The Dedication Hymn, memorial wreaths, the planting of flowers at the base of the John McDonogh monument, the somber tolling of a chapel bell, and the playing of Taps are the hallmarks of Founder’s Day—a day in which the McDonogh community pauses to honor its founder, whose generosity and vision established the school. Traditionally held on the first Friday in October, Founder’s Day is also a time to remember those in our community who passed away in the past year.
In his remarks on Friday, October 4, Head of School Dave Farace ’87 reflected on the Dedication Hymn saying, “I find this hymn to be especially meaningful when it is sung on this particular day. In its opening lines, this two-stanza song refers to a monument that ‘is o’er us, growing grander with its age.’
“As a student, I used to think that this monument was simply the structure that marks John McDonogh’s grave," he said. "Over the years, however, I came to understand that the monument represents McDonogh School, all of it--this magnificent place, its remarkable people, and its mighty purpose. From 1873 until today, every single one of us has been part of its grand design.”
Farace concluded, “The Dedication Hymn ends with two lines that express a genuine love for McDonogh and a deep desire to leave the school better for our having been here. So that when at last we leave thee, we will leave thee grander still; Nearer as thy founder dreamed thee, dear McDonogh on the hill. May we keep those two sentiments close in mind and heart as we pursue our mission.”
The Concert Choir and the Senior Singers then sang the Dedication Hymn and the ceremony continued with the tradition of planting mums at the base of the John McDonogh monument. It was a gesture that honored a request in McDonogh’s will in which he wrote, “That it may be permitted annually to the children of the schools, situated the nearest to my internment, to plant and water a few flowers, around my grave. This little act will…open their young hearts to gratitude and love.”
After the flowers were watered, 40 members of the McDonogh Family who passed away since the previous ceremony were remembered. As each name was read by Alumni Association President Jason Schwartzberg ’99, a bell tolled in Tagart Memorial Chapel and Alumni Association Vice President Josh Thomas ’06 and Director of Alumni Relations Beth Sauer Hopkins ’02 placed a flower at the base of the monument.
Schwartzberg said, “In each of their lives, they provided us with examples of excellence, integrity, and honor. Their lives and contributions enriched the McDonogh community and for that, we are grateful.”
The ceremony concluded with the playing of Taps and the benediction, after which the student body left the grounds in silence.