175th Preview: Adrian Onderdonk: Our Fifth Headmaster
175th Preview: Adrian Onderdonk: Our Fifth Headmaster

Adrian Holmes Onderdonk was the second and youngest son born to Henry and Mary Latrobe Onderdonk on July 18, 1877 at Saint James. His father was the School's second Headmaster who reopened the School after the Civil War. His mother was the daughter of the Chief Engineer at the B&O Railroad as well as the granddaughter of Benjamin H. Latrobe, architect of the National Capital who was also said to have designed the original Claggett Hall. Adrian grew up on the grounds of Saint James. The School helped shaped him as much as he helped shaped the Saint James that we know today.

When Adrian was a child, his father sent him to a French teacher named M. DeMulpie, whom Adrian despised. He dreaded his French tutor so much that he decided to skip a lesson in hopes that his teacher wouldn't miss him. Later that day, when his mother inquired about his lesson, he told her a lie and went on about his day.

When Adrian's parents learned of his lie, they confronted the young boy. To his surprise, Adrian received a rather surprising punishment. His father sat him down and began to speak to Adrian about what he had done. However, the senior Onderdonk "was so overcome with grief because his son was a liar, that he put his head down and sobbed," as recorded in the Memoirs of Adrian Holmes Onderdonk. Mrs. Onderdonk wept, along with her husband. At the time, according to his memoirs, Adrian noted that he wished his father would have just spanked him. The boy had not understood that one simple lie could cause so much anguish to those he loved. Because of this lesson, one of the first actions that Adrian put in motion as Headmaster was to establish an honor system, which we still uphold today.

Next week, we will share more about Adrian Onderdonk's long and important tenure at Saint James School.

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