Dr. David Whalen

May, 2002

In such times of betrayed trusts, cultural depravity, and academic fluff, St. Gregory’s Academy is an exception, an antidote and a wonder. In academic terms the Academy provides a substantial, traditional, highly integrated education where students are taught the fundamental skills so lamentably forgotten. They write, calculate, learn to see the world around them with observant eyes and attentive minds, and they learn to reason well. Their teachers understand how the various subjects “prop each other up” in a sound education, so that the proper training in natural science actually helps one think logically, and training in logic actually helps one write persuasively. Many colleges boast of “critical thinking skills,” but how many schools have required logic courses?

These students also learn from the great storehouse of wisdom and experience: western civilization itself. Great and noble literature, history and, of course, religious texts inform the curriculum at St. Gregory’s, and thus shape the minds and the imaginations of the students. This is an education in “the permanent things,” not in the trends or fads that come and go with all the staying power of a soap bubble. The boys read, in Matthew Arnold’s memorable phrase, “the best that has been thought and said.” Not only do they study the great texts and learning handed down for generations, they do so, one might say, realistically. That is, the boys are not ground to a fine powder of exhaustion by millstones of mere “data.” They jump many an academic hurdle and master many a rigorous course, to be sure, but they are also inspired with the love of beauty and what is good and true. Education at St. Gregory’s is a matter of the mind, and the heart, the intelligence and the will. As the faculty at St. Gregory’s well know, it takes both mind and heart to approach wisdom.

As parents, my wife and I are all too aware of the difficulties of raising good, Catholic children in a world “to hastening ills a prey.” In such times, it is difficult to imagine sending a 14-year-old boy to a school 500 miles away. We are fortunate, however, in that several of the faculty at St. Gregory’s were our companions in college, so we know them well. Headmaster Alan Hicks and Assistant Headmaster Howard Clark were our friends for many years, and so we knew we could entrust to them the care, welfare, and Catholic education of our son. Two years into his education there, we are not disappointed in the least. Quite the contrary. In living arrangements as well as academics, St. Gregory’s has fulfilled its promise as a responsible and attentive school.

The faculty are models of Catholic family men and gentlemen. They are strong in their teaching and in living the Catholic faith, and it shows in the very atmosphere of the school. In my many visits to the school I am always impressed by the courtesy, good cheer, healthy vigor and Catholic sensibilities of the students. There is order and discipline—something difficult to imagine among 60 teen-aged boys. But it is there, along with a regimentation of the day that gives order to the school without being oppressive. To be sure, the boys often wish they could amuse themselves with television, video games, electronic music, and other conventional distractions of the day. However, St. Gregory’s has wisely kept such harbingers of cultural decay at bay. Without such distractions the boys can more readily grow into young Catholic gentlemen whose imaginations are infused with great literature, whose recreation is healthy, and whose friendships are grounded in virtue.

Saving the best for last, of course, I cannot fail to mention the genuine Catholicity of the school. The daily availability of the immemorial, traditional Latin Mass, the liturgical life of prayer and chant, the rich devotional life of the Church unfolded before the boys in its grandeur and supernatural nobility—that is a treasure indeed. My wife and I are grateful—and, I admit, a little envious—that our son can attend daily Mass, have a confessor such as Father Stemler, and be surrounded by the graces of the Church. No school is perfect, of course. But St. Gregory’s Academy is a blessing for our son and our family. Its educational vision, curriculum, and understanding, its care for the boys and institutional organization, and especially its sacramental liturgical life, all these things are a wonder in such times.

Dr. David Whalen, Dean of Faculty, Hillsdale College