Distinguished Grotonians

Since 1977, Groton School has presented the Distinguished Grotonian Award, which recognizes graduates whose lives of highly distinguished service reflect the essential values of the School.

2016 Distinguished Grotonian Award Winner: L. Robert Bolling '76
L.Robert Bolling ’76 accepted the award with these remarks:


The last time that I spoke at Groton, I was a trustee giving a chapel talk. I reminded the audience of students, parents, faculty, trustees, and guests of the “call-andresponse” tradition of my faith. One purpose of the tradition is to establish a relationship between the preacher and the congregation and to help to encourage the pastor as he delivers “the word.” So, let’s try this again. I will give a greeting, or call, and you will return an enthusiastic response.


Now I am ready.

Thank you, Temba, and thank you, Groton family. I would also like to recognize my formmates who are here today. Hi, fellows!

Today I am humbled and honored by the Distinguished Grotonian Award. Finding the proper and distinguished words to express my gratitude seems impossible.

I can see and feel the stare of my maternal grandmother’s blue-green-gray hazel eyes. They express what my ears have heard from her loving, stern voice during hundreds of warm embraces.

She would say, “Be polite and tell the truth.”

“Yes, ma’am, I will try,” was often my response. I then did just as she said.

I will attempt to do so today.

I have been asked to reflect on my life’s service components, and to consider the influence that Groton may have had on my career and personal life choices. Before I begin however, I ask that you think about a few dates:

July 17, 1949
July 9, 1993
August 30, 2012
March 30, 2016
September 14, 1972

Particular events on these dates significantly impacted my life; more on the dates later.

Let me first share with you what it is that I do.

I am the chief executive officer of ChildSavers, a ninety-two-year-old nonprofit that provides mental health and child development services for children up to seventeen years of age. ChildSavers is located in my home community of Richmond, Virginia. So that you may accurately understand our work, I ask that you to consider our mission statement:

ChildSavers guides our community’s children through life’s critical moments with trauma-informed mental health and child development services.

The words of this statement are important for our work, but also connect to my Groton experience.

“Guides” relates to ChildSavers’ history. The former name of the organization was the Memorial Child Guidance Clinic. We were one of the first guidance clinics in the country and the first in the South. Our initial work focused on the health and welfare of poor children.

“Our community’s children”
We believe that every child that we serve is a child of our community as encompassed in the African proverb roughly translated, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The proverb’s meaning actually suggests a stronger sentiment: “How dare you not believe that it takes a village to raise a child?”

“Life’s critical moments”
Children can experience critical moments at several points in their development. They can be affected by trauma—either through witnessing it or being the subject of it. In fact, 80 percent of the children that we serve have been involved with at least one traumatic event.

We deliver on this mission through an outpatient mental health clinic, coupled with an immediate response service that sends clinicians to scenes where children have witnessed or experienced one of those traumatic acts.

Imagine for a minute that my fist is your brain. Now imagine that you are going for a walk in your neighborhood.

Suddenly you hear a dog barking. For this example, that dog is a traumatic event.

You are in stress mode as the brain goes on alert, and its sensors are activated as you search for the location of the barking animal. My waving fingers are the search monitors.

You finally see that the dog is encased behind a fence. The sensors recede as you relax. You are safe.

For far too many children, daily life is commonly filled with domestic violence, sexual assault, and murder. These things happen regardless of socioeconomic status.

For these kids, that barking dog is never behind the fence but, instead, in their faces. The impact of these multiple traumatic events keeps the brain always on high alert, impeding the ability to develop relationships or positive social mores, or to achieve academically. The child never feels safe.

Our therapeutic work helps children to regulate, and promotes resilience, thereby putting children on a path to happiness, safety, healthiness, and readiness to learn.

Just as important is the training that ChildSavers provides to the teachers of our youngest—preschoolers. Research clearly shows that the neurons of the brain that develop in the first five years are the pathways for lifelong learning and good decision-making. We want to maximize the development of those neurons, and quality early education helps to ensure that neuron growth. In fact, there is a seven-fold return for every dollar invested in quality early education.

Now: on to Groton and its influence on my work. Remember September 14, 1972? Forty-four years ago my father and I traveled from Richmond to Boston by plane. We took a cab from Logan Airport and arrived at Groton around dinner time. My dad got out of the cab, and dropped my large, green, hardback suitcase at my feet on the steps of Hundred House. He then turned, got back in the cab and said, “See you later, son,” and he was back off to Logan.

I had no idea what to do. Then a smiling David Rogerson (director of admissions at the time) appeared and took me to the Dining Hall to join the rest of the school. This helped me to settle in and begin my Groton journey.

The Groton experience is undergirded by relationships. Core for me was the concept of family. I found one here that was much like the one I was born into: loving and firm, and always encouraging. I hope that they are not embarrassed, but Charlie and Ann Alexander were my core at Groton. Their family had a lot of kids, just as mine did. My parents stayed in their comfortable home during visits to the school. Thank you.

