St. Mark's Episcopal Academy
First Students at St. mark's Episcopal Day School
Summer Seage, 2009
The Seage family has been part of the St. Mark’s family since 2000 when their eldest daughter, Summer started in Kindergarten. Summer’s sister, Shelby started in 2005 and their mom stays active with the school as a member of the school board.
Summer has many memories from her time as a student at St. Mark’s, but her favorite one was when she got to be the Head of School for a day. Summer followed Mrs. Robertson, sat in meetings, went out to lunch and rang the bell to dismiss the students. “I remember it been the coolest thing at the time.” Her favorite tradition is Advent in Song. “It is so special to see all the students, every age get up and sing in the front of chapel.”
After graduating from St. Mark’s in 2009, Summer attended Edgewood for grades 7-12. Moving from a class of 10 to a class of 160 can be daunting for a 13 year old, but Summer felt both socially and academically prepared for her next step.
One of her favorite things about St. Mark’s was having daily recess and P.E. She carried her love of sport through college and was a student athlete on the women’s volleyball team at University of West Florida where she earned her undergraduate degree in Public Relations. She is now at Mississippi State pursuing a master’s degree in Sport Administration. In addition to taking full time graduate classes, she is working as a graduate assistant at the University Recreation Center. Summer enjoys mentoring students and took the initiative in developing a professional development program for undergraduates who work at the rec. This program teaches students interview skills and how to build a resume.
Siblings, Phil (better known as Nick) and Mary Eschbach attended St. Mark’s in the 50’s! Phil was one of the very first students here. The First and Second grade classes were held in Thursby Hall until September of 1957 when the classrooms were built. Phil was part of the second grade class taught by Mrs. Quinn. The Headmaster, Rector and founder of the school, Rev. Edward King was accompanied by Mrs. Quinn, Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Hill and Fr. Lindsey as the inaugural staff.
Phil and Mary have very fond memories of their time at St. Mark’s Episcopal Day School. Mary recalled holding the honor of being the May Day Queen in Fourth and Sixth grade! Phil remembers Fr. Lindsey tossing the chalk at any student who dared to yawn during his religion class.
The siblings attended The University of the South in Sewanee, TN where they were avid tennis players. Phil still plays today and was once ranked No. 1 in Florida.
After college, Phil attended grad school at University of Tennessee where he met his wife. It is no surprise that Mary also attended UT after college where she studied to become a veterinarian. Phil and Mary also share a love for horses. In fact, Mary took over as manager of the Equestrian Club at UT after Phil left.
Phil is a retired professional photographer. He and his wife live in Winter Park, FL and have a son and daughter. Mary enjoys spending time on her farm in Sewanee. She comes back to Cocoa often to see her dad who is celebrating his 96th birthday in July!
Phil (Nick) and Mary Eschbach
Ben Hill 1965
Ben graduated from St. Mark’s in 1965. His sixth-grade teacher and the church organist was Bob Lee. Bob and Ben became lifelong friends until Bob passed away. Ben’s mother is Jane-Laird Hill. She is one of the founders of St. Mark’s Episcopal Academy and longtime music teacher.
After graduating Cocoa High School, Ben went to the University of Georgia with the dream of becoming a large animal veterinarian, but fate had other plans. His dorm mate was a popular DJ on the local radio station and while Ben was at the large animal clinic checking the digestion of cows, his dorm mate was surrounded with celebrities and led a more exciting life. So, he switched majors to radio and T.V.
With his strong leadership skills, Ben quickly rose through the ranks and directed the programming for some of America’s great radio stations. He enjoyed a 45-year career with Westinghouse and Viacom and at retirement was the Senior Vice President for CBS Radio in Washington D.C, Palm Beach and Tampa. Five years ago, Ben was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and retired to a less stressful lifestyle.
Today, Ben serves as the Treasurer for the Diocese of Florida and the 74 churches as a full-time volunteer. Additionally, Ben and his wife, Dot serve in the Eighth Circuit Court in Gainesville as a Guardian ad Litem. They represent a child when he or she has been removed from the home due to abuse or neglect. Mentoring youth is an absolute passion for the Hills.
Ben recalls the formative school years at St. Mark’s as an invaluable asset in his life. “Even though the baby boomer generation may have been a simpler era in which to grow up, the core principles are just as important today as ever. Educational excellence, family, church and service were among the building blocks which St. Mark’s instilled in me. I learned to be inquisitive, and inclusive of all people. When speaking to young people contemplating a career I always emphasize the importance of a strong foundation on which to build a life.”
Don Arnold 1965
Don’s father Jack was one of the founders of the Parish Day School, now the Academy, and his sister Nancy was the first student enrolled. At the time their family lived in a house across the street from St. Mark’s, on the corner of Church St. and Riverside Dr. All five Arnold children attended St. Mark’s, from which Don graduated in 1965.
