PCS 100: First Commencement: 1916

First Commencement

 

Theatre Community Turns Out in Support
Although founded in 1914, it wasn't until June 8, 1916 that  PCS graduated its first senior class.  The Princess Theatre (photo,below) on West 39th Street was donated for the occasion.  The theatre was jointly owned by four parties including the pioneering theatrical agent Elisabeth Marbury.   Miss Marbury had done much in her own right to make it possible for women to pursue careers in the theatre and to legitimize the theatrical profession for both men and women.  Her clients included Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Jerome Kern and Cole Porter.   It is tempting to wonder if it was she who made the theatre available to the school.

John Drew, one of the most distinguished actors of the day, was an honored guest and addressed the audience.  Elected lifetime president of The Players Club, he headed the notable acting family, and was uncle to John, Ethel and Lionel Barrymore and great-great uncle to Drew Barrymore.   Educator and author John J. Chapman joined Drew on the platform and also spoke.  Leading lady  Elsie Ferguson presented diplomas to the four graduates: three girls and one boy.   The invocation was read by David H. Greer, Episcopal Bishop of New York, member of the PCS Advisory Board and father of PCS co-founder Jean Greer Robinson.

As a member of the Class of 1917 recalled the event at his own graduation the following year, "this closing exercise was different from that of last year as we now had four graduates.  The graduation exercises was one of the most important events of the school history.   The graduates had their respective compositions which they recited. The remainder of the school sang, while the smaller class danced Greek dances.  After graduation, we realized we had to part with four of our dearest classmates."

Several newspapers covered the event which, in spite of the rain, drew a packed audience, mostly from the theatrical profession.  As reported in one of the papers, Georgie Price, one of the graduates, read a composition entitled "The Child on the Stage" in which he wrote, "of his visiting the Rockies, the Grand Canyon and California in his vaudeville tours, and said this was a better way to learn geography than in school."   - John Tucker

 


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