This, the third chapter in our abbreviated history of Proctor, touches on the stability and growth of the 1950s and '60s. Lyle Farrell, who started teaching at Proctor in 1930, succeeded Halsey Gulick in 1952. Despite the extraordinary challenges posed by the Depression and World War II, Gulick left the school with a wealth of hands-on, practical programs and an emerging identity for Proctor, and the qualities that made the school distinct. In the nineteen years that followed, Lyle Farrell guided the school through a period of slow, steady academic and economic stabilization and growth as a relatively traditional boys' boarding school. Lyle's Board of Trustees was generous in response to his calls for capital improvements, and during his tenure, the school doubled its acreage, as the Carr property was gifted to the school, and we funded the construction of Holland Auditorium, Shirley Hall, Farrell Field House, Leonard Field, Farrell Field and the Blackwater Ski Area. Lyle, who had a distinct sense for his role in history, referred to himself as "the great builder." Here, he breaks ground on the addition to Maxwell Savage Hall of Holland Auditorium and classrooms in 1957.
Long before Proctor Pond (1980) existed, Ro Burbank's Improvement Squad dammed the stream running east through campus to flood a muddy field that served as a hockey rink in winter months. Skaters scraped the surface with snow shovels between periods, and dragged sleds spilling hot water through towels for the new surface. In the background, we see Silo Hill (misnamed for a brick water tower that served Carr House) and grounds (to the right) that were later leveled to create Farrell Field in the '60s.
Increasingly, students were attracted to Proctor for the diversity of elective programs. Below, coach Spence Wright implores his charges between periods. The young man to his left, wearing number 4, is Sumner Rulon-Miller, who would go on to serve the school over four decades as a trustee and benefactor.
Lyle hired an increasingly talented squad of teachers and coaches to take the school into the '70s. Don Gillespie, Spence Jackson, Spence Wright, Chris Norris and David Fowler are just a few of the smart hires of the 1960s. Below, the loveable Spence Wright demonstrates some humor, as he tries to make sense of a Canadian football rule book prior to the annual Westmount game.
Dr. Farrell was a tough, self-assured man with a vision for Proctor--and for his role--that was articulated with sweeping references to American ideals of democracy, opportunity and justice. Students participated in the governance of the school through a hierarchic student government that became the model for at least three neighboring independent schools. Pagents, such as sports awards, Winter Carnivals and proms brought outsiders to the school on the Northern Railroad.
The girls in this image have been named to the Winter Carnival Court:
Lyle Farrell wrote the "forward" to nineteen yearbooks. These are revealing, intriguing documents. Never boastful, they acknowledge gains, but often dampen the reader's emotion with brutally honest appraisals of the past year, the trials of producing a yearbook, teenagers and the frustrations he (increasingly) felt dealing with them. By the 1960s, the theme tends to be, "This was a good class, but would have been great if a few hadn't made some mistakes....." Given the shelf-life of the medium, his honesty was remarkable! Clubs and organizations flourished. The Proctor Academy Fire Department reached its zenith over the sixties.
Lyle Farrell was keenly aware of Proctor's place within the universe of boys' boarding schools, and he wanted greatness. He wrote and spoke eloquently of the superiority of American ideals and practices. He could not, however, account for the titanic cultural shift of the late '60s, and--to be honest--many of his dreams were unrealized. He did, however, leave one immense legacy beyond buildings and playing fields. As a young man, he had worked with Dr. Samuel T. Orton, who pioneered the psychometrics and pedagogy of reading disabilities. Lyle established at Proctor the nation's leading tutorial support system for college-bound, dyslexic students. Many of the benficiaries of these services went on to become life-long benefactors to the school decades hence.
The toll of the nation's protracted war in Vietnam was cruel to Dr. Farrell. The sublties of student and individual unrest, rock music and long hair caused him much regret by 1970. The times were a-changing, but how?