A crowd of several hundred gathered on Friday, October 15, for the dedication of the Lewis B. Puller Jr. ’63 Marine and Environmental Science Center at Christchurch School.
The Puller Center honors Christchurch School alumnus Lewis Puller, a young Marine who was nearly killed by a booby trap in Vietnam, losing both legs and six fingers. The highly-decorated Marine’s autobiography, “Fortunate Son,” won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992.
Puller’s father, Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, a veteran of guerilla wars called the Banana Wars, WWII and the Korean War, was the Marine Corps’ most highly-decorated soldier, earning five Navy crosses.
Virginia State Senator Toddy Puller (36th District/Mount Vernon) and other members of the Puller family attended the ceremony and cut the ribbon for the LEED-registered academic building.
The Rev. Edward O. Miller Jr., chairman of the Christchurch School Board of Governors and rector of St. John’s Church (Episcopal) in McLean, offered the invocation and benediction.
V. Adm. John W. Craine Jr. (ret.), president of SUNY Maritime College, a lifelong friend of Puller and alumnus and past board chairman of Christchurch School, recalled Puller’s early years as a standout student, athlete, leader and friend as well as “his distinguished service to our nation, his suffering terrible wounds… and his extreme courage in the face of the many challenges he confronted during his life after that terrible day outside of Viem Dong, South Viet Nam.”
Craine also remembered the legendary “Chesty” Puller as a parent “proudly pacing the sidelines at every home Christchurch game… in his tweed coat, his pipe clinched between his teeth, never taking his eyes off of Lewis.”
Christchurch School headmaster Jeb Byers introduced the Puller Center as the “outward and visible sign of a school’s transformation” and its new curriculum, called “Great Journeys.” The curriculum is an innovative, inquiry-based college preparatory program that connects the school’s programs to its location on the Rappahannock River and to the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Following the ribbon cutting, student leaders Marcus Franklin of Washington, D.C., Mike Cho of Seoul, Korea, and Lauren Waite of Christchurch christened the building in the Navy tradition, with Rappahannock River water.
Architects BCWH of Richmond designed the Puller Center. In addition to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) registration, the design includes a nautical design theme, framing the Rappahannock River views from the campus and featuring a glass wall that echoes a ship’s sails.
Builders KBS Inc. of Richmond completed the $3.6 million dollar project in September 2010.