Dear Menaul School Community,
I am very excited that the lid is coming off our COVID containment. It has been hard to plan and hard to be optimistic about so much without a clear way forward. Thank you for digging in and being strong in this uncertain time. Faculty, thank you for adapting so quickly – I have been bragging on you and our systems, as I believe we were the first school to be fully online in New Mexico.
Thank you, administrative team, for meeting daily and sharing the worry and hard work of leadership. Thank you boarding staff, who have heroically supported our boarding students 24/7. They have thrived and been safe because of your magnificent efforts. Thank you, staff, working at home and in the office ensuring our many systems: food service, campus maintenance, admissions, receiving monies and paying bills, communications have all moved forward seamlessly.
Thank you to our Board of Trustee leadership who have been encouraging and wise in this tough time.
General good news:
Although 2018-19 was a difficult financial year, 2019-20 projections show us in very good shape. Several large bequests and prudent decisions have resulted in healthy financial result. For next year, the Board and administration are taking a conservative approach with budgeting to help us weather the uncertainty and probability of an economic downturn.
Considering this pandemic, please enjoy a story I wrote this week for our Board meeting. Stay safe and I look forward to seeing you face-to-face soon.
Believe It or Not!
COVID-19 is not Menaul School’s first pandemic
Patrick Westerfield, our current Board Chair, was digging into records of his great uncle, Dr. William Randolph “Randy” Lovelace, an Albuquerque doctor, and discovered some interesting Menaul School connections.
In the early 1900s Menaul had a tuberculosis quarantine clinic right on campus, in one of the eight homes situated where the Villas—just east of campus—now stand. In 1904 this was the home of church and Ute tribal leader Julian N’Lau Buck of Ute, Indiana. (The Indiana Ute group eventually joined the southern Ute tribe now at Ignacio, Colorado.) Julian was a Presbyterian chaplain, described as an American nobleman, renowned for his superior intellect and stirring oratory skills. Apparently, he was being groomed to be a chief. Suffering from tuberculosis, he entered quarantine at the Menaul School clinic on campus on October 13, 1903. Sadly, after year in quarantine he died on October 14, 1904.
Statehood came in 1912, and then in 1918 came the so-called “Spanish Flu” (which probably started in France*). This epidemic devastated New Mexico, which was at the time the only state of the 48 that did not have a public health department. Thousands of New Mexicans died—exact numbers are impossible to calculate—and the Native American population was especially hard hit. If your family was here before 1918, you have probably heard their stories from those terrible years. (Things soon improved. By 1938, the state malaria rate had fallen to one-sixth of the national average, and New Mexico deaths from smallpox were well below the national average.)
Menaul School’s hygienic conditions during the 1918-1919 influenza epidemic were recognized as excellent, and the school’s population was safe. However, only half the students returned in 1919, because of the effects of the flu at home and the resulting labor shortage.
The global impact of the 1919 flu pandemic was 30-50 million deaths worldwide—makes our COVID flu look like a piker!
Some of these stories were discovered by Patrick Westerfield in his grandfather’s records. There are many more Menaul School stories of 20th-century health crises, but the Menaul Historical Library is closed due to this COVID-19 pandemic.
Menaul School has survived attacks by Pancho Villa, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam conflict, measles, whooping cough, and polio epidemics—not to mention the yearly “regular” flu. We came through all those difficult times, and we will thrive coming out of this one. We get to celebrate our 125 year of our significant mission next year!
*It got tagged the “Spanish” flu because the press in that neutral country freely reported the disease’s progress while wartime censors, seeking to protect morale as much as possible, suppressed news of the flu in countries that were fighting in World War I.
Sources: Associated Press; NM Dept. of Health
I very much look forward to having our community together again!
Love and blessings!
Lindsey R. Gilbert
President and Head of School
PS If you want a positive Menaul story, check out my cafécito interview with Brian Colón.