Reflections on Classical, Christian Education: An Interview with Gordon Zubrod

What kind of impact can a classical education have on a person’s life? We recently asked Gordon Zubrod to share his thoughts about how his own classical education served him through his life as a Captain in the Marine Corps and federal prosecutor. As the grandparent of three Covenant alumni, as well as the father-in-law of Covenant’s founding Headmaster, Mr. Zubrod has seen firsthand the impact that a Covenant education can have on students.

Tell us about your educational background.

My undergraduate degree was taken at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  I received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature with a minor in political science.  I took my law degree at the University of Maryland School of Law and later graduated from the Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island, qualifying me as a Judge Advocate General in the U.S. Marines.

What (and who) were some of the formative influences on your life?

Key formative influences include, first and foremost, coming to faith in Jesus Christ.  I slowly went from a self-absorbed scholar-athlete-reprobate to a simple believer who realized that God had given me a mind and that I should be brave enough to use it in his service.

Second was/is my wife, who showed me what grace looked like at ground level:  humble, kind, persevering and ready for laughter.

Third was my father, who read great literature to me from childhood (the Iliad and the Odyssey, Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventures, Kon Tiki, Two Year Before the Mast, countless poems).  He even sang.  He was called the Father of Cancer Chemotherapy, responsible for developing numerous drugs that retarded or destroyed cancer cells.  His faith informed everything that he did.  He was offered the Deanship of Georgetown Medical School and Chief of Research for a major drug company after he left federal government (he was chief of scientific research at the National Cancer Institute), choosing instead to work with Haitian refugees in Miami, many of whom were suffering from AIDS.  As a marine biologist (his other career), he taught me the Latin names of fish that were being studied at the laboratory in Maine where we spent our summers.  When I would correctly identify a species as “squalus acanthius” or “lophius piscatorius” he would bestow his ultimate commendation:  “Good show, old man.”  By the way, Dad told me that his most significant training for medicine was Latin and Greek, which taught him the mental structure to see the essential “grammar and logic” of cell structures and of the diseases that attacked those cells.

I should add my long-suffering mother, who made me recite poetry and the rules of grammar to her each night as she prepared dinner and who persevered in prayer for me during the lost years.

The Marine Corps was an astringent application of discipline and method.  I learned structure, chain of command, to take on large responsibilities and develop a bias for aggressive action regardless of the odds against me.  They also required us to take the most difficult tasks (including examinations) when we had gone weeks without adequate sleep, food or preparation.  The key was to find out who could perform best when he felt he had nothing left.  It left a strong impression to this day, having become the habits of a lifetime.

I was greatly influenced by the Benedictine monks, who taught me for four years as a teenager (at St. Anselm’s Abbey in Washington, D.C.).  I became what my daughter refers to as a “grammar Nazi.”  They made us read difficult texts, including Caesar’s Gallic Wars, Virgil’s Aeneid and other Great Books.  Mostly, I was struck, not only by how learned they were, but how reflective and thoughtful they were.  Indeed, my wife and I still speak French to each other when the topic is sensitive and the grandchildren are around.

Finally, a very great influence was books.  My mother, during the summer months, required us to read for two hours every day after lunch.  Four of the five of us (the fifth was way too young) would climb into the same giant hammock and read each day.  I read my way through the children’s and the young adult sections of the library in Bar Harbor, then walked into the adult section and discovered mysteries, which directed my career choices.  A near disaster occurred when I asked my mother what a “lingerry” was.  When, after making me spell it and discovering that the word was “lingerie,” she began to censor my reading choices.  That incident led me to look up words for myself in the dictionary.  I am still a bookworm, and still looking up words on my own. 

How did your classical education impact you? 

Classical education affected my life as a Marine and as a Federal prosecutor in a number of ways.  I learned to read texts (orders, battle plans, statements, case law and facts) very carefully, to ask pointed questions based upon my reading of the facts and the law and to disagree with particularity and force when I thought a superior was wrong.  I learned that huge issues and contests are usually decided on very small facts, minute details and to be the most versed on these facts going into any conflict or debate.

