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First Commencement

On June 8, 1916, two years after its founding, Professional Children’s School  graduated its first senior class. “The graduation exercise was one of the most important events of the school history,”  recalled a member of the Class of 1917 who was present at that first commencement.  “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.”

The ceremony was held with great fanfare at the Princess Theatre on West 39th Street.  John Drew (left), one of the most distinguished actors of the day, was an honored guest and addressed the audience.  Head of the notable acting family, Mr. Drew was uncle to John, Ethel and Lionel Barrymore. 

Essayist John J. Chapman joined Drew on the platform and also spoke.   Leading lady Elsie Ferguson presented the diplomas to the four graduates (three girls and one boy).  An invocation was read by the Episcopal Bishop of New York, David H. Greer (left in top photo).  Bishop Greer was the father of PCS co-founder Jean Greer Robinson and a member of the school’s first Board of Trustees.

Several newspapers covered the event which, in spite of the rain, drew a crowd of theater notables, filling the Princess Theater.  As reported in one newspaper, 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 [he] said this was a better way to learn geography than in school.”