Traditions at Roxbury Latin
Celebrating its 375th anniversary, The Roxbury Latin School has centuries of tradition embedded purposefully and meaningfully into its history and daily life. In many cases, those traditions connect today’s students and faculty to the alumni and masters who have come before—generating a sense of commitment, honor, and pride. Traditions like Halls, Founder’s Day, and Exelauno Day speak to the unum of this “old Latin school.” Newer traditions, like Maru-a-Pula Day and May Day, are pure fun, allowing boys to be creative, let off some steam, and celebrate with one another. Below are some memorable RL traditions that today’s students point to as among their favorites.
Since the 1960s, the start of the school year for all “Sixies” (members of Grade 7) has involved an all-class trek to the Beaverbrook nature center and campground in Hollis, New Hampshire. The overnight trip—supported by faculty chaperones and Class I group leaders—includes two days of team-building activities and orienteering, ice-breaker games and RL trivia, an evening movie and renditions of The Founder’s Song. (And, of course, s’mores around the campfire.) Alumni recall fondly their Beaverbrook experiences, well beyond their RL years.
The All-School Handshake
On the Opening Day of School each year—after the all-school Hall during which Headmaster Brennan welcomes new and returning students, faculty, and staff—every member of the school community lines up along the walkways surrounding the Senior Grass to offer a hearty hello and handshake to every other member of the school. This tradition—possible only in a small school!—nods to the intimacy of Roxbury Latin and the emphasis we put on respect and relationships.
Perhaps no day on campus is more uniquely “RL” than the annual Exelauno Day. Held on March 4th each year (“exelauno”—to march forth), this exercise enlists boys from Classes VI through I, one from each Latin and Greek class, to compete in the David Taggart Clark Competition in Greek and Latin Declamation. Throughout the morning—judged by an esteemed panel of Classicists—boys might question the motives of Agamemnon, prosecute Verres, slay Turnus, compete in the discus, or try to woo a young lady—all in the original language, and without the benefit of props. The result is an impressive demonstration of boys’ mastery of the classics, as well as the inevitable creativity and hilarity that ensues.
Fifthie vs. Sixie Tug-of-War at Homecoming
Every October, at the Homecoming and Family Day celebration, the entire Sixie (Grade 7) class and Fifthie (Grade 8) class gather on the football field at halftime to put their strength to the test in an epic tug-of-war battle. In recent history—with an extra year’s wisdom, life experience, and physical growth—the Fifthies have emerged victorious. However, each year is anyone’s game…
One of RL’s community service initiatives is to raise money each year to support a scholarship for an orphaned young person to attend the Maru-A-Pula School in Botswana. (Roxbury Latin has a long relationship with Maru-A-Pula, including an exchange program that runs each spring/summer.) On Maru-A-Pula Day—the final day of classes before spring break—students and adults pay $10 to “dress up or dress down” for the day. Campus that day feels a little bit like Halloween, only better.
Run each spring by Class II, May Day is an all-day “color wars” field day, with students from all classes and faculty from all departments divided into six teams, with the goal of competing for glory and bragging rights. Colorful, homemade team uniforms are always a highlight. Events throughout the day include dodgeball and soccer, tennis and frisbee, chess and crosswords, egg toss and tug-of-war.
Senior Hall Talks
Members of Class I—as part of their English curriculum—craft personal essays that they then develop into talks, which they hope to deliver publicly in Hall to the entire school community. Throughout the year, pairs of seniors are chosen to deliver their powerful talks, topics of which range from wisdom to spirituality, environmental responsibility to gender equity, favorite works of writing to favorite moments spent with a parent. Younger students listen with rapt attention as the school’s oldest boys share personal reflections through polished public presentations.