Eleanor Commo McLaughlin '53

"What was similar, between the tiny SMS with a class of 20 and...Wellesley graduating close to 350...was the memory of powerfully influential teachers and the still thriving and effective institutions of learning rooted in Tradition and Vision."
 
The past two weekends I have attended first a St. Mary's/White Mountain School Reunion and then my 55th Reunion at Wellesley College, class of '57. These two experiences were marked by significant difference and similarity. At WMS, this was not a five year reunion for me, but accompanied by my spouse, Dr. Betsy Hess, we attended a supper with the Head of School and about twenty returning alumnae/i ranging in age from about twenty to late 70's. This was Betsy's first Reunion though we have been together for 22 years, joined legally in the Sacrament of Marriage since Jan. 2, 2010 celebrated at my former parish, St. Barnabas, Berlin, NH, Bishop Gene Robinson presiding. At supper in Littleton we enjoyed meeting and conversing with the younger women---accomplished, interesting and hopeful generations, who gave us reason to rejoice in the excellence and increasing diversity of our School, changed, but firmly rooted in the Tradition of a liberal education that stretches minds, imaginations and bodies. And, as the 'new' Name celebrates, we all, from the new graduates to the oldest classes, have all been formed also by encounter with the Beauty and challenges of Creation-- weather, rock, woods, rivers, ice and snow.
 
Betsy and I found ourselves at the Alumnae/i dinner, sitting at one end of a long table with several other gay women graduates from Canada to the West Coast...itself a sign of the generous catholicity of both our School and Church. On Sunday morning, at All Saints' Episcopal Church I sang happily (as I had more than fifty years ago) in the the Choir, our beloved Mendelssohn's "Lift thine eyes, O lift thine eyes to the Mountains....whence cometh our Help." The relatively new Rector, The Rev. Kurt Wiesner is deservedly very popular with the School, its young people and faculty in the congregation, good evidence in this lively, Spirit filled parish that the White Mountain School's deep roots in the Diocese of NH are healthy and putting out new growth!...aided by the Spring rains of faithful Alumnae/i
 
Quite different was the mood at my Wellesley 55th Reunion amidst 2,500 returning alumnae and spouses of years ending in 2, 5, 7. The gathering of the Class of '57, 90 women, all 77 years of age, produced many conversations about the parlous times which are upon us, deep distress at the fracture of our Nation, the failure of civility, the loss of both intellectual and cultural standards and the yearning of so many for a revival of religious and educational institutions to recapture a vision of service to the Common Good which animated our beginnings in life and still is thriving at that large and prosperous bastion of liberal education, preparing for the professions, national leadership in politics, scholarship and social advancement. The predominant mood of the older classes is concern for the future.
 
What was similar, between the tiny SMS with a class of 20 and a handful of returning elders and Wellesley, graduating 55 years ago close to 350 with almost a hundred returning was the memory of powerfully influential teachers and the still thriving and effective institutions of learning rooted in Tradition and Vision."Lift thine eyes...to the mountains" and "Non ministrari, sed ministrare"...not to be ministered unto, but to minister...to serve. For me, at St. Mary's, it was Ruth Jackson, my History teacher who taught us the excitement and effective idealisms of the New Deal...brought home powerfully as I a hiker in the "Whites" trundled across bridges in the WMNF built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, or married parishioners at the CCC- built pavilion at Dolly Copp Picnic area. Miss Jackson had each of us in American History write our senior paper on the "Impact of Jim Crow on Americans, white and black"....preparing me for the call to nonviolent Revolution by M. L. King. She famously, in my memory, taught Chinese History from a perspective which saw the Communist Revolution as the gift to the Chinese People upon which they have built a nation which no longer condemns millions to starvation of body and mind in poverty, an accomplishment amidst, to be sure, many failures, but that still puts India' festering poverty in the shadow of Capitalist elites, to shame...never mind the hunger and illiteracy that shadows the growing poverty of America's millions of "left behind". Ruth Jackson prepared me to hear the Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35 description of the Early Church...." ...and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common....There was not a needy person among them...the proceeds of what was sold ...was distributed to each as any had need." ...This Gospel vision of an explicit critique of America's idolatrous religion of radical Capitalism as well as Command that as God loves us we are bound to a returning Love for all of God's creatures, a selfless commitment to the Common Good, is the moral core of the priestly vocation to which God has called me, a life commitment fostered by my teachers and schools as much as family and church.
 
So also, my mentor Prof. Faye Wilson, at Wellesley College took me aside as a freshman to plan out my four years of studies in preparation for graduate school and a vocation as scholar and teacher of the Church's ancient thru early modern history. In each institution there were scholar/teachers whose holy calling was foremost, the formation and caring nurture of minds and souls. My thanks to God and support of these two schools are a required "giving back" in gratitude for the Gift of Vocation and Vision which have carried me and so many others far beyond the destructive hyper-individualism. idolatry of money and personal ambition, national blindness to the folly of Empire which so now cripples this fair Land. Without Institutions to preserve and impart the Vision, the People will die. My closing word is from a mentor introduced to me by my teachers and met by the Spirit in books, St. Augustine of Hippo, 5th c., "Order in me my loves, O Lord", which can mean, discern and love and commit our heart energies rightly, to shape our world in the light of the Good, without which there is no life, our civilization cannot survive---our Schools, Political institutions, and the Communities in which we worship.
 
- The Reverend Eleanor Commo McLaughlin, Ph.D. '53
 

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THE WHITE MOUNTAIN SCHOOL

371 West Farm Road  •  Bethlehem, New Hampshire 03574  •  603.444.2928
Founded in 1886 and set in the beautiful White Mountains of northern New Hampshire,
The White Mountain School is a coeducational college-preparatory boarding and day
school for students grades 9-12/PG.