Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

O'Hara in High School: Niagara Prepartory School

The Niagara Preparatory School, a high school operated in conjunction with the university and as old as the university itself, was discontinued in 1927. 

In his richly detailed biography of O'Hara, The O'Hara Concern (1975), Matthew J. Bruccoli includes a photocopy of the graduation program for O'Hara's class--the graduation he surrendered when he was caught drunk the night before the ceremony.  His parents had traveled by train all the way from Pottsville, PA (O'Hara's hometown in eastern PA), and his physician  father was so upset that he sent his son home on a separate train.  Maybe he was afraid he'd hurl the young man through a window somewhere in the Alleghenies (preferably, on a bridge over a raging river).  Dreams of Yale were over, and O'Hara never went to college.

By the way, the photo on the cover of the biography shows O'Hara in his study at Linebrook, his home in Princeton, NJ.  That study has been reassembled at Penn State in the special collections library--all items donated by O'Hara's daughter.  I had the thrill of sitting in that chair by that very typewriter on a visit last fall.  And I also got to see what the Linebrook study looks like now: It's still a study in a home owned by a Princeton professor of philosophy, who kindly let me tour and photograph the house last fall.  Here are the two studies: On the left is the PSU replica; on the right, the study today at Linebrook ...

Anyway (studies aside), the program for O'Hara's graduation (where he would have been honored as valedictorian, had he not been on a lonely train back to Pottsville) notes that he was also the "Class Poet," a long tradition at graduations--high school and college--that, for the most part, has vanished.  In my own graduation experiences at Hiram High School, Hiram College, Kent State University, and the many I attended as a faculty member at Western Reserve Academy, no class poets.  Some famous writers have held that slot, including Edna St. Vincent Millay (Vassar), though she also nearly didn't graduate when she sneaked off campus and partied in NYC.  The Vassar authorities caught her, but because her name was already on the program, they let her go ahead and participate, figuring it was too embarrassing to have to explain the sad situation to all the proud parents.  I'd love to know what the Niagara administrators said at what would have been O'Hara's graduation?

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