Farewell, Mr. Purvis — From a Student’s Perspective

Mr. Purvis is retiring from Rectory School after teaching here for 13 years. He has a  Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University, a Master of Public Health degree from Tulane University, and a B.A. from Boston University.


Mr. Purvis is retiring from Rectory School after teaching here for 13 years. He has a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University, a Master of Public Health degree from Tulane University, and a B.A. from Boston University.

Egypt, Syria, Israel/Palestine, Turkey, Gabon, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, China, Taiwan, Cambodia, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Britain, France, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Monaco, Italy, and most of the United States. Who would come to mind when you hear of all these places? The person who comes to my mind is a traveler, an archaeologist, and most importantly, a teacher at The Rectory School. Mr. Purvis was hired as a tutor and a chaplain in the fall of 2001, when “9/11” had just happened and was still fresh in people’s minds. He entered the campus thinking how peaceful the school was and did not know what was going to happen next.

“He seems very strict; I am afraid of him.” Many students in the school who do not know Mr. Purvis very well have this impression of him. Meanwhile, his students say, “His class is challenging, but actually fun to learn.”, or, “I fell in love with history once I met him.” Mr. Purvis started teaching history after a year at Rectory; he was also in charge of the Latin program. Right now, in 2014, Mr. Purvis has finished 13 years of teaching at Rectory. He is going to retire with his wife to the beautiful island of Taiwan. “I plan to drink coffee and read books all day long. Seriously. I want to read all the English, Russian, French, and Chinese classic novels—a project I started several years ago—and also keep up with current American fiction. If I get bored (which I doubt), maybe I’ll do a little volunteering, too. I also plan to keep a journal and maybe do some self-publishing. Most of all I’m planning on leaving Mr. Purvis behind and just being Jeffrey again.”

I first met Mr. Purvis in seventh grade, when he was subbing for Mr. Ducksworth’s history class. He walked into the classroom and immediately gave a detention to one of the students for being on his computer when he was not supposed to be. He then went through the whole period without smiling, only talking about history. So I felt like most of the other students, “What a straightforward teacher!” However, when the class ended, he suddenly smiled at us and wished us all a nice day. His smile was so sweet and sincere, that I will never forget it.…

My friends who were in Mr. Purvis’ class at the time contradicted my view of Mr. Purvis; they said that Mr. Purvis’ class was one of their most exciting classes. So, feeling a bit confused, I, too, finally entered Mr. Purvis’ class as a ninth grader ready to learn history. I was scared and curious when I first walked into his classroom; he had one of his famous PowerPoint presentations on the SmartBoard, and all the curtains were closed. However, as soon as he closed the door, he said, “Welcome, everybody!” He spoke gently, with that same big smile he had two years ago. Then, as I came to his class every day, because of his great enthusiasm, I started to fall in love with ancient history. We spent our time studying evolution, Darwin, the hominids, the Neolithic Revolution and then all the way through human civilization. We covered the ancient Middle East, Egypt, Greece, and finally Rome, in only two terms. History became the course that I cared the most about. I spent hours writing essays and hours studying hundreds of PowerPoint slides, preparing for the tests. When I got my graded essays back with Mr. Purvis’ comments, I felt like I had achieved a great accomplishment.

As time passed by, Mr. Purvis had already become a part of my Rectory life without me even realizing it. Then, the news came: Mr. Purvis is retiring after this year; he is graduating with the class. At first, I was shocked; what will we do without Mr. Purvis? How are we going to be able to write essays and study the PowerPoints? “As Lord Byron said, school is a place in which you are forgotten, but which you never forget. I’m sure I will be forgotten here, but even so, I want to be forgotten as a man who told the truth,” Mr. Purvis responded when I asked him how he wanted to be remembered. “Turn your heart to the Good, despite the world’s problems and your own. Really. Just try it.” We may not fully understand his message now, but I believe as we mature and gain more experience, we will.

Nothing lasts forever, but what Mr. Purvis gave me will surely benefit my life. Let’s all look forward and treasure the good memories in our hearts. Goodbye, Mr. Purvis; I wish you the best in Taiwan. And thank you!