Ken Atwell ’29

Ken Atwell ’29 recalls the nuns in grammar school warning students that they had a choice: either be good students and go to SI or be bad students and end up at reform school.

Atwell also recalls one SI teacher who always wore a black three-piece suit. “He was renowned for his aim. If he had his back to us while writing on the blackboard and heard us talking, he would turn around and throw his chalk, hitting the offender every time.”

On another occasion, while sitting in JUG (Justice Under God), the students grew a bit rowdy while memorizing a page of Latin as punishment. The prefect of discipline, Fr. Harold E. Ring, SJ, saw them through the window from his office and raced to the classroom. “He slammed the door open, took one kid’s neck in his hands, and slammed him against a blackboard. That quieted us down.”

Not all the teachers were tough, though seemingly they had to be to survive. One scholastic made the mistake of treating his young charges as gentlemen. One day, while closing a double-hung window, the ropes broke that held the balancing weights, and the window slammed down on his fingers, trapping him there. “The students debated whether to help him or to leave him there,” said Atwell. “We eventually lifted it off his fingers, but he wasn’t too happy with us.”

Atwell remembers the students sitting on the steps outside the school, chewing tobacco, holding spitting contests and memorizing lessons for homework. “The quality of education wasn’t quite up to today’s level,” he noted.

After graduating from SI and attending St. Ignatius College for a year, Atwell continued his education at UC Berkeley and in Utah. He eventually started a successful commercial construction business before moving to Idaho. He died December 21, 2004, at the age of 92, leaving SI $1 million in his will.