My classical education also trained me in the art of persuasion, to find le mot juste to deploy with skeptical agencies, autocratic superiors, aloof judges and in negotiating with brilliant opponents.  Once, a barrister from Canada wrote me a letter about my position.  He quoted Swift:  “It is a wonderful thing to be a giant, but a terrible thing to act like one.”  (Gulliver’s Travels).  After laying out the ruin caused by his client to innocent people, my closing response was borrowed from Pepys:  “A scoundrel’s back should taste the lash.”  Great fun.  Moreover, throughout my career, I have done the essential writing in every case that I have handled.  Others may tweak the draft, but the essential text is mine.  Having written the core documents, I was also the most informed and best prepared to try the case.  It was a telling advantage.

Finally, in the legal profession, I came across numerous men and women who had a similar love for the law as a profession and were engaged in a life-long pursuit of self-education.  They were well read in history, literature, philosophy and, of course, the law.  In the midst of conflict and strife, they would reach back for a classic quote (e.g., “Once more into the breach…or else fill up the wall with our English dead.”).

You recently taught Covenant’s first ever Moot Court elective along with U.S. attorney, and Covenant parent, Stephen Cerutti. What are some of your observations? 

Steve and I approached the course with some foreboding, not knowing how well the students would grasp complex Constitutional issues, rules of evidence, how well they would be able to handle oral argument and the think-on-your-feet give and take of the courtroom. We needn’t have worried. They were very sharp and, for the most part, took the course very seriously. Of course, some were superior and their preparation made them stand out when they rose to present their case to the Court. As a teacher, I found that the greatest quality of the students, in addition to their ability to grasp complex ideas, was their intellectual curiosity. I was continually challenged on the justice or logic of a particular Supreme Court ruling. The debates would rage between students on a particular issue or legal precept, with each combatant clearly expressing his/her position. Again, for the most part, they were not afraid of work, which included weekends and after-school hours. They wanted to get it right.

Were your goals for the course achieved?

On the positive side, the students rose to a high standard. As one expressed it in a letter written after the trimmest had ended, she had not realized how hard it was to become competent in a profession and how thrilling it was to find herself moving toward it after much effort. Several students said that the experience whetted their appetite for law and were considering pursuing a professional degree.

On the negative side, I think that we should have allowed more time for oral argument during the semester, but were hindered in doing so by the volume of information that had to be absorbed in order for the students to competently argue their cases in Federal court.

What advice would you give to parents considering coming to (or staying at) Covenant?

As the grandfather of three alumni of Covenant, I can personally testify to the performance of the school’s graduates in college and grad school. Zoe graduated summa cum laude from both Grove City (BA) and Villanova (MA). Noah, who will be entering his senior year, is carrying a 4.0 average in philosophy and is heading to Oxford to study philosophy and then to Italy to study Latin for a year.  Moreover, their former classmates have experienced similar success in college. I was talking to a graduate of Covenant last Sunday. He told me that his college classmates were terrified of having to prepare a 5-minute presentation in Speech class. He stated that he had done it so frequently that he didn’t even break a sweat in his presentation, which was head and shoulders above the other speeches.

I’m not certain of the precise makeup of the final years at Covenant, but I am aware of the Senior Thesis and I  presume that there is greater freedom in the final years to experience the professions. If not, I would include visitors from the professions, chosen for their ability to communicate the particulars of professional practice. This would include college professors to alert students what to expect when they get to college. Perhaps, visits to a medical school, a college class or a business (such as Classical Academic Press) would add to their experience as a Covenant student. I also think that debating, public speaking or dramatic readings of plays and even acting out parts of plays should be a requirement of the rhetoric phase (in college, we used to get together with some of our professors and read portions of plays, always the high point of the week).

In any case, those are the things that I would offer to parents, namely, that an upperclassman at Covenant gets to do things that most people experience only (and even then, rarely) in college.  In other words, the school is not just about getting the necessary number of courses to graduate, but to experience the love of learning, becoming a lifelong learner along the way.

Thank you, Mr. Zubrod, for sharing your thoughts with us! 

Gordon Zubrod giving Covenant’s 2016 Commencement Address.

