Toy Savage '71, history teacher and raconteur extraordinaire, has a seemingly inexhaustible storehouse of tales about Norfolk Academy. He has recounted those in the school's official history, Norfolk's Academy--The Heart of Tidewater, and in his popular and long-running blog, The Savage Chronicles.
During the school's virtual Homecoming 2020, Mr. Savage took his storytelling to a new forum, gathering on Zoom with an array of alumni for an evening entitled, “Sources of Inspiration: On the Shoulders of Giants." He opened with a list of teachers whose commitment to the institution and passion for excellence made them standouts in his memory, which includes his years as a student and decades as a teacher and administrator at the school:
- James B. Massey Jr., who led Norfolk Academy as headmaster from 1950-1978. “He was the kind of man who terrified you, but whose opinion of you mattered more than anything. This was true for faculty and students alike."
- Arthur. A. MacConochie Jr., English teacher and one of the writers of the school Honor Code and Philosophy and Objectives. “He was the quintessential teacher...Among other things, he taught us that it is never unmanly to love words, particularly words crafted into poetry."
- Charles J. Cumiskey Jr., math teacher, coach, and former head of the Lower School. “He was, quite simply, the best teacher I ever had...He was boundlessly enthusiastic, clear, and demanding. His math class was seldom easy, but it was never dull."
- Edith Pratt Masterson, an English teacher who taught at both the Country Day School for girls and, once that school merged with the Academy in 1966, at Norfolk Academy until 1991. “In those 33 years, she taught thousands how to appreciate literature, and more than that, how to write."
- William R. Miller II, who was a forceful and character-shaping wrestling coach during Toy Savage's junior and senior years. “Coaches can be in a unique position to inspire the players under their charge. Coach Miller exercised a particular brand of encouragement--half cheerleader, half tyrant."
- Robert S. Sergeant, who taught English in the Lower School and organized a lively poetry club at the school. “He organized students to go on trips. They would bring their notebooks and write poetry. He could 'sell' poetry to a 13-year-old boy. That's saying something."
- Katherine Holmes, known affectionately to all her students as “Frau Holmes," who taught German, started the German language exchange with Copernicus Gymnasium in Löningen (which will celebrate its 50th year in 2023), and led the foreign language department. “She was a true feminist...and her classes were so difficult, but students emerged with a deep love of the German language and literature."
For each individual, Mr. Savage offered slides with photos or portraits and many recollections, mingling stories of their impressive teaching skills with humorous anecdotes, often of pranks played among faculty members. This was particularly true for Mr. Massey, whose whose awe-inspiring capacity for work and abhorrence of laziness did not preclude a fondness for practical jokes on unwitting faculty members. Mr. Savage noted that he would have included stories about John Tucker Jr., who came to NA as a teacher, coach, and administrator under Headmaster Massey and succeeded him as headmaster in 1978; however Mr. Tucker was in the Zoom audience, so Mr. Savage decided not to put him in the spotlight.
Headmaster Dennis Manning, who took the helm from Mr. Tucker in 2001, was also on the Zoom, introducing Mr. Savage by noting that he practiced law for six years before “finding his calling" as an educator.
From the outset, Mr. Savage invited the audience to join in with names and stories, and when he had wrapped up, they promptly took him up on the invitation, sharing fond memories of Will Stacy, Royce Jones, Don Craig, Byron Babcock, and Cecil Mays, among others. As they shared, faces lit up in delight, delivering what Mr. Savage said he was hoping for-- “a night of gentle smiles."
Please visit our blogs page, which includes more of Mr. Savage's writing in The Savage Chronicles.