,  grieve the tragic loss of, and pay tribute to this much admired and beloved civil rights leader.
        As the pastor of the one integrated local congregation in what was at the time a highly charged, racially changing the area, I was asked by the organizers of the event to give a brief  keynote address. I had had very little time to prepare my remarks, but I did save my highly marked up typewritten manuscript, and to my joy and great surprise I have found the original draft of my brief talk. I thought it might be interesting to some of you to read the reaction of someone who had spoken publicly about the assassination of Dr. King less than 24 hours after it happened, almost 49 years ago.
The power of "we": Martin Luther King, the March on Washington, and the birth of Moral Mondays
Dr.  King at the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963 ( AP photo)

        Martin Luther King, Jr., is dead – like the late president Kennedy, a victim of an assassin’s bullet. This, too, was a shot heard round the world, a shot that ricocheted into the hearts of decent folks in every land.
        The meaning of this tragedy has been and will be expressed by far more eloquent tongues than mine. The shock, the injustice, the terrible cruelty of such an utterly senseless murder has shrouded our nation with a sorrow that is deep and difficult to bear. The capture of the assassin can hardly compensate for the pain and anguish that we feel, nor fill the void that is in the hearts of four grief-stricken children who have lost their father, and a wife who has lost her husband.
        The untimely death of this man whose courage, whose wisdom, whose creative ability and dynamic leadership have been an inspiration to freedom-loving people everywhere, is a stunning loss to the entire world. His life has been snuffed out at the very peak of its usefulness.
        Yet already he has been acclaimed for his contributions to humanity. Winner of the esteemed Nobel Peace Prize, he had received the plaudits of those in high places as well as the praise of those of humble estate. Although it is not for us to assess his greatness, I am confident that history will record his name among the moral and spiritual giants of our age.
        It will be for you and me, and for our children, to decide whether or not he shall have lived and died in vain. The cause for which he gave his life was the cause of justice and freedom for all people. If we believe in that cause, then we will do all in our power to work for that cause. It is not by flowery words or impressive eulogies that we must show the genuineness of our grief for this champion of justice, but by deeds of virtue and sacrifice.
        His was a sacrifice made for all people, not just for one race of humankind. His death is our common loss, by virtue of our common humanity. So let it not be used as an excuse for violence and bloodshed, nor for pillaging and plundering. This would be a denial of everything Dr. King stood for.
        As one who herself has far more reason for bitterness than most of us, Mrs. John F. Kennedy, sharing, I’m sure, the terrible grief of Mrs. King, said this morning, “Let the assassination of Dr. King make room in people’s hearts for love, not for hate.”
        I pray that men, women, and children of goodwill everywhere will see that Martin Luther King. Jr.’s ideals are not betrayed, that our nation will not be torn asunder by hatred and revenge, and that together we will work for justice and freedom for all humanity, until that day when neither violent nor nonviolent protest will be needed, because America will have become what she was destined to be: one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.