Welcome Andrew Ferris – Covenant’s New Math and Science Teacher

Covenant recently hired Andrew Ferris as a new math and science teacher for 2018-19. Andrew will be teaching our grammar school science classes as well as Life Science and math in the upper school. He is also well equipped to teach an upper level math or science elective as the need arises. We are blessed that Mr. Ferris is able to spend the month of May at Covenant so that he can begin to get to know students and families in our community and to prepare for teaching this fall. 

Tell us about your family? Where did you grow up? 

I am the middle of three boys. I grew up with my parents and brothers in Chardon, Ohio, which is famous for its excessive snowfall and maple syrup industry.

Where did you go to college? What did you study? 

I attended Grove City College. I majored in Biology, with a minor in Mathematics.

What are one or two books you’ve read this last year? What did you learn? 

Most recently, I finished reading The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, which is a compilation of several addresses given by C.S. Lewis. Lewis’s works consistently deepen my longing for God and point me to the understanding that every desire of man can find ultimate satisfaction in God.

I also recently finished reading Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller. This book helped me better understand how we as Christians ought to approach our work, and how work is one of the ways that man can glorify God and be His image-bearer.

What have you been doing since you graduated from college? 

Since graduating in December 2016, I have been working in the Bioanalytical Chemistry department at Concord Biosciences. I work in the laboratory, performing experiments on drug compounds that are in various stages of development.

How do you think your experience as a scientist will impact your teaching? 

I think that my experience as a scientist gives me a more in-depth scientific knowledge, especially in the fields of biology and chemistry, and has enabled me to see first-hand how the ideas that I learned when I was in school are applied in real laboratories. This allows me to teach from experience, not merely from head-knowledge.

Also, the laboratory is a diverse workplace, made up of very different people from all over the world who have very different worldviews and values. This is very useful in understanding how different worldviews approach science, and the implications and consequences of the various mindsets. This will help me to point my students toward a proper understanding of science, which I believe will serve to increase both their knowledge and their joy in science.

Who have been some of the biggest influences on your thinking – either in person or through books? 

Two professors from Grove City College immediately come to mind: Dr. Paul Munson and Dr. Julie Möller. The lessons from both of these professors, whether inside or outside the classroom, are saturated with God’s truth, ever pointing me to the Source of all wisdom. Additionally, I very much enjoy reading and learning from the works of C.S. Lewis. 

What do you most want young grammar school students to learn through your science classes? 

I want the young grammar school students to learn how God has given us such a good and glorious creation, by which we can praise Him. I want the study of Creation to fill them with an awe for God and a desire to continue learning more and more about it.

What are you excited about when you think about teaching upper school students at Covenant?

I am excited for the opportunity to help the upper school students get glimpses of God’s glory through the studies of math and science. I am excited to help my students understand how we as Christians ought to approach the fields of math and science, regardless of the career paths they pursue. I hope that through their studies they would not only be knowledgeable but also have a lifelong appreciation of the beauty and purpose that God has infused into His creation.

What do you like to do when you’re not teaching? 

I enjoy partaking in good conversations, playing piano and French horn, composing music, fishing, making and throwing boomerangs, kayaking, hiking, ballroom dancing, playing volleyball, playing chess, making maple syrup and gardening.

Behind the Scenes

While many of our families were enjoying spring break by relaxing, traveling, and resting, one of Covenant’s faculty members – David Kemper – along with a cohort of student and parent helpers, was busy performing one of the biggest annual transformations that Covenant experiences: the building of the set for our drama production.

Mr. Kemper teaches history, literature, and rhetoric, and serves as Covenant’s lead teacher of classical pedagogy. He is also the Director of our drama production. He and his team of helpers built a gorgeous set for this year’s production of Romeo and Juliet – working over spring break every day except Sunday, from morning to night, to get it done. The play promises to be excellent – so buy your ticket and come and join us for one of the shows beginning on April 19.

We recently asked Mr. Kemper to provide some insight into his Director role.

How long have you been directing plays at Covenant?

This is my fourth year directing plays at Covenant.

What are the shows that you have directed or been involved in?