Don earned degrees from Emory College and Emory University School of Medicine, the latter on U.S. Air Force and American Heart Association scholarships. He completed pediatric residency, pediatric emergency medicine fellowship and a Master of Public Health at the University of Virginia, Children’s Hospital of Alabama, and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Hygiene. After serving as Major, U.S. Air Force Medical Corps, he practiced community pediatrics in Brevard, during which time he had the opportunity to work with and learn from three exemplary pediatricians with ties to St. Mark’s: Tom Kenaston, Bill Knappenberger, and Rick O’Hern. He joined the faculty of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 2002, where he is Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine. In one of those coincidences that makes a pediatrician’s head swell, one of his colleagues at Vanderbilt, Dr. Daisy Ciener, is also one of his former patients and a St. Mark’s grad! He likes to think that both he and St. Mark’s were a positive influence.
At Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital he and Dr. Ciener work with a team to care for the most seriously ill and injured children in the region. He has focused his research on childhood asthma and has received grants from the National Institutes of Health, including a Career Development Award, as well as from the American Thoracic Society and other foundations. He has authored chapters in medical textbooks and over 70 scientific reports in medical journals and has presented papers at national and international medical meetings. He has developed pulse oximeter technology innovations, for which he holds U.S. patents. Interestingly, this is an extension of the fun he and his St. Mark’s classmates Ben Hill and Robert Fletcher had in building shortwave and C.B. radios. He learned that every activity like this carries risk
when lightning, of which there is no shortage in Florida, struck his outside antenna one night, causing his ham radio (and nearly his house) to burst in to flames.
The University of Virginia (go ‘Hoos, national basketball champs!) not only provided Don training in pediatrics but, best of all, the opportunity to meet his amazing wife Judi. They were married in the UVA Chapel 36 happy years ago and have two children, of whom they are very proud. No surprise – both kids are St. Mark’s grads and have leveraged their St. Mark’s education to earn degrees from Emory, Columbia, University of Colorado, University of Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. Their daughter Cosby is an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center in Memphis, and Hayes is finishing up his nurse practitioner degree at Vanderbilt. Needless to say, Don is appreciative of the role St. Mark’s played in preparing them for their academic careers.
Don credits the small classes, focus on teamwork, and outstanding teachers for the consistent excellence at St. Marks Academy. He views the emphasis on English usage, grammar, syntax and reading skills as the foundation for his education after St. Mark’s. Indeed, he may not be able to tell you what gerunds are but is confident that he is using them correctly. In addition, he is forever appreciative of the music education at St. Mark’s. Not many elementary schools can boast having as music teacher a Julliard graduate: Jane-Laird Hill. Legend has it that she could identify, with her eyes closed, any student who was not singing. Joking aside, her emphasis on the “three-B’s” (Bach-Beethoven-Brahms) and on their major works instilled a love of the symphony that Don continues to enjoy. Finally, the emphasis on science, before the STEM acronym was struck, influenced Don’s interest in science and medicine.
What’s the best memory you have of St. Mark’s?
We were all interested in the space program, and I threw a fit before school on May 5, 1961 when Alan Shepard was to be launched aboard Freedom 7 to become the first American in space. My mother told me I would be able to watch the launch from the playground, but I wanted more, wanted to see it up close. After dropping us off at St. Mark’s she had second thoughts, returned, and took me out of my 2nd grade class to the jetties at Port Canaveral. I remember the crowd, shoulder to shoulder, jumping and screaming, so proud of this uniquely American scientific and engineering accomplishment, and of the fearless astronaut who commanded Mission Control: “Light this candle!” My teacher, Mrs. Cochran, was not happy, but I think she understood. Thank you, Mom.
What’s the worst memory you have of St. Mark’s?
I could say it was being restricted to my bedroom for a couple weeks after not reading Paul Bunyan, an assigned book for my 5th grade class. However, my worst memory is an event incomparably more painful. As for most Americans, I recall in detail the moment news of President Kennedy’s assassination arrived in my 5th grade class. All the teachers and staff, and many of the students, were crying. We proceeded to the church where many parishioners and our parents were arriving. We sang hymns and prayed for President Kennedy, for his family, and for the United States of America. Though all Americans were grieving, it seemed particularly intense for Brevard County and for St. Mark’s because he took so much political risk in setting the goal of landing an American on the moon, and because he emphasized service to others. As students we knew that St. Mark’s Academy cared deeply about the world beyond those pink walls.
What advice would you offer the graduating students of St. Mark’s and their parents?
Listen to Stephen Colbert’s commencement address to the Northwestern graduating class of 2011.