Sumner Rulon-Miller's death on July 11 marks the end of an era at Proctor. Few men have had a greater role in shaping the school that we know today. We are told that he has been battling cancer for years, yet Sumner never revealed illness to us as he continued to serve (vigorously) as a Trustee this year.
Sumner came to Proctor as a sophomore in 1954. Struggling with reading, he worked doggedly with tutor Marion Hatt, and went on to Princeton. His love for Proctor transcended his own experience; he loved what the school did for everybody.
Ice hockey was revived as an interscholastic sport on Proctor Pond during his first year, and it is testimony to his brilliant athleticism that Sumner was Captain and high scorer for the varsity squad all three years! Below, he sits to the left of the goalie in the winter of '54-'55, and below, he is at center, wearing number 48 (apparently a football jersey!).
A born leader, Sumner flourished at Proctor, serving on Student Council, Athletic Council, as a job foreman, and as dorm leader. He is pictured below (front right) outside of Gulick House during his junior year.
With dogged determination and assistance from tutor Marion Hatt, he conquered dyslexia, and won the Harvard Book Prize, the Frank James Sherman Award, the Hackley-Proctor Theme Contest, the Athletic Award, the William Douglas Burden Award, the Luella Scales Award and the Reader's Digest Subscription Award. He was Valedictorian at his graduation, and is pictured with (left) Peter Cook, Salutatorian and (right) Essayist Everett Jones.
The editors of the 1957 yearbook comprised a list of "Class Notables" that named Sumner Most Likely to Succeed, Best Athlete and Best Dressed, but I find it most telling that he was also named Best Brain and Class Plugger. Not just smartest; he was hardest working, too. Nothing was going to stop Sumner from succeeding at Proctor.
Sumner's love for this school was immeasurable, and he returned to start a legendary career as a trustee in 1969, a challenging time when Lyle Farrell's long tenure as Headmaster was nearing its conclusion. Sumner welcomed change, and became a champion of David Fowler as Lyle's successor. He became Chair of the Board of Trustees in 1972, and--with a brief reprieve in'78--continued in that role until 1985. These were years in which Proctor established its mission and soul, created innovative programs that would become prototypes for schools everywhere, and emerged as a prosperous leader in northern New England. David Fowler writes, "I am shocked and profoundly saddened by Sumner's death. Even though we were friends for forty years, I had no clue about his battle with cancer. He meant so much to me in his total support during those early struggles trying to hold on to those historical strengths of Proctor and yet moving to a new mission, and the necessary supportive programs that would shape the school for the next 30 years." Below, with Kit and Chris Norris.
In 1985, Sumner established a unique scholarship in honor of the Learning Skills tutor who helped him attain his dream to attend Princeton. Dedicated to "Academic Excellence, Character and Community Involvement," the Marion Hatt Scholarship is supported by a committee comprised of each former recipient. In other words, a growing team of past Marion Hatt Scholars convenes (electronically) to monitor the size of fund and to select new scholars who are nominated by the school. The column at the right of this page introduces past recipients--going back 25 years. In some ways, they have little in common, yet each is the beneficiary of Sumner's vision, generosity and love.
Sumner was an active Honorary Trustee to the very end; he conferred with Mike Henriques and Board Chair Mark Loehr over the past two weeks regarding fall Trustee meetings without divulging any hint of his illness. How typical of Sumner that seems, now that we know! Nothing matters but the here-and-now. Mark Loehr observes, "There is no canvas large enough to paint the picture of how grand Sumner's influence has been on Proctor Academy. He embraced the school with his whole being some 65+ years ago and Proctor embraced him back just as thoroughly - day after day, year after year and decade after decade. He was gracious, thoughtful, wonderful and most of all caring. Caring for the school, caring for the community, caring for every single person he came in contact with. His smile and infectious love for all things Proctor will be sorely missed, but never forgotten. We have lost a legend."
Sumner was very proud of Proctor's Unitarian heritage (despite the fact that our formal affiliation with the UUA terminated in 1958,) and--more than anyone else--ensured that we retained that tradition's faith in humanity....the knowledge that what matters is between human beings, here on Earth.
Sumner Rulon-Miller III was a true character. No one ever encountered him without knowing that he was special. We will remember him in a tweed jacket, with a scarf about his neck....tall, standing straight with impeccable posture, his hair a little longer than you would expect, listening with extraordinary interest to what someone was saying....hanging on every word. He loved people just being themselves--without pretension--and for that reason he loved Proctor more than anyone I have ever known.
This page will be updated as soon as I receive information regarding a public memorial, probably next month in Maine. In the meantime, I hope that you will use the comment feature on this page to contribute your recollections and feelings about this great man.
Sumner receiving his diploma, June, 1957.
Recipients of the Marion Hatt Scholarship: Soneath Hong '85.
Carlotta Segars '85.
Jacquelynn White Hat '87.
Chris Durell '89.
Adam Rohner '89.
Ayize Jama Everett '92.
Amaliya Jurta '94.
Courtney Monteiro '97.
Christiana Makinde '99.
Robin Bartlett '02.
Kate Klauzenburg '05 (left).
Jaguar Sasmito '09.
This year's Valedictorian, John Howard--who will be attending Dartmouth College--went out of his way to thank Sumner at the start of his remarks, never knowing that Sumner was ill.