Hamlet was the first play I directed, then Arsenic and Old Lace, The Imaginary Invalid, and now Romeo and Juliet. Before that, I’ve been involved with most of the plays in some role or another. My first set design and construction was Antigone performed in the Parmers’ home theater in 2004. Since then I’ve designed a few sets and mentored student directors from Messiah College who came in to work with our students.

Why did you choose to do Romeo & Juliet this year?

Selecting Romeo and Juliet as this year’s play was a group effort. We have a tradition of performing a Shakespeare play every few years, and I think Mr. Hayward suggested it might be time again to do a drama. I settled on Romeo and Juliet, pitched it to students, faculty and administration and it stuck.

Do you have a favorite line or lines from this play?

My favorite line so far is Friar Laurence’s wise observation spoken to Romeo:
“What early tongue so sweet saluteth me?
Young son, it argues a distemper’d head
So soon to bid good morrow to thy bed.
Care keeps his watch in every old man’s eye,
And where Care lodges, Sleep will never lie;
But where unbruisèd youth with unstuff’d brain
Doth couch his limbs, there golden sleep doth reign…”

Aside from the characters, what are other roles that students perform to make a drama production?

I try to involve students in most of the stages of production. From creative vision to acting coaching/direction to set construction and costume design/acquisition, facility management, lighting looks, sound vision, make-up concepts, prop management, actor support, audience care, … really just about every part of what it takes to give a community a full and successful performance.

How did you come up with the idea for the set?

My favorite sets have been the more abstract sets I’ve seen… ones that communicate a theme or inspiration from the script, but that don’t explicitly describe this or that scene. In Romeo and Juliet, the script calls for a balcony. It calls for a bed, a burial chamber. I think a good designer can think of ways to make pieces of the set become all sorts of different items based on how they’re used. That way there doesn’t need to be scene changes with various painted back-drops to tell the audience where they are. This can be done more abstractly with minimal set cues and lighting and audio. Our balcony is the remnant of a broken clock tower. Shakespeare has something to say about time improperly managed as a tertiary theme beneath love and vengeance. The idea is to engage the audience in a way that leaves space for their minds to fully imagine that what they are seeing is really happening in front of them. Tell them too much, and they feel separate from the art. Tell them just enough, and they feel like a part of it.

Who helped you build it?

The construction of the set takes a lot of help. From materials, donations/purchases, and trucks/trailers to haul those materials, to hands to carry and cut and assemble, again, every volunteer, student, and parent is a valued contributor!

What are some of the things that you’ve seen students learn from being a part of a drama production?

By participating in the play, whether acting or in some of the other ways mentioned above, students learn to value interdependence. Not only do they experience the feelings of triumph after a great performance (a valuable sensation). Students become emotionally linked to one another. I suppose it’s similar to students who work hard together on the soccer field. In team sports, success isn’t determined by one player. I think this is also true for a successful theatrical performance. The lead actors might have more lines, but if the lights don’t come up, who would see them delivered? If the supporting cast member doesn’t cue their entrance by carrying the right prop, how would a sword fight commence? Students learn to depend on each other in sometimes challenging but achievable ways. They really can count on their cast mates and technical crew and directors.

Take us through what all goes into this. When do you select the play? What work do you do to the script? When do auditions occur? Who are some of your non-student helpers? How often are rehearsals?

After the play is selected I do multiple reads of the script taking into account my pool of actors, facility strengths, the sensitivities of our diverse audience, and then begin to edit/alter/shape the script in small ways. This is necessary with Shakespeare since there are just some lines that are too bawdy for our student-actors and our audience. We then schedule the auditions depending on what kind of work I think actors will need to put into memorizing their lines. This theater season, we held auditions before Christmas, to ensure that leads would have a script in their hands over break. During this time, a production team of a couple parents and faculty begin emailing back and forth generating ideas, schedules, and parent volunteers and more schedules and timelines. Without the help of Erica Bryce, Val McClymont, and Teresa Lanza very little of this year’s production would have come together. It really is just too much for one person to carry. Having a strong team of passionate and driven friends is essential for our dramas to come together. I’m so thankful for these ladies and their committed involvement. I develop a schedule by splitting the script into manageable pieces and trying to take into account any schedule conflicts. We like to start rehearsals after basketball season is over for example, and sometimes I’m able to accommodate work schedules or family activities for students who request flexibility. All that considered we do try to rehearse every day up till the performances… except for Easter break and most weekends.

