Conor Downey Donates His Western Civ Project To Deutsches Altenheim Chapel

For his Western Civilization project last year, Conor Downey, Class III, designed and crafted a reproduction of the famed stained glass window—depicting Mary and the Christ Child—from the Cathedral at Chartres, France. The piece of artwork—a labor of love for which Conor earned RL’s informal “Best in Show”—now has a new and permanent home on the campus of RL’s neighboring Deutsches Altenheim. Conor donated his window to this long-standing service partner of Roxbury Latin, where it now hangs in the facility’s non-denominational chapel.

Conor knew of many remarkable stained glass creations in history, but he wanted to be sure that he was taking on something within his skill range. Art History teacher Dr. Sue McCrory helped him to assess a range of options. Having previously created art at the Diablo Glass School in Roxbury—largely with glassblowing techniques—Conor was intrigued by the stained glass work he encountered there. “For my project I went to the studio every weekend for two to four hours a day,” says Conor. “I spent about 50 hours total—researching, creating my template, cutting, grinding, soldering, and putting on the final touches.”

When the presentation period for the Western Civ projects had come and gone, Conor and his family thought it would be a shame for the window to simply gather dust in their basement. In considering a potential home for the piece, Conor decided ultimately on Deutsches Altenheim: “I had been lucky enough to volunteer there through RL several times. All of the residents there are so kind and appreciative. They also have lots of art in the hallways, and it just seemed the right home for my window.”

Jennifer Clark, Director of Development at Deutsches Altenheim, says she, other staff members, and the residents are grateful to have Conor’s artwork installed in the chapel, which residents and staff members use daily to find some tranquility or pray the rosary.

“As people age they tend to rely even more strongly on their faith, so this space on our campus becomes an important part of their lives,” says Ms. Clark. “We were grateful that Conor thought of us and reached out. The sunlight hits the window really beautifully, and the colors help to brighten and warm this space in a way that residents and staff really appreciate.”

Volunteering, entertaining, and spending time with Deutsches Altenheim residents is the classwide service project for boys in Class IV, led by classmaster Jim Ryan. Several years ago, Roxbury Latin boys built raised planter boxes for the Deutsches Altenheim residents, so that they could garden at waist height, which made a favorite pastime possible again for those residents who can’t bend or kneel on the ground. “RL boys are making important and lasting marks all over our campus,” says Ms. Clark.

The annual Class IV Western Civ project, long a component of RL’s freshman year curriculum, involves students researching, producing, and orally defending an artifact, building, or historical scene linked to Western Civilization. Parameters dictate that the student must make his project with his own hands—no kits, and no enlisting a 3-D printer to craft a prefabricated design. Each student is graded on his oral defense; accuracy in representing the original; workmanship; and the project’s degree of difficulty.