RL Parent and Trustee Jim Frates Reflects On Holy Week

“Central to Roxbury Latin’s mission and tradition is tending to the spiritual growth of our boys,” began Headmaster Brennan in virtual Hall on April 1. Throughout the year, Roxbury Latin students hear from speakers of various religious traditions about topics of faith, spirituality, and living with purpose. As Jews began their celebration of Passover, and as Christians looked forward to the culmination of Holy Week, RL trustee and parent Jim Frates shared his personal reflections on the meaning of Holy Thursday—and how the lessons relate to each of us, regardless of our faith or beliefs.

He began with the story of RL alumnus James Drummond Dole, Class of 1895, who had set out for Hawaii to make his fortune and—after much trial and error—found success, ultimately, in pineapples. He then shared the tale of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, who “might have been the most interesting man in the world,” Mr. Frates said, who in his life excelled in engine repair and then race car driving; became the greatest flying ace in WWI; went on to own Indianapolis Motor Speedway and establish Eastern Airlines; and even authored a comic strip.

Mr. Frates then recounted a sermon that his uncle—a former Navy priest and WWII pilot—used to deliver about when Captain Rickenbacker and his crew crashed into the Pacific and spent 21 days adrift:

“After exhausting their supplies, starving, and near the point of death, Captain Rickenbacker organized a prayer meeting: ‘Master, we are in an awful fix, as you know. We are counting on a little something by the day after tomorrow at the least.’ Rickenbacker then lay on his back and pulled his hat down over his face. At that point something landed on it. A seagull. He slowly reached up and captured the gull, and then divided it among his men. The remainder provided him with bait for two fish which were quickly captured. There were no skeptics among those men.” He recounts how two days later, near death from dehydration, Rickenbacker prayed for water. That evening a squall occurred, providing the men with enough water to survive until they were rescued.

Finally, Mr. Frates arrived at one of the most important stories in the Christian tradition—that of Holy Thursday. “In the episcopal tradition, Maundy Thursday is the day that sets up and highlights all that is to follow.” He recounted the details of Christ’s Last Supper, the washing of His disciples’ feet, and finally the agony in the garden at Gethsemane. 

“Jesus’s commandments to his disciples during the days leading up to his death are some of the lessons I hope you take away today,” said Mr. Frates. “To love one another as I have loved you; the importance of fellowship—caring for one’s friends and neighbors; and leadership through service. If you want to truly lead you must take care of one another… Combine these lessons with those of Dole—dream big, don’t give up, look to your friends for support, take care of those around you—and Richenbacker—work hard, find your passion, give all you can, remember it can change at any moment, be a leader, and don’t be afraid to pray.

“I am sure you hear this a lot, but you have been given a great gift,” concluded Mr. Frates. “Your community here at Roxbury Latin is special—your friendships, your classmates, and your teachers. Remember your fellowship. Carry it forward. Don’t be afraid to lead, and don’t be afraid to rely on your friends.”

Mr. Frates is the Chief Financial Officer of Amylyx Pharmaceuticals—a company focused on developing new treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s Disease, and other neurodegenerative diseases. In addition to serving as treasurer of Roxbury Latin’s Board of Trustees, Mr. Frates serves on the boards of Sage Therapeutics and St. Francis House, and formerly on the Board of his alma mater, St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire.

View the entirety of Mr. Frates’ Hall talk.