Founded in 1640 by John Eliot, The Roxbury Latin School is the oldest secondary school in continuous operation in North America. (Boston Latin has it beat by a few years but decided to discontinue operation during the Revolutionary War so its students could enlist.) It should be no surprise that this little nursery has produced more than its fair share of distinguished alumni, whose lives and careers are here celebrated in extended and often amusing detail by its beloved former headmaster F. Washington Jarvis, himself the author of With Love and Prayers, published by Godine in 2003.
The list of 28 reads like an honor roll of American heroes: General Joseph Warren, patriot and among the first to fall at the Battle of Bunker Hill; George Lyman Kittredge, the legendary Harvard English professor, linguist, and folklorist; Arthur Vining Davis, the embattled chairman of Alcoa who, in 1957, was the third richest man in the world; Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture; Paul Dudley White, the acclaimed teacher and cardiologist at the MGH; James Bryant Conant, the first president of Harvard (1933-53) from a scientific background and a reformist agenda; Albert H. Gordon, indefatigable builder of Kidder Peabody and a Wall Street powerhouse, renowned for having walked from every major airport to its attendant city, competed in marathons well into his eighties, and remained chairman of the Trollope Society into his hundreds. Only Jarvis, sympathetic but critical, articulate and lucid, could bring these figures to life, and you read these lives with a combination of wonder, admiration, and (sometimes) horror.