Thursday, September 06, 2007

Greek School Had Its Origin with 1863 WRA Alumnus

It was a pleasure meeting Nancy Birk of Kent, my first visitor of the new academic year. She is the retired university archivist of Kent State University, now serving as archivist at the American Farm School in Salonika, Greece. She had wondered whether WRA Archives had anything about the Rev. John Henry House, the missionary/educator who founded the American Farm School in 1904. Our records held several clippings and articles including some from a 1935 Reserve Record where he was saluted at 90 as the school's oldest living graduate.

John Henry House '63, born in 1845 and raised in Painesville, came to our campus in 1862 as a student in the Preparatory School (now WRA). He excelled as a baseball player and Latin scholar. Rev. House went on to the old college, graduated in 1868, and was ordained a few years later. He spent most of his career as a missionary and teacher working in what are now Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece.

Settling in Salonika in 1894 while it was still part of Turkey, he founded the Agricultural and Industrial Institute, a secondary school with a large farming component, and served as its principal and president. The campus was largely modeled on WRA's campus and remains today a private, independent school with a board of American trustees.

Rev. House was awarded the Golden Cross of the Saviour, Greece's highest honor for his contributions to education and agriculture. One article hailed him as "an Olympian farmer," appropriate since his school is only a few miles from the place where Philip of Macedon engaged Aristotle to be the teacher of his son, Alexander the Great.