That sounds like a lot of work…

Well, it is a lot of work… and I reevaluate if I’m able to commit to all of it every year. Again, without the team that crowds around me to support and manage so much of the process, it just wouldn’t happen. There are so many that I don’t have room to mention, but aren’t valued or loved any less than those I have.

Do you sleep well at night?

I sleep just fine, I guess… I’m smiling as I write this. The thing is, I might sleep more restfully if I worked from lists, but I don’t. I can recount stories of how I awake from a dream in the early morning hours with solutions to one or more of the problems I hadn’t yet thought out. Or sometimes I dream in a particular character’s point of view, as I work out motivations or movements to better direct the student actors. But yeah, I sleep.

How do you recover when it’s all over?

The process of taking it all apart when it’s over is a cathartic way to recover from the process of building it all. That is, partaking in conversations afterwards, hearing how the play impacted viewers, hearing how the actors have moved back into normal schedules and where their heads are, physically demoing the set, trying to return all the props and set pieces and costumes that were loaned to us or rented… in a sense just returning to normalcy and a satisfied rest, like returning home after a strenuous hike. I remember the vistas, and the taste of the streams, and in all seriousness, sometimes I weep.

In your opinion, how does the theater enhance a student’s education?

Theater is just one of the many ways a student is best educated. It is frivolous. It is pretend. But it is also essential and real. Theater might only be an echo of reality in terms of actors and characters and pretend spaces, but theater directs a student toward discovery in a way that offers new insights on the world and people around them. Theater is simply literature for the stage, bringing life to old words, old themes. When young people do theater, old things become new… for them, and for us.

The Verdict Is In

One of the distinctives of a classical education is an emphasis on training in logic and rhetoric. Learning to think and speak well serves our students for their whole lives in whatever calling they pursue. A cadre of our Upper School students experienced a tour de force in these matters under the tutelage of two experienced U.S. attorneys who pioneered Covenant’s first ever Moot Court elective.

Prosecutors Jessie Billante and Tony Chen conferring with Gordon Zubrod.

Gordon Zubrod was a captain in the Marine Corps before going on to serve over three decades as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Senior Litigation Counsel for the Department of Justice. His career included the investigation and prosecution of organized crime, political corruption, human trafficking, money laundering, and complex white-collar crimes. He was joined by Stephen Cerutti, an Assistant State’s Attorney for the Middle District of PA who specializes in criminal appeals. He is also a father of a Covenant student.

Zubrod and Cerutti teaching.

Together they gave our students a 10 week course in constitutional law, trial procedure, rules of evidence, cross examination, and other facets of America’s legal system. Their razor sharp reasoning and decades of experience helped students to hone their logical skills as they prepared their cases.

The elective came to a dramatic conclusion on February 22nd when the students presented their cases before Chief Magistrate Judge Martin Carlson in his court at the Federal Building in Harrisburg. The students were dealt a difficult fact set fraught with constitutional and ethical challenges requiring careful reasoning and analysis. The facts were borne out of Zubrod and Cerutti’s many years of experience and imagination, giving the students a challenging yet true to life case to try. The students performed all of the major roles for the trial, serving as a prosecution team, defense team, and witnesses. (Then the roles were switched around for round two).

It was exciting to watch the students rise to the occasion, answering questions and responding to challenges before the gaze of the jurors (their parents and Head of School) and the formidable presence of Judge Carlson. The students acquitted themselves well. Judge Carlson went out of his way to complement their achievement in his closing remarks:

You should be very proud of the work you have done in this courtroom. The work you have collectively done vastly exceeds the quality of the work that I see from seasoned litigators on a daily basis. . . You have done an exceptional job of presenting very complex constitutional issues, and you and your families and the school should be very proud of the work you’ve done here.

The course also made a powerful impact on the students as they learned about the freedoms and rights we enjoy as citizens of our constitutional republic. One student remarked that,

It is so easy to distance oneself from the criminal activity that occurs very close to us all, and this elective made me realize how relevant our constitutional rights are and how important it is to understand the system dedicated to protecting the American citizens.

