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School Founder John Roy Baylor Offers Chapel Address
Baylor’s first headmaster John Roy Baylor pictured with Scott Wilson, the school’s ninth headmaster. 

An historical occasion took place on Monday, Jan. 7 when the school’s first headmaster and founder stepped up to the podium to deliver a keynote for the first chapel program of 2019.   

Portrayed by middle school social studies instructor Bo Chamberlain ’90, the speech was part of the school’s first annual John Roy Baylor Day created to celebrate the foundational principles of Baylor School and to commemorate Dr. Baylor.

Chamberlain was a natural choice for the portrayal of Prof. Baylor, not only because of his passion for history but because of his personal family history.  “Captain Hiram,” as he is referred to by Chamberlain’s family members, is his great-grandfather and was among those attending a meeting with Baylor in May of 1893.  Also present were fellow civic leaders and philanthropists Dr. Johnathan Bachman, Robert Pritchard, Theodore Montague, Foster Brown, and Lewis Coleman.  As fathers of sons who were about to enter secondary school, they were anxious to hear more about Baylor’s vision for a new boys’ college preparatory school in Chattanooga.  “I don’t know if it’s because I love history, or if I am terribly sentimental, but I feel the history of Baylor (School) deeply,” said Chamberlain.

The following are Chamberlain’s chapel program remarks, or you may view a video by clicking here.

My name is John Roy Baylor. I’ve been asked to speak to you today to tell you a little about myself and to tell you some things about your school and what I hoped to accomplish here.

I was born in Albemarle, in Caroline County, Virginia in 1852. I grew up on an estate called New Market that still bears this name. I entered the University of Virginia at the age of 15 and graduated with a Bachelors of Arts and a Bachelors of Literature. Being the second son, my older brother inherited the entire family estate. So, I was financially independent when I graduated.  I always knew I would have to stand on my own two feet and I always knew I wanted to open my own school. To continue the work of great teachers who had so inspired me.

In 1872, I became principal and teacher at the Mountain Spring School in Trinity, Alabama. After five years, I returned to Albemarle to teach for a decade at the Miller Manual Labor school for orphans. It was during this time that I married the love of my life, Julia Lavinia Howard and we had our daughter, Eloise.  When she was born, my thoughts turned to better providing for my young family.  I had a friend that had opened his own school in Nashville who was succeeding admirably. I took a job in Savannah, where I was promised more than I was given. So, I began to reach out to old classmates from The University including, Dr. Charles Dabney, the President of the University of Tennessee. He suggested I write to another UVA alum in Chattanooga, Lewis Coleman.

Due to a financial panic in 1893, the Chattanooga Times said that the city was “almost without a school where a student can be fitted to enter the large colleges, north or south.” Mr. Coleman eventually put me in touch with 5 men in Chattanooga that had sons who were of the age where they needed college preparatory instruction. Those men were Dr. J.W. Bachman, Robert Pritchard, Theodore G. Montague, Capt. Hiram S. Chamberlain, and Foster V. Brown. Some of their great, great, great grandchildren sit in this audience today. So, I traveled to Chattanooga to speak with these gentlemen in May of 1893. Dr. Dabney came down from Knoxville and we went to a meeting in Dr. Bachman’s office. After that meeting, I knew that I was going to dedicate my life to the boys and young men of Tennessee.

That summer, preparations were quickly made to open Baylor’s University School. We rented the old McCallie homestead at the corner of McCallie and Lindsay downtown. Educating Rev. McCallie’s sons was part of the rent. On Tuesday, September 12, 1893, we opened the doors with 31 boys including five sons of the businessmen that brought me to town, Theodore Montague, Hiram and Morrow Chamberlain, Joe Brown, and Robert Pritchard Jr. This picture of our first class is interesting, this young man, on the right-hand side was easily one of my best pupils ever. His name is James Park McCallie. He founded his own school in 1905, you’ve probably never heard of it. After that, he just seemed to fade from the picture.

The next year, Dr. Bachman’s son, Nathan enrolled, so did my daughter Eloise. She was the first girl to attend Baylor University School. Even though I had envisioned an all boy’s school, it seemed that those boys had sisters and their parents wanted them to go to school too. I will say, getting enough students who could afford the steep tuition of $100 was not easy. Business heads prevailed and so, for the first twenty years, until we moved to this beautiful campus, Baylor was a co-educational institution. Remember this young lady, in the middle of the top row, Charlotte Patten.

After six years we moved the school to the corner of Palmetto and Vine. You might find it hard to believe but when I founded the school, I took for granted that the classroom and not the playing field was the proper place to develop a “cultured Christian gentleman”. Sometimes I would keep boys after school if I thought that they were going to practice or play football. Then, in 1905, came along these guys…with an athletic part of their curriculum. And the boys loved it and we needed students, so by 1908 we were at it like this. Nearly two thousand people came to Chamberlain Field to watch this game.

