What Is Symbolic about Dwight’s “School of Spirits” Doors?

Anyone who has crossed Dwight’s transom at 18 West 89th Street knows that the gateway to our school is comprised of double hand-forged iron doors that are not only quite heavy but also beautiful to behold. These architectural icons of our campus, named the “School of Spirits” doors, were designed intentionally to be difficult to open.

Each door weighs 1,000 pounds. They were crafted by James Garvey, a Dwight parent (Sara ’95, Dwight+EntranceConstance ’98, and Noah ’99), who is one of the leading metalsmith artists in the world. He wanted students to realize that they need to make an effort to learn, to overcome inertia to enter and excel; and that once inside Dwight’s learning community, they would feel safe.

The ironwork is complex and labor-intensive — and reflects Dwight’s 143-year legacy of merging tradition with innovation. The doors were created using ancient forging methods that originated before the Middle Ages combined with techniques developed in modern times.

Donated to Dwight in 1994 by the artist, our “School of Spirits” doors are again in the spotlight through a current re-crafting project by Mr. Garvey. I am reminded that the ornamental doors mirror the narrative of every child that enters Dwight’s portal. It is the story of overcoming small setbacks as a necessary ingredient to achieve anything of significance. Great teachers, just as the artist who created the “School of Spirits” doors, help to forge students with iron wills and open hearts. Historic and heroic teachers are memorialized in the doors, as they assist children to ascend to become ethical leaders. The doors represent the hopes and dreams we have for our children.

To learn more about Mr. Garvey’s work and the original concept for our “School of Spirits” doors, visit jamesgarvey.net






Who Will Become Tomorrow’s Walter Lippmann?

A new book about one of Dwight’s earliest alums entitled Walter Lippmann, Public Economist by Craufurd D. Goodwin, came across my desk recently. Lippman was an enormous thinker. Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, social theorist, adviser to Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and public philosopher, he was, indeed, a force whose writings about politics and modern democracy, foreign affairs, media, economic policy, and more helped to shape American thinking for three-quarters of the 20th Century.

Though not trained as an economist, Lippmann focused his intellectual prowess on economic issues for many years that spanned some of our country’s most difficult economic trials, leading him to become a “public economist.” Goodwin traces Lippmann’s path there, beginning with his early life, documenting that Lippmann attended Dwight’s ancestor school, The Sachs Collegiate Institute, just after the turn of the century.

The author reports that while at The Sachs Collegiate Institute (described in Dwight’s history), Lippmann distinguished himself in many ways ― academically, as editor of the school paper, a leading debater, successful athlete, and class prize winner ― demonstrating early on his intellectual capacities.

Among Goodwin’s numerous observations about Lippmann is one that speaks to the value Lippmann placed on a liberal education: “From his own experience Lippmann came increasingly to conclude that a liberal education, rather than simply intense specialization in a technical subject, was essential for the development of effective leadership in all walks of life.”

Lippmann, no doubt, would have supported the International Baccalaureate (IB), which was designed to develop open- and broad-minded, critical thinkers able to see issues and explore ideas in their larger, more complex contexts. The broad-based, international IB curriculum offers a liberal education, which empowers students to develop intellectually, as well as socially, and emotionally, into great thinkers ― the Walter Lippmanns of tomorrow.