Albion Interactive History / Events / 1939

Albion Interactive History

Albion Interactive History / Events / Starr Commonwealth

1939 October 1, Dedication of 3 buildings at the Commonwealth

Recognition of the vocational arts building was long overdue. Work on the resurrected school, building, had just been completed, thanks to a wholly unexpected grant from the Rackham Foundation Fund of Detroit. Thus Inglis Cottage became the third item on the program that first day of October, 1939.

Because of travel delays, world-famed pugilist Gene Tunney was nearly an hour late in arriving for the dedication service. A capacity crowd of nearly 700 waited for him in the new auditorium/gymnasium, and another 300 listened to the program over speakers in nearby classrooms. At long last President HarlanFreeman of Adrian College delivered the invocation and the eighteen-vice boys’ choir sand an appropriate anthem. Floyd Starr then present Dr. John L. Seaton, his long-time friend and president of Albion College. Admitting “I’ve never seen a prize fight,” Seaton found much to praise in the former world champion for his high standards of sportsmanship, for his interest inunderprivileged children, and for his concern about the ominous trends in world affairs.

Perhaps to the surprise of the sports fans in the audience, Tunney took several leads from Seaton for his address. Referring first to Floyd Starr and the Creed, he commented that “The trouble today is that there aren’t enough Mr. Starr’s around the world.” “Instead of places like this,” he remarked with a wide wave, “we fill our prisons with young offenders and wonder why the crime rate keeps rising.” In its unique way, he declared, “the Starr Commonwealth fills a gap the state has not learned to fill as yet.”

Ranging farther afield, Tunney spoke strongly against the totalitarian countries of that era which “scoff at the dignity of the individual, strike at abelief in God, and deny eternal values.” In closing, he returned to the school and the boys. “May the Commonwealth mean as much to the youngsters of tomorrow,” he urged, “as it does to you today.” The crowd cheered their approval as the ex-pugilist raised his hands inboxer-fashion to acknowledge their applause.

The main response to Tunney’s address came from Vernon Fox, one of Uncle Floyd’s boys from the recent past who in 1939 was a senior at Michigan State University and president of Starr Commonwealth alumni association, numbering nearly a thousand young men. First, Fox turned to the speaker of the day.”Your life and your words are an inspiration to all of us,” he said. Then he turned to Mr. Starr. “And you, sir” he declared, “you and your Commonwealth have given us our birthright, our chance to live. Had it not been for you and your vision, our chances in life might never have come.” Drawing the older man to his feet, Fox gave him a quick hug. Itsymbolized a relationship that would endure throughout Starr’s remaining years.

During the conclusion of the program, the Albion Evening recorder reported, “Mr.Starr introduced Mr. and Mrs. James Inglis and Miss Marian Webster, daughter of Mrs. Elizabeth Webster, for whom Webster Hall was named.” After Dr. Paul L. Thompson ofKalamazoo prayed “For all men who keep love on the aggressive, we give thanks,”he then pronounced the benediction and the program came to a close. Before leaving for theirhomes. “Many of the visitors inspected the three newly completed buildings, Webster Hall, the rebuilt Emily Jewel Clark School Building, and Inglis Cottage, which has boosted the population of the commonwealth to 125 boys.” It was early eveningbefore all the guests left and Tunney departed for a speaking engagement in Detroit.

Source: Keith Fennimore. FaithMade Visible: The History of Floyd Starr and His School. Albion, Michigan:Starr Commonwealth. 1988.