We are grateful that these students had such a wonderful experience through this elective this year.

Litigators Jason Bryce, Brett Montefour, and Ben Snyder deep in thought.

Defense counsel Audrey Bryce and Faith DelliGatti.

Joseph Wolcott takes the witness stand.

Voices of Gratitude: Student Perspectives on Covenant

At our 20th anniversary banquet in November we asked both a current and former student to share about “what I am thankful for about my classical education at Covenant.” We thought their speeches were worth sharing again as they well describe many of the things we thank God for at Covenant.

Lucas Lanza: The Joy of Fellowship

Lucas Lanza, Class of 2018

I thought about what I would share with you all here for a while, because I really do owe so much to Covenant Christian Academy. I’ve attended Covenant for a little over 12 years so there’s a lot to be grateful for. I thought about critical thinking, social skills, and art, but in the end I decided I would share my gratitude for an equally important take away from Covenant.

I owe my love and desire for fellowship to Covenant. Obviously, everybody enjoys time spent with friends, but I would make the distinction between that time and my idea of fellowship. To me, fellowship is a time when believers come together and talk with one another about their walks with Christ, what they’re grateful for, and their struggles. It’s a yearning for this kind of interaction that Covenant has implanted in me. Many of my classmates have been at Covenant since kindergarten, we’ve matured together and experienced many of the same struggles throughout our young lives, so I find it extremely rewarding to fellowship with them. As I’ve grown older, I’ve been able to grow much closer to my friends in this way. As Covenant has encouraged us to engage the word in more depth, I have been able to think about my life and my faith with the same depth, and I’ve observed this in my friends as well.

As well as encouraging this idea of fellowship in me, Covenant also provides a number of great opportunities for fellowship. Various activities during the day, such as hallway liturgies, lunch, and class discussions, as well as extra curricular activities like sports are great environments for this kind of Christian interaction. For me, a fantastic fellowship opportunity was opened when I joined the Covenant soccer team.

Seniors on Covenant’s Soccer Team

Personally, this past soccer season, my final season, was an incredibly formative experience that I shared with a really solid group of guys. Despite how short and mildly depressing this season was, it actually was an incredibly positive experience compared to its preceding years, and it was really exciting to see how God worked through us during the good times and the hard ones.

I feel this same excitement when I think about my future. In a couple of months my high school journey will come to an end and I’ll be shipped off to college. I’ll be in an entirely unfamiliar place filled with new people, but I rest assured knowing that because of Covenant I have what it takes to glorify God in this new place. And that I have made lasting relationships with people who I can rely on for fellowship during hard times even if they are far away. I’m eternally grateful for the skills that Covenant has given me that I know will be useful for the rest of my walk with Christ. Thank you, God bless.

Erin Burlew: Thinking and Conversing Well

Good evening! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Erin Burlew. I graduated from Covenant, or more affectionately known the to alumni as CCA, in 2010 and work in public accounting in Richmond, Virginia.

Erin Burlew, Class of 2010

It’s been wonderful to see so many familiar faces tonight. Some of you might remember one of the last times I spoke at Covenant, though probably not as vividly as I do, a nervous 18 year old dressed in a plaid skirt presenting my senior thesis hoping the board would be gracious with their questions and critiques.

I’m astounded that that day was almost 8 years ago. At that point I could never have anticipated being asked to stand here today, celebrating twenty years of this school.

In line with the theme of this evening, I was asked to share with you what I am grateful for about Covenant. But the evening is too short to truly convey all the gifts my time here provided. I could tell stories from the good old days of Covenant for hours, but for the sake of time I’ve chosen two elements of my education for which I am particularly thankful that continue to impact my daily life, both in and out of the workplace.

Evening of Gratitude Banquet, Nov 11, 2017.

Covenant was the place where I was taught to think and was taught to converse.

Now, certainly CCA was not my only classroom for these. In fact, I primarily learned to think and converse at home. But school often felt like an extension of home, partially because of my family’s involvement, but also because the values which were taught at CCA aligned with what I learned at home. Learning was always part of life in the Burlew household.

