The Germantown Academy community had the distinct honor to hear from Larry Gregory '68 at last Tuesday night's Black History Month Celebration, which was hosted by the Black Student Alliance and The Diversity Coordinators. Mr. Gregory, who has spent his career as a television actor, is GA's first African-American graduate. Needless to say, his story was inspiring.
"You people cannot believe how special it is for me to be back in this school and to see how it has grown and changed," Gregory told the audience in the Honickman Auditorium. "So many beautiful black faces here as opposed to when I was the Black Student Association. I was not so beautiful and not nearly as confident as you kids are. I couldn't produce the kind of work we've seen tonight and it's been an amazing day for me. Thank you so much."
Prior to transferring to GA, Gregory attended General Louis Wagner Junior High School in the West Oak Lane neighborhood of Philadelphia. When he was 13 years old, he fractured his hip playing soccer and spent the next two years at the Children's Seashore Hospital in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which functioned as a hospital and a school. Once healthy, he made the switch to GA and accomplished a lot in just two years. Incredibly, he was voted President of Student Council and was a co-editor of the Hue and Cry student newspaper during his senior year.
"It never occurred to me when I was here as the first black student that I was actually living history," said Gregory, who was also a member of the Owen J. Roberts Society, the Philemonian Society, and the 1968 boys' lacrosse team. "And I want you folks who are students here now to know that you, too, are living history. But I also want you to realize that every moment is precious and to appreciate the good times that you are having here. The hard times, the physical times, the stressful times, will find you in life so cherish the good times and the best of times.
"I also want you to appreciate what this school gives you and offers you," Gregory continued. "But also realize, specifically to the black students, appreciate what you offer to the school. I came here and I certainly appreciate what GA had to offer me and what it offers you and I want you black students to realize that you are also gifting this school and the majority population with exposure to you. So because of them being around you they understand that black people are not how we are portrayed in the media, on the news, wherever you go, we're human beings and we have a lot to offer."
Gregory concluded his speech by citing the motto on GA's logo: By persevering we shall see the fruits.
"I've lived my life by that," said Gregory. "Identify a problem, find a solution and make it happen. That motto seems very simple, but the words have meant a lot to me through my entire adult life."
"Larry Gregory's return to GA was momentous for us and clearly moving for him," said Head of School Rich Schellhas. "How often do we get to meet someone who was truly a 'first'? His unconditional love for GA was inspiring, and his ability to connect with our students was instant and real. Larry left completely impressed by GA today and thankful for the role our school played in helping him grow into the strong and smart person he is today. We left in awe of a man with such courage, humility, and perseverance."