When Executive Director Jeremy Goldstein and Head of School Charley Stillwell initially approached Senator John McCain ’54 with our plans for the center in 2017, McCain agreed, with one condition: to include and honor his mentor William B. Ravenel, who taught at Episcopal from 1936-68.
While at EHS, McCain, the son of a U.S. Navy captain, gravitated toward Ravenel, who lived a life of service to his country and served as a colonel during World War II. Through his teaching, Ravenel lived the meaning of intellectual and moral courage, and McCain thought of Ravenel’s example frequently while a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. The senator recounted: “I knew that Mr. Ravenel had a great impact on me, but I don’t think I really understood how deeply he impacted me until I was in prison. It was his example I looked to when I was tempted to do something which was less than honorable.” When Ravenel died suddenly while teaching at Episcopal, his students and colleagues mourned the loss. A tribute to Ravenel in the ’68 Whispers read:
“We will remember him [Ravenel] for the enthusiasm with which he taught and coached us, and for his insistence on the highest standards of honor, discipline, and dedication to purpose; yet more we will remember the magnificent patience with which he bore our shortcomings, the delighted humor with which he shared our departures from the serious and the unswerving devotion to our interests that governed his every thought and act.”
McCain came home from Vietnam to the news of Ravenel’s death and was unable to tell him of his enormous impact. Goldstein hopes the center will inspire all future EHS students to live with moral and intellectual courage as both men did.