New Park Honors Beloved Educator
A new park at the heart of The Webb Schools provides a creative space for classes and other campus gatherings while paying tribute to a beloved educator and an iconic school building.
McMillin Park encompasses an open-air amphitheater featuring more than 40 remarkably comfortable boulders arrayed around a central plaza below a dozen majestic oak trees at the center of campus.
The park’s rock-strewn design is a nod to a stone hut that occupied the spot for seven decades and which served as a classroom for humanities teacher Laurence McMillin, who taught at Webb from 1955-1992.
McMillin shaped generations of Webb graduates and is best known for creating an innovative course called Individual Humanities that explored how extraordinary individuals contribute to history and culture.
“Larry McMillin embodied what is best of Webb – a teacher dedicated to inspiring students to stretch their scope of imagination to new heights, to expand their understanding of themselves and the world around them,” Head of Schools Taylor B. Stockdale said. “This park is a testament to his impact over his 37 years as an educator here.”
The park is designed to accommodate casual gatherings of students, classes and campus events.
At the south side of the park, a tile wall created by Stephen Farley ’81 celebrates McMillin. The wall displays McMillin’s image, a scene of him teaching in front of the stone hut and his favorite quote from Albert Einstein: “The aim of education must be the training of independently acting and thinking individuals who, however, can see in the service to the community their highest life achievement.”
The project was primarily funded by Webb’s Class of 1967.
Fletcher Strickler ’67 shepherded the project over the years, collaborating with classmates to raise the bulk of $400,000-plus in funding. The idea of dedicating the park to McMillin came from Strickler and his classmates, who had McMillin for junior year English.
“Mr. McMillin was immensely smart, and he made you work,” Strickler said. “He made you be the best you could be. He assigned tough assignments. You had to read good books. You had to write intelligent papers. He was a guy you respected. You didn’t just like him; you respected him.”
David Shernoff ’85, an associate professor at Rutgers University, was inspired by McMillin to write a book about the educator titled “The Individual-Maker.”
“Larry’s legacy lives on in every student whose heart and mind he touched. Everything we, his students, do – in all our decisions, in how we regard the world around us, in our habits of mind – reflects his power to inspire, to teach,” Shernoff said. “This park is a wonderful celebration of that potent, life-changing influence.”
Farley said the yearlong Individual Humanities course, launched in 1974, was an audacious class – even for Webb. Students studied great thinkers, produced the campus newspaper and crafted in-depth biographical studies. Farley’s ran to 70 pages.
“He didn’t tell us what we were supposed to learn. He’d come into the stone hut, and he’d lean back, and he’d ask us what we thought. And we had to create the lecture. He had this absolute dedication to our advancement as individuals, and not just scholars. He lit a spark within you.
“For me, it was absolutely liberating, and it stayed with me my entire life,” Farley said.