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Building A School That Will Last

The Saint Constantine School will soon commemorate the third anniversary of its incorporation as an institution. It is not uncommon for first-time guests, upon learning of our relative youth, to observe, “The school seems so much older than that.”

They mean it as a compliment. The distinguished ambiance of the tiled atrium, the experienced competence of the faculty, and the two thousand year-old curriculum contribute to the impression of a well-established school.

By contrast, I graduated from a university—founded by Benjamin Franklin—that celebrated its 250th anniversary when I was a student there, and boasts of being the fourth oldest college in the United States. (Arch rival Princeton University also claims to be the fourth oldest college, but they of course are mistaken.) Two and half centuries of operation also contribute to the impression of a well-established school.

By American standards, any entity that measures its age in centuries is positively ancient.

However, some years ago I had the opportunity to teach a course in the town of Oxford, England, home to Oxford University. While I was there, I visited the grounds of many of the semi-autonomous colleges that make up Oxford University. One of those is formally known as the New College. The “New” College, I discovered, is more than 500 years old and was founded before Columbus even discovered the New World!

By European standards, America does not have any old colleges.

The evening following my tour of the New College, I shared my discovery with our hostess, a young woman of Italian extraction. She laughed a bit at my wonder over the age of Oxford’s colleges. She explained how she had grown up in Rome, and lived a few hundred yards from a road whose construction pre-dated the reign of Julius Caesar. Consider me humbled.

If by God’s grace The Saint Constantine School endures as long as Oxford, or even Princeton, certainly neither I nor anyone reading this will be around to see it. But we will have contributed to that longevity by doing right and making the most of what God gives us every day.

Something similar can be said of the very lives we lead. We are never truly defined by a single moment. Rather, we must persevere through every minute and confront the countless choices that can add up to a life well-lived.

Of course some people are known to history for a particular heroic act or ignoble deed, but behind every memorable action are a myriad of little decisions that become the foundation of our character. We become the equivalent of “well established” by choosing and doing that which is right everyday. And should we fail today, we need to get up and do better tomorrow.

It is my prayer that TSCS will still stand 250 years from now and be known as a faithful institution that led a revolution in American education.

But if that prayer is answered, it will be because God has honored generations of students, families, teachers, presidents, and even provosts who persevered through every minute of that quarter millennium, and made the big and especially the little decisions that contributed to a truly well established school.

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