educational benefits that Salesianum offered me, I enthusiastically participated in dramatics. Under Fr. McCoy's direction Salesianum won first prize two years in a row in the One Act Play competition. In addition I became the art editor of "The Tabb Miscellany,” a literary magazine honoring John Bannister Tabb.
I entered Salesianum School as a sophomore in October 1940. (The previous year I had been a freshman at the Diocesan Preparatory Seminary in Catonsville, MD.) My older brother was already a student at 8th & West but my family hadn’t been certain that I could join him: like most people in those days, the effects of the Great Depression made it very difficult to make ends meet. My mom and dad were already paying $80 a year for one son, and they didn’t think that they would be able to afford another tuition payment. Much to my parents’ relief (and surprise), Salesianum School - in the person of Fr. Joseph McCoy, OSFGS - allowed both boys to attend for $110 per year, making it possible for me to have an experience that would change my life forever.
I enjoyed three wonderful years at 8th & West. Over and beyond the
As a student at Salesianum I interacted with some very fine men who inspired me by their life and spirit. They were most helpful, friendly, and supportive while doing their best to provide me with a great education and to teach me the ways of self-discipline and self-direction. Turned out I was not alone in my awe and admiration for the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: of the thirty-five young men who graduated in June 1943 five joined the community, including yours truly. Not long after reporting to the Oblate novitiate, however, I ended up having to return home to look after my parents, both of whom had grown seriously ill. With two brothers already serving overseas in the military, I was the only one available to look after my mom and dad. Of course, by leaving the Oblate novitiate I became re-eligible for the draft, and it didn’t take long for Uncle Sam to determine that the United States of America needed me elsewhere. I was drafted into the US Army and was deployed to northern Italy for the remainder of the war and the initial efforts to restore peace.
Following my rotation back home and discharge from the Army, I picked up where I had left off by re-entering the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales: this time, for good.
After being ordained a priest in 1957, I was delighted to learn that I was slated to return to my Alma Mater where I spent nine very full – and fulfilling - years teaching History, Biology, English and Theology while also working shoulder-to-shoulder with Fr. John Spragg, OSFS in the Dramatics Department. In addition, I also served at different times as Junior Class and Senior Class moderator, as well as a counselor for students across all four classes.
Returning to Salesianum as an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales was such a treat for me: it afforded me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try to share with another generation of young men the same great start in life that Salesianum had given me nearly two decades previously. Along with my Oblate confreres and a small band of dedicated lay teachers, I had the privilege of watching a new generation of boys as they were transformed into fine young men, many of whom later became not merely "former students" of mine but life-long friends. As if this legacy weren’t rewarding enough, most recently a number of graduates established a scholarship endowment in my name: just as I would not have attended Salesianum without being offered tuition assistance, I am delighted that future students may have the same opportunity given to them because of another’s generosity!
One morning not too long ago as I was walking toward my car parked in front of the Oblate community in which I now live when a young man driving a pick-up truck pulled up alongside of me. After introducing himself and informing me that he was a Salesianum graduate, he said, "I just want you to know that everything I am today I owe to Salesianum."
I’ll second that!
(Rev.) William Keech, OSFS, is a 1943 graduate of Salesianum School. He currently resides at the Oblate community on Brinckle Avenue in Wilmington, Delaware.