World War II brought losses to many, including Hawken School. Twelve of the more than 200 enlisted Hawken “old boys” who, in MacMahon’s words, were “doing their part to help straighten out the cruel mess in which this old world finds itself” never made it back to Cleveland. They were remembered at a special memorial service held on campus on October 27, 1946.
Hawken was impacted by the war in practical ways as well. A Christmas letter to Hawken alumni serving in the war dated December 1, 1944 read: “Maintaining a teaching and service staff in times like these has been a headmaster’s headache. The shortage of manpower, withdrawals for various reasons, and the demands of the selective service have wrought havoc in the teaching and service staff the past three years.” But under the able leadership of Carl Holmes, new teachers were recruited, and the staff became “reasonably complete.” Even so, teachers were asked to step up to fill in some gaps; Mort Smeed, for example, added bus driver and art teacher to his resume.
The school made a special effort to keep in touch with the “old Hawken boys” who had enlisted in the war effort. In the Christmas letter from 1943 referenced above, “Mr. Mac” wrote to them of the impact of the war on the School, mentioning the “many little things that have affected our way of life at Hawken, as elsewhere, - things connected with certain necessary restrictions in the matter of gas, rubber, food, and so forth.” But he assured them that they “would be pleased and not a little surprised at how little the School has changed” in all the important ways. He commented that, more than a quarter of later, five of the Ansel Road contingent “still haunt Hawken’s hallways – Stephens, Smeed, Luehrs, MacMahon, and John Ciarlillo.” Ciarlillo, a beloved fixture who oversaw maintenance at Hawken for decades, was known for singing Italian opera in Hawken’s hallways and bending nails with his teeth.
Wartime shortages left some of the school’s facilities in disrepair, and the need for a new primary school was becoming more and more apparent. As the post-war era began and shortages became a thing of the past, this need was answered when Board Chair Liv Ireland announced an anonymous gift of $50,000 for a new primary building, to be completed in 1947. Around the same time, Holmes got approval from the Board for a plan to double the size of Hawken gradually by adding a second first grade section each year for eight years. To capitalize on the post-war boom, Carl Holmes added funding for advertising to boost enrollment and grow the school, reasoning that “there may be some people out there who are making new money from war work and could send their children to private school if they knew about them and understood that they aren’t country-clubbish.”
Because the school’s leadership was well aware that enrollment is directly tied to a school’s ability to recruit and retain the best teachers, faculty retirement became another major area of focus during the 1940s. In December of 1940, alumni seeded $1592 for faculty retirement, and the trustees put $2535 toward a participatory faculty pension fund, which was later consolidated with the alumni pension fund.
The 1940s also marked the start of organized alumni giving, thanks to James (Jim) Ireland, who was appointed treasurer after expressing concern over the relatively meager $6500 that had been raised through alumni gifts. As treasurer, Jim instituted the “Thousand Dollar Giving Plan,” and alumni giving showed significant growth as a result.
One of the most significant fiscal achievements of the 1940s was the merger of the Endowment Association with the Board of Trustees – something Frances Bolton proposed as a means of ensuring that ”the trustees who are running the school also are responsible for its futures financing.” To support this effort, she offered to carry the school’s deficit at up to 20K per year for 5 years while the school raised enough money to carry the remainder of the deficit. If the school followed through with that plan, she promised a final gift of $200,000 at the end of the 5 year period – once again living up to her nickname as Hawken’s “fairy godmother.”
Toward the decade’s end, Charles Stephens stepped up as interim headmaster in 1948 when Carl Holmes took a sabbatical year to study other schools around the country, the same year that marked the opening of the new primary building, which was occupied by 26 out of the 186 boys enrolled that year.