StC News

StC Alumnus Reflects on Challenges, Applauds New Era for the School

In the company of some of his former classmates, Chuck Cummings ’76 recalls his youth as a Black student at StC and describes how he found a new perspective.
"It's with great pride—and even greater shock—that at the age of 65, I stand before you as the oldest living Black graduate of St. Christopher's School," said Chuck Cummings, '76. "I won't offer much advice, but I will bear witness to how much St. Christopher's has changed for the better. Ultimately, this old-school Saint will offer up an appreciation for you, today's Saints."

Speaking candidly at Memorial Chapel to our Upper School last Friday, Cummings described his experience as a Black student in the ‘70s as sometimes confusing and alienating. The alumnus recalled feeling mistrustful after a series of uncomfortable moments with other students, moments that brought his race and identity into sharp focus. "That insecurity, wondering how I was actually being seen, stayed with me," he said.

After graduation, Cummings maintained a distant relationship with StC, feeling ambivalent about his student experience. However, a single act of recognition would begin to change that. 

In a letter from his eighth grade history teacher, J. Clifford Miller III ‘59, written in 1992, 16 years after Cummings graduated, Miller reminded his former student of something he'd written on an exam in 1971. Miller praised Cummings’ writing and wrote in the letter, "The world needs people with your talent." Hearing from his former teacher created a significant shift in Cummings' perspective. "This created a large crack in the shield that kept me at arms' length from everything St. Christopher's,” he shared.

The alumnus marked this moment, and his subsequent invitation to participate in the newly formed Black Alumni Network in 2022, as the beginning of a new relationship with the School. Cummings referred to recent student articles in "The Pine Needle," which helped his views evolve. "Each Saint respects every Saint," Cummings said, encouraging those gathered to repeat the phrase and take it to heart.

Following the talk, members of the Black Student Union, the Black Alumni Networking group and the Class of 1976 gathered at the tree planted in the Historic Corridor to honor Walter Lindsey ‘75, the first Black student to graduate from the School.

Watch Chuck's Chapel talk here.