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The Prep's History: From the Archives

My interest in The Prep's history goes back to my first year here— 1970. I'm pretty certain that my hiring had a lot to do with the fact that I had been editor of SHU's yearbook, the Galleon (RIP 2006), since the headmaster, Fr. Giblin, needed to fill the unexpected late August vacancy for both a Spanish teacher and a moderator for the Tower. Having been a student at the University, I already had a cursory understanding of the parallel histories of “The Preparatory” and "the College." And when opportunities presented themselves to explore and put The Prep’s past on paper in the several yearbooks I advised between 1971 and 1988, I not only jumped in with both feet, but, important for the way things worked out over the next four decades, began a mental catalog of the interesting photos, mementos and ephemera strewn around the nooks and crannies of Mooney, Duffy and Stafford Halls in South Orange.

In the intervening years, first as a "hobby" and later in the position of Director of Communications, I've reached into that body of "cool old stuff" to enhance PR and admissions pieces, catalogs, posters, brochures, as well as, paramount for me, the celebratory Sesquicentennial book "O Sing Her Praise," and the last 19 years’ worth of Tower Revisited magazines. Now in my 50th year at SHP, I have added to the collection with five or six thousand paper-based photographs and, since 1999 (when film went away for me), more than a quarter million digital photos. So when I re-configured my role at The Prep at the beginning of 2019, I christened myself, since I was pretty much the only person that knew what we had and where it was stashed, among other roles, The Archivist.

Beginning that task I scoured storage spaces under stairways, rarely-visited closets, office and home file cabinets, as well as the now out-of-commission basement darkroom, gathering the great stuff that tells our history. You can see how that "collecting" phase turned out in the photo above. Surveying and identifying what’s landed in that room becomes Phase II, followed by cataloging, and protecting and/or digitizing the most fragile material. There is now a spot on the website where you can enjoy some of the interesting pieces that have been re-discovered over the months (look below the photos for captions). Periodic updates are posted on the NEWS page at shp.org.

Sadly, there are huge gaps in the collection. It is short on original material from prior to 1970 (although we have all the yearbooks except 1933). And material from before 1940 is extremely rare. Recalling that the College and The Prep were once one and the same, suffering three disastrous fires in the first decades of our existence, the biggest gap concerns material from the earliest years. We have a couple of pre-1900 registrar's logs, but almost nothing else. That material is very precious. Consequently, if you or someone you know would like to bestow on us some of that extremely old ephemera, let us know.

-Richard Morris H’95
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