Published Online: June 14, 2000
Published in Print: June 14, 2000, as Take Note

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In for the long haul

Lawrence Morgan was only a teenager in 1949 when he arrived as a freshman at a small boarding school in a suburb of St. Louis. With only a few years off for college, he has been there ever since.

This month, Mr. Morgan will close the book on his 51-year stint at the Thomas Jefferson School in Sunset Hills, Mo. He is retiring as its headmaster.

The school, which now serves about 80 students in grades 7-12, was only 3 years old when a friend of Mr. Morgan's family in Norman, Okla., recruited him. Mr. Morgan was one of the first 30 students. To date, the school has had 425 graduates.

Since then, the only time Mr. Morgan has been away from the school was when he was at Harvard University studying architecture, not exactly ideal preparation for the classroom, he noted.

"I was looking for something to do before going to graduate school when I found out the school had an unexpected opening for a teaching position," Mr. Morgan explained last week.

And so it began. The 65-year-old headmaster said he earned his stripes teaching English, math, American history, and Italian. Even after he became headmaster in 1980, Mr. Morgan continued to teach.

Mr. Morgan admits that a few years ago a midlife crisis of sorts had him thinking about other careers.

"It's pretty hard to work so many years and not think about being somewhere else," he said. But after looking at other jobs, he decided they had just as many downsides as his but not as many advantages. So he stayed.

He is only the school's second headmaster, having succeeded one of its co-founders. When Mr. Morgan took over, funding was scarce, and for the first time in the school's history, he asked alumni for help. The move was successful: The endowment has grown from $125,000 to $600,000, he said.

During his tenure, he added, the students have changed as well.

"They are exposed to much more and burdened with more information, but they don't digest it any better than previous generations," he said.

—Adrienne D. Coles

Vol. 19, Issue 40, Page 3

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