Groton engaged the question of becoming, and made the decision to become, a co-educational institution during my time. In fact, my Form of 1976 is the last all-male class of the school. There was much discussion within the student body and in my class. I think that it is fair to say that opinions were evenly split on whether this was the thing to do. Tradition was important, but so was the future. It is as clear today as it was forty-plus years ago: co-education was the right decision for our daughters and for our sons. The school is better.

The Groton experience was not always fun.

I did not become senior prefect after serving as class officer each of the three previous years. I thought that I should have served in that role, and was sure that my formmates believed the same. It was disappointing and I felt wronged at the time. But let me tell you, my class had great wisdom. The right person became senior prefect for the right class at the right time. Even more, the role of Hundred House Prefect was right for me. I learned a great lesson in humility, one that stays with me today.

Coming to Groton, I had no idea of what to expect. My time here provided the tools of service and caring for my mission-driven work.

Finally, back to those remaining dates. July 17, 1949 was my parents’ wedding date. My father was the proud man who brought me to Groton, who had also searched for over three years to find the right home for his family in a southern, working-class, emerging integrated neighborhood during the 1950s. My mother, but not for the color of her skin and her zip code at birth, would have had available the resources and opportunities to become a brilliant PhD scholar, a business executive, or an attorney—all areas of interest to her.

The remaining dates are the birthdays of my twin children and my two grandsons. My life’s work of service is a testament to the values of my birth and Groton families. I trust that I will leave a legacy to my offspring and their diaspora.

I am grateful to be included among this distinguished group of Grotonians.

I trust that I have been polite; you have been for listening. I hope that I have told the truth and that my Grandma Virgie is proud.

Past Distinguished Grotonian Award Recipients

Name Year of Award
Mr. George C. Lodge ’45 2015
Mr. David Campion Acheson ’39 2014
Mr. Moorehead C. Kennedy, Jr. ’48, P’79 2013
Dr. Ward H. Goodenough ’37, P’71, ’77, GP’08, ’12 2012
Mr. Malcolm E. Peabody, Jr. ’46, P’82, GP'16 2011
The Honorable Robert C. Scott ’65 2010
Mr. R. Scott Asen ’62 2009
Mr. Hardwick Simmons ’58, P’84, ’07, ’09, GP’12, '17 2008
Mr. Hunter Lewis ’65 2007
Mr. Peter Gammons ’63 2006
Mr. Samuel A. Waterston ’58, P’87, ’95 2005
Ambassador George H. Walker III ’49, P’78, GP’02, ’04, ’13 2004
Mr. William M. Polk ’58 2003
Mr. Ralph O. Esmerian ’58 2002
Mr. Henry Chauncey ’23, P’51, ’53, ’63 2000
Mr. Edward P. Lawrence ’59, P’89, ’91 1999
Mr. Charles Devens ’28, P’55, ’61 1998
Mr. Daniel P. Davison ’43, P’72, ’75, ’80, GP’02, ’03, ’06 1998
Mr. Ferdinand Colloredo-Mansfeld ’57, P’81, ’83, GP’09, ’13, ’14, '18 1997
The Honorable John Train ’46, GP’97 1996
Mr. Kenneth Auchincloss ’55, P’96 1995
Mr. Harold I. Pratt ’55, P’82, ’85 1995
Mr. John H. Finley III ’54, P’88, ’94 1994
Mr. David E. Howe ’43, P’75, ’80, GP’14 1993
The Honorable Clive L. DuVal II ’31 1992
Dr. Bertrand B. Hopkins ’48, P’78, ’79, ’81 1991
Mr. Alan J. Pifer ’40 1990
Mr. Gordon Gund ’57, P’86, ’89 1989
The Honorable Endicott Peabody ’38, P’67, ’73, GP’94, ’11 1988
Dr. Paul Snowden Russell ’43, P’75 1988
Mr. Jonathan Yardley ’57 1987
Mr. J. Carter Brown ’51 1986
Mr. Frank D. Ashburn ’21 1986
Mr. Louis S. Auchincloss ’35, P’76, ’82 1985
Mr. Theodore Chase ’30, P’56, GP’86, ’97 1985
Mr. Stanley R. Resor ’35 1985
Mr. J. Graham Parsons ’25, GP’77, ’79, ’96 1985
Mr. Francis Keppel ’34 1984
Mr. Walter S. Sullivan ’36, P’74 1983
Mr. John E. Lawrence ’27, P’58, ’59, ’63, ’64, GP’81, ’83, ’85, ’93, ’94, ’00, GGP’09 1983
Mr. Robert H. Gardiner ’33 1980
Mr. McGeorge Bundy ’36, P’69, ’71, ’74, ’77, GP’07, ’09, ’12, ’12 1980
Mr. Henry Bradford Washburn, Jr. ’29 1979
Mr. William McCormick Blair 1903, P’34, ’35, ’36, GP’62, ’72, ’81, GGP’89, ’92, ’95, ’98     1978
The Honorable C. Douglas Dillon ’27, GP’75, ’78, GGP’98, ’99 1977
The Rev. John Crocker ’18, P’42, GP’70 1977
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