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Our Past Inspires Our Future

In the fall of 1951, St. Martin’s Headmaster Ellsworth O. Van Slate addressed his faculty with powerful words: “We must always be on guard lest we become preoccupied with the letter rather than the spirit of learning..."
In the fall of 1951, St. Martin’s Headmaster Ellsworth O. Van Slate addressed his faculty with powerful words: “We must always be on guard lest we become preoccupied with the letter rather than the spirit of learning. Our emphasis must be on purpose, on intent, on the why and how of things. We must always seek to motivate and stimulate thought, to raise important questions in the minds of students which will lead them in a desire for further knowledge.”

This quote may seem familiar to you because I cited it in my letter for the Fall 2016 issue of The Bell, celebrating our first 70 years. It has been 70 years since St. Martin’s first opened its doors to the scholars of New Orleans. Seventy years of excellence in Faith, Scholarship, and Service. Now, as we peer into the future in the current Bell, Headmaster Van Slate’s message to his faculty mirrors the message we are sharing with our faculty today. The “why” of our purpose and mission remains steadily centered. It is the “how” that has us moving in exciting new directions as we look to the future.

The cornerstone of learning — past, present and future — is our ability as a school to remain fluid and relevant as we prepare our students for whatever life has in store. At a time in history when things are moving and changing at breakneck speed, St. Martin’s remains laser-focused on teaching our students the skills they will need to meet their futures head-on.

In the words of Henry James, “A tradition is kept alive only by something being added to it.” At St. Martin’s, we are adding much.

We have become educational leaders in providing avenues for our students to apply what they are learning while they are learning it. We have captured and expanded on Mr. Van Slate’s caution to stay focused on the spirit rather than the letter of learning. The “why and how of things” is not just a message delivered from the podium to the pupil. Rather, it is the hands-on focus through which we teach our students to be discerning problem-solvers and creative, intellectual adventurers. I hope you will look at and enjoy the pages of this Bell with a deep confidence that the past has informed our vision for a bright and exciting future.

Merry Sorrells
Head of School
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