McClains honored in sixth annual Edward Lee McClain Day

Long as McClain - ELM Day 2021Danny Long, a longtime educator, reprised his role as Edward Lee McClain for the 2021 Edward Lee McClain Day held on July 18. (Photo by Angela Shepherd)

By Angela Shepherd
Village of Greenfield

When McClain High School was first dedicated, Edward Lee McClain during his speech said the intent of his gift to his hometown was for “the most good for the greatest number for the longest time.” One hundred and six years later, McClain High School continues just as it was intended.

The art-filled high school and the endeavors that followed that dedication in 1915, like the vocational building and swimming pool and the athletic field, have continued to serve the generations of the Greenfield community.

On Sunday, July 18, school board members, administration and staff members, former graduates, and members of the community gathered at McClain High School at the base of the marble staircase amid the statues, murals, and marble busts to honor the McClains and their enduring gift.

The McClain High School Color Guard opened the ceremony with the presentation of the flags and the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner.” 

Superintendent Quincey Gray followed, and shared a recent find with those gathered. She said a current project is the reworking of the display cases on the third floor to arrange artifacts in a chronological order. This endeavor has led to items that are currently stored, and there the recent find. 

It’s a book containing works of art located in an art gallery in Dresden, Germany. The book belonged to McClain, and the inside cover bears his cursive signature and ownership of the book. Just inside that cover, Gray said, was a sheet pulled from the 1893 School Board Journal containing simple school building plans that could be purchased.

I had to chuckle,” she said, “because we ended up with nowhere near what was on that paper.” McClain’s vision was for much more than that.

Even so, Gray suggested that the find perhaps highlights McClain’s forward thinking. 

A proclamation from the village of Greenfield followed, declaring the day as Edward Lee McClain Day in Greenfield and recognizing the contributions that continue to serve the community. It was read by Ron Coffey, a McClain graduate and former city manager of Greenfield. Coffey thanked the school administrations, both past and present, for working to keep the school working in its intended purpose, even 106 years later.

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 sixth annual event, Roosa spoke of the truly unique school and his powerful pride and gratitude for having been a student in Greenfield. He and his wife later presented a 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, Ron Coffey, and Danny Long, among others. 

Following, everyone was invited to partake in cake and punch and 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. 

This annual day of recognition is just a small mark of the gratitude of a community, and that gratitude goes beyond a single day to those who have walked and do walk the halls of McClain High School with pride and appreciation that the passage of time does not dim. 

ELM Gray with plan sheet - ELM Day 2021
Superintendent Quincey Gray holds the sheet found in a museum book owned by Edward Lee McClain. The sheet, from an 1893 issue of the School Board Journal, was found in the book and contained simple school plans. (Photo by Angela Shepherd)

ELM Day -  Rock 2021
Larry "Rock" Roosa speaks to those gathered for the annual Edward Lee McClain Day. Roosa is a 1955 graduate of McClain and returns to the school every year for the event. (Photo by Angela Shepherd)

ELM busts - 2021 ELM Day

In the foreground is the marble bust of Edward Lee McClain. The bust of Ginevra follows, then the bust of Lulu McClain. The busts of the McClains were added six years ago and reside in front of the marble staircase on either side of the bust of Ginevra, an original sculpture by Hiram Powers. (Photo by Angela Shepherd)

ELM 2021 Roosa donation
Standing at the marble stairs, Larry "Rock" Roosa and his wife Linda present a donation to McClain High School. Also pictured are superintendent Quincey Gray (far right) and McClain Principal Matt Shelton (far left). (Photo by Angela Shepherd)