To improve our school I hired this man, Alex Guerry. He works inexhaustibly to become the second headmaster of this school. He also marries Charlotte Patten. Remember her? She is of great note because she goes on to have possibly the deepest connection of any one person to this school. She was the mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great, great grandmother of Baylor students (some of which are here today), herself a student and graduate of the school, a sister to both a Baylor boy and Baylor girl and a Baylor teacher, the wife of a Baylor teacher, headmaster, and trustee and the mother of and now the grandmother and great-grandmother to current trustees.

She is also the niece of J.T. Lupton. Tom Lupton was one of three men who owned the rights to bottle Coca-Cola around the world and his son attended Baylor.  Impressed by his new nephew-in-law, Mr. Lupton is convinced by Alex Guerry to finance the move of the school if a suitable campus could be found.  They told me about their plan the morning of commencement in 1914. I cried tears of joy.

For weeks, I looked for a suitable location. Thinking I had seen everything, I was told of a farm near a stop on the street car line called Williams Island Ferry station. This is what I saw when I got here. Locust Hill. And this is what was built for the 1915 school year. Mr. Lupton, Mr. and Mrs. Guerry and countless other members of our big red family circle have been trusted caretakers of our mission here. As they were, so now you too are caretakers of this place and its mission. Whether you are a fifth-generation student, or this is your first day, we all are Baylor.

But I sure could tell you all stories for the rest of the day. In 1926, I wrote a speech to the students that I never had a chance to read. I’d like to share some of that now in hopes that it may encourage you and your efforts in the coming year.

My task today is to welcome you all back, pupils and teachers, to the Baylor School, and to pray that God may give us all a successful semester. I say this to the old and the new teachers, and to the old and new students that are with us. To the old students, it may be that some of you may have failed in some subjects last year, but that matters little if you are coming back with the determination to wipe out what is past, and look only to the future. May I say to the new students who have cast their lot with us, that we have ever viewed it the aim of the Baylor School to give each student a square deal and we expect them to do the same with the school.

We well know that many matters in this world are subject to debate, but it can hardly be denied that all of us, rich and poor, small and great, old and young, are called on to meet some sort of responsibilities in any kind of life we lead. Even the youngest student here must expect to face some responsibility, and be ready to meet it.

Certainly, a true teacher must face grave responsibilities. Someone has said that age and youth shout uncomprehendingly at each other across a vast and chilly chasm, and that it is the duty of the real teacher to be able to bridge somewhat that abyss and to rob it of its coldness, with love and encouragement.

Responsibilities are indeed great to all teachers, even to those in the grammar school and the kindergarten, but especially to their headmasters, since many failures are often laid at their doorstep. Two momentous occasions, mixed more or less with sadness, come to them each year. One is when, early in June, it is their special duty to take leave of a graduating class, many of whom may have been with them two, three, or even seven or eight years. In this brief life of ours, it is sad to do almost anything for the last time, and, as we look into those faces, the thought must come over us whether we have done our whole duty with them. How many of you know that the old Greeks had the same word (xaipe) for saying farewell as for bidding one welcome? There is really no contradiction in this since, though we may bid you goodbye, there is a welcome waiting for you somewhere else.

If we had the time, it would be interesting ask why each new student decided to select this school, and in the same way, each old student to say why they returned here, and did not wish to try some other school.

Alas! How many pupils select a school because they have heard that it allows all sorts of privileges, requires no hard work, gives high grades to please them and their parents, and allows them all to graduate. Attending such a school is a step towards failure in after life and makes it hard for a person to accomplish anything worthwhile. Rather should they choose a school that stands for truth and honor above all things, the highest scholarship, strictest discipline, grades that mean what they say – a school that keeps the very best teachers in all departments and will not keep a worthless student long on its rolls. This is the standard we have set for this school, and it is up to every student, old and new, to unite in the determination to make it a bigger and better school. Many and distinguished examples have gone before you and blazed the way for you to follow. Among its alumni are to be found great ministers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, judges, writers, poets, editors, bankers, ambassadors, and successful businesspeople in all branches.

Do not understand me to mean that a school ought not to have many pleasures for its pupils, mingled with work, for, if it were a place of “all work and no play,” it would indeed be a poor school. Remember that a real school is only a big family circle and ought to try and make each student regard it as a second home. They should be free to go to the headmasters and teachers at any time, and especially when in any sort of trouble, for advice, just as they would to their own father.

It is the easiest thing in the world to give advice, and most if it is wasted. A great teacher once rebuked an assistant, who was pouring out advice to a pupil, with these words: “Do not waste so much valuable time with useless advice, no matter how good, but lead the way and show him how to follow you.” May I take a few moments to stress these qualities, which I trust each of you brought to this school, and which you will do well always to keep before you: “Love,” “hope,” “ambition,” “courage,” (or more properly readiness to struggle), “honor,” “humility,” “faith,” and last, and above all, “magnanimitas”? If you will keep these ever before you, there need be no fear of your happiness and success here and hereafter.

