School Remembers its Famous Pupil

Edward Devotion's front door. (Rachel McCubbin/Bu News Service)
Edward Devotion School’s entrance. (Rachel McCubbin/Bu News Service)

By Rachel McCubbin
BU News Service

Copies of John and Joseph Kennedy's enrollment cards. (Rachel McCubbin/BU News Service)
Copies of John and Joseph Kennedy’s enrollment cards. (Rachel McCubbin/BU News Service)

BROOKLINE–To celebrate one of their former students, the Edward Devotion School, or “Devo” as the students and faculty call it, holds an annual essay contest on President John F. Kennedy’s birthday.

Third graders from the school swarm the John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site once every May.

“We have a ceremony at Kennedy’s birthplace,” said Linda Keavenui, school secretary for more than 25 years. “They close off the street and the principal speaks and the parents come. Caroline Kennedy has even been there.”

“They write about what the president means to them,” said Keavenui. “Then the people from the birthplace pick the winners of the essay contest.”

Devo has the third grade JFK essay contest written into the curriculum. The school wants the students to realize that a long time ago, a famous president went to the same school as them.

“That’s our way of trying to keep his presidency alive,” said Keavenui. “We want to keep his connection to us.”

Students are reminded of their connection to Kennedy and his family every day. A large display case in the front of the building holds many Kennedy artifacts. The enrollment cards of the late president and his siblings were once kept in Devo’s front office. They were moved to the JFK Presidential Library and replaced with museum quality copies for the school’s use.

“I found Joe and Eunice (Kennedy)’s cards in a backroom years ago,” said the school secretary. “And I just remember thinking, ‘These don’t belong in a shoebox somewhere!’ So we donated them to his presidential library.”

John F. Kennedy attended the school from kindergarten through the third grade. He transferred to a private facility, The Dexter School, for the fourth grade.

Mike Wallace, the “60 Minutes” reporter, was only one year behind John F. Kennedy at Devo. They had the same kindergarten teacher, according to Keavenui.

Ironically, one of Wallace’s most famous stories was his interview with Clint Hill, the Secret Service agent in the car following Kennedy on the day he was assassinated. Hill blamed himself for the president’s death. He claimed on national television that he could have gotten to the president in time to take the fatal bullet in his place.

Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, 50 years ago this month. Anticipating more visitors as the anniversary of his death nears, Keavenui got to work cleaning JFK’s display case in Devo.

“We try to keep it a big deal,” said Keavenui. “We want this connection to the president to last forever.”

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