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Honoring President George H.W. Bush, GCDS Class of 1937

Greenwich Country Day School released the following statement today mourning the death of President George H.W. Bush, a graduate of GCDS Class of 1937:

On November 30, America and the global community lost a leader and statesman whose life is a testament to the power of service and an enduring commitment to encourage others to make the world better—both now and for the future.

The Greenwich Country Day School community extends our thoughts and prayers to the Bush family—and all whose lives he touched, both at home and abroad.

Today we honor the life of George Herbert Walker Bush, and remember him for his devoted service to his country—as a President, international diplomat, and war hero. At GCDS, we also look back to the time when as a young student he showed so much promise.

Fifty-nine years before becoming President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush attended his first day of kindergarten at Greenwich Country Day School. The year was 1929. His parents, Senator Prescott Sheldon Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush, had enrolled him at the school shortly after moving to Greenwich in 1928. Throughout his time at Country Day, George H.W. Bush excelled in all areas of school life—in athletics and the arts, as well as academics. His leadership abilities were noted early on by both peers and teachers. “One day,” wrote his fifth-grader teacher on his report card, “Bush will become a leader.”

In 1937, GCDS Headmaster G. Denis Meadows described George H.W. Bush’s achievements in a brief but informative letter of recommendation addressed to the Director of Admissions at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. It read: “Report on Walker Bush. At the top of his class, Walker Bush is a boy of excellent character. Conspicuously straightforward and reliable. Superior all-around ability in both studies and athletics. Consistently industrious. Attractive personality.”

After attending GCDS and Phillips Academy, George H.W. Bush enlisted as a naval aviator and became, at eighteen years old, the youngest pilot in the U.S. Navy. He flew in World War II and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his volunteer engagement in combat. In the fall of 1945, he continued his education at Yale University, where he majored in economics, received a Phi Beta Kappa key for his strong academic record, and was captain of the baseball team. Following a career in the oil industry, Bush went on to a life of public service, culminating in the most esteemed leadership position in the world.

“In 1992, my first year as Headmaster of Greenwich Country Day School, I traveled to Florida to meet with the original boys of the school—the class members of 1937 and 1938,” recalls Dr. Douglas Lyons, GCDS Headmaster 1992-2004. “Though the President was not able to attend, most of his classmates were at that reunion. In speaking with them about the many successes of their class, they all agreed that George Bush as President was entirely predictable—that he was so focused, such a big thinker, so kind, and well-mannered that we all knew he was destined for greatness.”

In May 1997, President Bush returned to Country Day to receive the GCDS Distinguished Alumnus Award. While speaking at the Sixtieth Reunion Dinner for his class of 1937, President Bush reflected: “We got a good education here, a very good one. So many of the values learned right here came in handy after we left school. When I was president, I often thought back to the advice given us by Headmaster Miner and Headmaster Meadows…. At the Philadelphia Summit on Volunteerism concluded a month ago, I thought back to this place and to family. I realized once again how lucky I was to be privileged, not in the material things but in the values that I was privileged to learn from teachers here and from my parents.”

On October 5, 2009, GCDS Headmaster Adam Rohdie had the opportunity to speak with President Bush at his home in Kennebunkport, Maine. After reminiscences about President Bush’s experience playing baseball for Coach Edward “Unc” Hillard and being the leader of the double-octet singing group, the conversation turned to values, character, and civic engagement. “Community service is something I feel strongly about. It transcends politics. I think everybody—every student at Country Day—ought to give something back,” said President Bush. “At GCDS, we believe that everything we do is in an effort to build character," notes Headmaster Adam Rohdie, "and when talking with parents, I often think back to that conversation and President George H.W. Bush’s words about the importance of learning strong values at an early age. Today we honor his commitment to leadership through service and his optimistic determination to make the world a better place for the next generation.”

We are grateful for all that President George H.W. Bush has contributed to our GCDS community. Our thoughts are with the Bush family, all those in our extended alumni community who knew him as a friend, and everyone who was inspired by his example.