But the classrooms of CCA provided the formal setting in which I discovered how to learn and how to follow my curiosity. Of course, by learning, I mean so much more than memorizing facts. I learned how to think, to problem solve, to ask good questions, to read critically and evaluate teaching. Our teachers answered questions with questions to lead us to conclusions and taught us to defend positions with valid arguments.

These skills have served me well – not only during my time at Grove City College, but also in my career.

Guests enjoying Covenant’s Evening of Gratitude

I know that accountants don’t have the most exciting stereotype. I can’t say that I ever dreamed of being an auditor growing up, but I’m thrilled to have found a career that uses my skills and encourages both personal and professional growth.

At its roots, my job involves learning about an organization – from the big picture down to the small details. We make conclusions about how facts affect money. In this way we are able to evaluate our client’s accounting records. What it really looks like is asking “Does this make sense?” many times throughout the day. This question is one that I learned to both ask and answer in logic and rhetoric class at Covenant.

I’ve used these skills in all areas of life, not just my career. Since leaving my parents’ home after high school, I first moved to Grove City for college, back to Harrisburg after graduation, and finally to Richmond. In each of these stages of life I’ve entered into a new community and searched for a new church. This isn’t a situation I was directly taught to handle. There was no class for how to move to a new city and find a church. But because I learned how to think, to read, and to listen critically, I’ve been able to apply these skills in evaluating the teaching and theology of a new church.

The second element of a CCA education that I am grateful for is my ability to converse.

Accountant’s aren’t generally known for conversation skills. In fact, when I explained my job, some of you probably pictured me crunching numbers on a calculator alone in a dark windowless room. But knowing how to have challenging conversations is a critical part of an auditor’s role. There were several times as a recent college graduate where I needed to challenge a [decision made by a] client’s CFO. To say that these conversations are intimidating is an understatement.

Students enjoying the Evening of Gratitude.

But walking through life avoiding intimidating conversations is what creates adults more equipped to spout off a disagreement on social media than work through an issue in real life. CCA makes students face these conversations head on, in an environment that encourages speaking the truth in love, an environment that doesn’t equate being respectful with being in agreement. We not only had classroom debates with fellow students, but visited a mosque, a hindu temple, and other religious sites in apologetics class, enabling us to have an educated view of other religions. We learned to see those in disagreement as people to be loved, not enemies to avoid.

To think and to converse are behaviors that all humans engage in. But to think and to converse well are honed skills, that must be trained and ingrained over time as a partnership between teachers and parents. I consider it an honor to have been educated in a school that put more effort into these disciplines than in scores on standardized tests or acceptance rates to prestigious universities. However, many who attend CCA are blessed with the opportunity to continue on in their education, as I was. I made my way from the halls of CCA to the halls of Grove City College.

This leads me to my second reason for standing here tonight, to introduce the main speaker for the evening, Mr. Paul McNulty. Prior to returning to Grove City as President, Mr. McNulty worked as an attorney in Washington D.C., including holding the position of Deputy Attorney General. Many of his other impressive accomplishments are listed in tonight’s program. As a Grove City alum, I think of President McNulty as the one who tirelessly leads Grove City College as it provides a liberal arts education to young adults. He is much beloved by faculty and students alike.

It is my profound honor to introduce to you the Honorable Paul McNulty.


Well Suited for Joy

Students pass beneath a beautiful stained-glass window each morning as they walk into school. The glass was crafted by fellow classmates, teachers, parents, grandparents, and friends over the course of two years before being installed in September 2016. It is a reminder that students are entering into a different kind of place – a school where beauty surrounds us, where the sound of singing is oft heard, and where a love for learning is cultivated. Classical Christian education is meant to be a joyful education, filled with discovery, delight, and friendship.

Susan Wise Bauer once said,

Because it uses real, living books and hands-on experimentation rather than relying on textbooks and canned presentations, classical education is a matter of exploration, of reading, thinking, and talking and of discovery – not of rote memorization and regurgitation.

