Greenfield has long held in respect and honor the memory of Edward Lee and Lulu McClain, and one of those aspects of honoring them and their generosity has arrived with the annual Edward Lee McClain Day set July 19.
The day originated in 2016, a year after McClain High School alumni, residents, students, staff and visitors celebrated 100 years since the high school was dedicated and opened to students. The high school was a gift from Greenfield native, industrialist and philanthropist Edward Lee McClain and his wife, Lulu.
In the years that have followed, the day honoring the McClains was held during the third weekend in July in conjunction with the Greene Countrie Towne Festival. While the festival will not be held this year because of COVID-19 restrictions, ELM Day will still be held during that third weekend, this year on Sunday, July 19 at 1 p.m.
Currently, the day will offer a ceremony at the high school’s marble staircase, a proclamation from the village of Greenfield, guided tours of the school, and a reception with cake and punch, courtesy of 1955 McClain graduate Larry Roosa. The program is also to include longtime educator Danny Long portraying Edward Lee McClain. Should pandemic-related restrictions prohibit the program being inside, it will be moved outside, Greenfield Exempted Village Schools Superintendent Quincey Gray said.
Roosa was behind the idea for a day set aside each year to honor the McClains. He has a deep love and appreciation for the school, as do many who have spent time at the school, a place that more than 100 years has changed very little.
In 2016, Roosa, following the reading of the proclamation for the inaugural ELM Day, spoke to the festival crowd and invited them to take part in a fundraising effort to create two marble busts, one of Edward Lee and the other of Lulu. That fundraising effort was a success, and during the following year’s ELM Day, those busts were unveiled and are now displayed at the first-floor entrance to the marble staircase, one on each side of the marble bust of Ginevra.
Roosa said he has “a great love and admiration” for McClain.
“It is my belief, every person having had the privilege and honor to have walked her hallowed hallways, students and faculty alike, past, present and future, owe a debt of gratitude to the McClains and the school itself,” he said. “When I am in Greenfield, I always make it a point to walk those hallowed halls. It never fails, each time, I am filled with that same sense of pride and gratitude, a wonderful and beautiful feeling. I am very grateful to Edward Lee and LuLu McClain.”
McClain High School was dedicated in September 1915, and soon after the first students filed into its hallways and classrooms. According to the Greenfield Historical Society, in the years that followed, the McClains expanded their initial gift to include a vocational building with a natatorium, and later land for an athletic field, all of which continue to be a part of the campus.
Every McClain student has walked the same halls and learned in the same classrooms, all while surrounded by the artwork — more than 120 paintings, 37 sculptures, a dozen photographs, drinking fountains with Rookwood pottery backgrounds, and four Latin inscribed Moravian panels on the exterior of the high school — all meant by the McClains to enrich the educational experience.
In his speech during the 2015 centennial celebration of the school, former superintendent Terry Fouch said the McClains, “Had the vision of a great institution designed to train the heart and head and hand of the youth of the community, and through them and its civic activities, to touch the lives of every man and woman in this community.”
“Edward Lee McClain, an outstanding leader and innovator, gave such a wonderful gift to our community that so many people have worked diligently to maintain,” Gray said. “It is only fitting to pause and recognize him for his contribution that has stood the test of time.”
Angela Shepherd is a correspondent for the Greenfield Exempted Village School District.