By Craig Gemmell
Head of School
I met Mr. Cecil E. Wentworth on the steps of the Academic Building on Monday.
Mr. Cecil E. Wentworth. His name alone sounds from another time.
He graduated from Brewster Free Academy nearly 80 years ago, in the spring of 1936, and yet he stood there, talking to me, making good sense, on a beautiful November mid-day. Only a few words and I could tell he’s a good man.
Mr. Wentworth grew up on a working farm in nearby Brookfield and took the train the 12 miles to Wolfeboro every day and back again at night. He wore a pressed shirt and tie to school and ate the lunch his mom prepared for him. He did well at Brewster, was inspired by the likes of Mr. Sargent, and earned himself a full scholarship to study engineering at UNH. He went on to graduate work in meteorology at MIT. He worked in the public and private sector for near half a century. Near a century of words, ideas, experiences have passed through his capacious brain; he sure has seen and accomplished a lot.
Yet Mr. Wentworth did not want to talk about any of that. No reminiscence about wars or politics or family or accolades or times misbehaving as a 17 year old.
Mr. Wentworth wanted to talk about what Brewster did for him. About how it prepared him for a life. Gratitude.
So we stood on the steps, on ground upon which he had undoubtedly walked 80 years ago, and he told me about his Brewster: a teacher who saw promise in him and challenged him; another who made sure he had the extremely sound writing skills; yet another who steered him into a daily drafting regimen – critical for an aspiring engineer – even though it wasn’t offered at the school.
And as he talked, the vast rift between the past and present narrowed, and the Brewster Free Academy of 1936 seemed consonant with Brewster Academy of today, for both stretch to serve promising kids from near and far, meet them where they are, hold them to high standards and close at the same time.
Walking away, I shivered in the hope that at least some of the students Brewster serves today will find themselves at the steps of the Academic Building at the dawn of the 22nd century, grateful, telling someone who won’t likely be born until the 2050s what this place did for them back in the day, circa 2015. I’m curious what they would say.
Thank you, Mr. Wentworth. And come back again.