When McClain High School was dedicated more than a century ago, school benefactor Edward Lee McClain said during his speech said that the intent of his gift to his hometown was for “the most good for the greatest number for the longest time.”
The art-filled high school and the endeavors that followed, like the vocational building, swimming pool and athletic field, have served generation of the Greenfield community since 1915.
On Sunday, mask-wearing and socially-distancing community members, school board members, administrators and staff members gathered at McClain High School at the base of a marble staircase amid the statues, murals and marble busts to honor McClain and his enduring gift.
The McClain High School Color Guard opened the ceremony with the presentation of the flags. Master Sgt. John Wilson, who heads up the school’s Cadet Corps, spoke about how his students’ leadership and community service would likely meet with the approval of McClain, whose own community-mindedness was the very reason for the ceremony.
Two proclamations followed, one from the village of Greenfield and the other from the Highland County Board of Commissioners, each declaring the day as Edward Lee McClain Day in Greenfield and in Highland County, and each recognizing the contributions that continue to serve the community.
McClain graduate and former Greenfield City Manager Ron Coffey, who read the proclamation from the village, in his own remarks said it was a good thing for everyone to take a few moments to recognize what the McClains did for Greenfield and their thoughts of community and the generations to come that materialized in their idea to build a school. Coffey encouraged everyone to be inspired, not only in the building where art and culture are around every turn, but in every day.
Longtime educator Danny Long, portraying McClain, told McClain’s story — from his younger years, his journey of building his wealth through his patented horse collar and with textile making, he and his wife Lulu giving back to the village they called home in many ways, but most notably with the building of a “magnificent” building to the time of his death in 1934.
Larry Roosa, a 1955 graduate of McClain High School, first presented the idea of taking a day each year to honor McClain, and each year Roosa and his wife, Linda, return to Greenfield for the event. In this year’s fifth annual event, Roosa spoke of the truly unique school and his pride and gratitude for having been a student in Greenfield. He and his wife later presented a $1,000 donation to the school.
The ceremony closed with superintendent Quincey Gray thanking the Roosas, the board of education, high school principal Matt Shelton, the McClain Alumni Association, the custodial and maintenance crews who work to keep the buildings and grounds looking their best all year long, the village of Greenfield, the Highland County Board of Commissioners, Ron Coffey and Danny Long, among others.
Following, everyone was invited to tour the school, which remains largely unchanged from when it was dedicated more than a century ago.
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, more than a dozen photographs, drinking fountains with Rookwood pottery backgrounds, four Latin inscribed Moravian panels on the exterior of the high school — all meant by the McClains to enrich the whole educational experience.
Angela Shepherd is a correspondent for the Greenfield Extempted Village School District.