We have many people of different faiths here at school today. I myself have always been a person of faith, raised in the Episcopal denomination of the Christian faith. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. It’s a powerful force that has changed the world. My faith always inspired the mission here- to foster in my students both the ability and the desire to make a positive difference in the world. You may have doubts about faith. That is ok. Faith and doubt go hand in hand. If you had no doubts, you’d have no reason to have faith. No matter where you are on your faith walk, here, when you believe in and work to help good things to happen to others, you are a beautiful instrument of faith and love.

What would the world be without love and what is it that love cannot accomplish? If we could only do away with scolding and punishment and replace them with patience and genuine love; how much easier our work in the schoolroom would be. Can there be a better definition of love than that given by St. Paul in “I” Corinthians, XIII: vs. 7: “Love beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” love is natural for all of us. As the modern poet, Lennon, so beautifully puts it: “All you need is love.”

Sometime, in the midst of grief or failure, it is hard, indeed, not to lose hope, but without it, we cannot succeed. You may be what we term homesick. You may become discouraged, but this does not mean that you must give up and lose hope. To those who hope, generally come better things sooner or later. Acclaimed scientist Sir Humphrey Davy said, “Almost all deeds arise from a plentitude of hope and desire. No man ever had genius who did not aim to execute more than he was able.”

How many fail from lack of ambition? That is a poor student who has no ambition, though of course, it must be of the right kind. Many a miserable person is satisfied to fill some menial position simply because he or she has not proper ambition. As Shakespeare expresses it: “Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.”

We come next to the quality courage, or as I said before, the power to put up a fight or a real struggle. In Walt Whitman’s “Open Road” we find this statement: “From any… success, no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary.” How true this is, and how many battles are lost, in the classroom, on the athletic field, in the battle of life, all because we cannot put up a real struggle! All of life is more or less of a struggle, and we cannot begin to prepare for it too young.

Honor is the foundation of a person's worth and reputation. Your honor is derived from your courage, your actions, as well as your inactions. One of the finest moments in this institution’s long history was that day in the spring of 1916 when the students chose to live under our honor system. They, like we today, believed that a lie is the most detestable thing of which a person may be guilty and the truth the greatest virtue which one may possess. “To be successful we must be lovers of the truth, or to put it better, we should be searchers after truth…great men have always sought the truth. Today, as every day here, we do not want anyone who would lie, cheat, or steal to be in our midst. For we as a school, should only send out and we as people should only wish to be men and women who despise falsehood and prize honor more than all else.

As we read the biographies of the great leaders of all ages, we find that they have been, in all branches, people of the greatest humility. What would the world be today without the noted discoveries in the science of Sir Isaac Newton? He was a man of the greatest humility, saying, “That whatever service he had done the public was not owing to any extraordinary intelligence, but solely to hard work and patient thought. A mentor of mine, and perhaps the greatest Greek scholar modern times has produced, Dr. B.L. Gildersleeve, quoted Sophocles shortly before his death, “The more I know the less I know, I know.” Show me someone who is ever bragging about what they can do, in the classroom or on the athletic field, and I will show you a person who has little to brag of.

And last, I come to the key note of all I have described, and that is a quality that I can only fully describe by using a Latin word, magnanimitas, a word that is hard to translate into English. It has in it more than beauty. It has a quality of grandeur. It means greatness of spirit. A student may be strong or brilliant, a leader in school, bright and charming, but they cannot be really great without magnanimitas. A life lived with magnanimitas, prompts one to do morally good acts of exceptional quality. Magnanimous persons are disposed to perform actions of extraordinary generosity, kindness, fortitude and charity; not in order to gain fame, glory or recognition, but simply to do what is right, good, just or needed. It over shadows all else. Edith Cavell, a nurse during World War I, is celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers from both sides without discrimination. She was eventually accused and found guilty of treason for helping some two hundred allied soldiers escape from occupied Belgium. Facing cruel death by firing squad in the grey wintry dawn, she said, “Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.” That was magnanimitas. When you leave this campus every day, you can see this message in the hopes that you will never forget it.

As you leave here today, it is my greatest hope that you will go into this new year with love for your neighbor, hope for the future, ambition for yourself, courage to struggle when times are tough, honorable and humble behavior, faith in your heart, and magnanimitas in your soul. Live so that you can say, if you were given the chance to live your life over again, that you would do it all the same.

And finally, if this were the last word that God gave me the strength to say to you, and to give you as a watchword for life, I do not know that I could find a better one for you than that of the old Romans, Magnanimitas.


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