For those with questions like, “isn’t classical education too structured?” or “doesn’t all the memorization take away the joy of learning?” all I can say is, come, taste and see the fruit. Here are four ways that classical education at Covenant is suited to bring joy to your child’s life.

Delight in Discovery

Though much of modern education and life serves to deaden this instinct, children are filled with a natural curiosity and wonder of the world. At Covenant, we want to respect the image of God in our students in this way.

A. G. Sertillanges recognized this fact by saying,

Every intellectual work begins by a moment of ecstasy; . . . Now what is this ecstasy but a flight upwards, away from self, a forgetting to live our own poor life, in order that the object of our delight may live in our thought and in our heart.

We want our students to marvel at the fall colors. To wonder at the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into a butterfly, to stand awestruck at the moon eclipsing the sun, to dream of where the geese fly in the fall, to ponder triads in music and in nature. This delight in discovery is at the heart of a classical education at Covenant.


Overcoming Obstacles Together

Not much worthwhile in life comes easy. Teddy Roosevelt stated the idea like this:

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. . . I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.

Yes, of course, classical education is hard at certain points. We are seeking to turn boys and girls into courageous and wise men and women. It’s a challenging road, and that’s why it’s so important that our students learn in a community where this effort is honored by their teachers and peers. These habits and skills must be learned by each individual, but not alone. Our students learn and grow with other students facing similar challenges, and taught by teachers who love Jesus and who want what is best for them. This friendship makes all the difference.


A Living Curriculum

One of the best things that we give to our students at Covenant is our teachers. Teachers who love Jesus, who love their students, and who love what they teach. Listen to how John Milton Gregory described the excellent teacher a century ago:

He must ever be a cold and lifeless teacher who only half knows the lessons he would teach; but he whose soul has caught fire from the truths which he carries, glows with a contagious enthusiasm and unconsciously inspires his teachers with his own deep interest.

We are blessed to have teachers who embody a love for learning and teaching. Having consistently seen their Christ-like character, I am thankful that my children are being shaped and formed by Covenant’s teachers. Gregory describes what happens when a school is filled with teachers like this:

There will come to our schools an attractive charm which would at once increase their numbers and double their usefulness. The school-rooms, now so often dark and dull, would glow as with a living light, and teachers and pupils,  instead of dragging to their weary task, would hasten to their meeting as to a joyous feast.


Inheritors of Freedom

The ultimate goal of our education at Covenant is the formation of our students into young men and women who love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. But who is able to do this? To love God rightly, to have affections ordered toward their proper end, to seek what is good and beautiful, and to turn away from what distracts and diminishes glory – this takes training in the Spirit.

A classical education is designed to answer the question Anthony Esolen asks in Life Under Compulsion:

How to raise children who can sit with a good book and read? Who are moved by beauty? Who delight in innocence? Who can walk outdoors and enjoy the beauty of weeds and sparrows? Who still possess youth, which lends them both a frolic childlikeness and a wisdom beyond their years? Who have no compulsions – who don’t have to attend to the constant buzzing of a smartphone, or click on the next link and the next link and the next link, or buy the latest gadget, or submit to the instant urge?

He answers the question this way:

To resist Life Under Compulsion, to raise children who can throw off the shackles and enjoy truly free, and full, lives, we must affirm the old meaning of the English word free, which is related to joy and greatness of heart . . .

But what is it to be free? How do we cultivate this outward-looking freedom that sets our hearts toward what is good and beautiful? The answer is what a wise pastor once called the “expulsive power of a new affection.” We will not, and our students will not, undertake the hard work of saying no to lesser things – at least not for long – until we are gripped by the beauty and goodness of something greater. “To free oneself from the accumulated sludge of sin,” Esolen writes, “is to free oneself for the freedom of heart that is love.”

Parents choose the challenge of classical education because they want their children to learn to know this freedom. There is an easier road, for sure:

. . . you may wish to raise up Contented Cows, placidly chewing their cuds in a field of creature comforts, or Harried Hamsters, racing on the Mill of the World. . . . The chains are right here, if you like.

Yet so is the window.

Although it is not as easy or “fun” as other roads, there is much joy on the journey to be had. And what is more – there is a harvest, for those who faint not. (Gal 6:9).