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  • Reverend James Squire

Bruce Mainwaring: A life of Gratitude and Giving




We stand in a unique space this morning. Built by the gifts of the class of 1944 including Robert Venturi, his partner and spouse, Denise Scott Brown, and the focus this day on another artist of the class, Bruce Mainwaring. Bruce was an artist and it is that aspect of his life that we will celebrate today. It was Johann Sebastian Bach who stated the great paradox in life: “My life has always imitated art, and my art has always imitated my life.” We live in a world not of either/or, but of both and.


That statement captures the heartbeat of Bruce whose very life itself merged the world of art with the world of living. The EA Yearbook over the years has always been a challenge for someone to write about a student on their page in such a way that the words capture a classmate’s essence, their soul. They were successful in capturing the spirit of Bruce. His yearbook quotation reads: “Bruce was one of the musical talented students of our class and would be heard singing almost anywhere he went.” Hold that image in your mind…everywhere he went, music.


Bruce’s life was art! That is our theme. Just consider places that were near and dear to Peggy and Bruce that they supported. He had many connections to the art world. He began early winning a competition to join the St. James Boy Choir, sang in the Glee Club at EA and editor of the literary Magazine. At Penn he was called a renaissance man being a member of the Mask and Whig and later his many contributions to the Penn University Museum constantly leading that institution with forward thinking in the study of collections and what progress should look like ten years from now. He loved the orchestra and the opera.


His life’s work as CEO of three manufacturing industries enabled him to find a place for his leadership, innovation, thinking, and developing special steel tubing and cables of the highest quality. When I asked him, “What businesses needed the steel tubing that you make, he said, in his own humble way, they are for spaceships that will go deep into the frontier of space or to the depths of the ocean in a vessel and everything in between.” His childhood wonder and curiosity directed him to new frontiers.


Bruce’s life was art! His soul was special to all who loved him and those he loved back and those who just became part of expanding his world with more friends and associates. His soul could be found in his smile and understated glee when you looked into his eyes and there you would inevitably see that he viewed the world around him with gratitude.


One of the great secrets of life was known to Bruce. It was the metaphorical brush that made big strokes of painting on those canvasses that supported his commitment to learn and help others to grow. That secret is not so much a secret. It is, “You only get to keep what you are willing to give away.” He was an artist of the voice, the dance, the drama, and other artists of the soul joining him in the adventure of funding new frontiers. He edited a book of essays about climate change which examined how selected cultures responded to climate events. He and others addressed the consequences of our threats to this earth, our island home. even if it was his tubing to take people to our next frontier in space or the bottom of an ocean and everything in between to see new possibilities.

Bruce’s life was his art! It is a perspective and vision that empowers us to stand a little taller, to feel a little more included, and to sense we are valued. I saw this most clearly in the lives of Bruce and Peggy. When you were in conversation with either Bruce or Peggy, they possessed the ability to have others feel that you were their great friend. They did this by totally being focused on the person, on me and on you, as few can do or be. We call it holy hospitality. We could say we are better people for just knowing them. They were people of grace and style, something that has gotten lost in the noise and rudeness of our present culture. Those two were the very best of old school.


Bruce’s life was his art! Our school community is filled with gratitude for the abundance of support for building this Class of 1944 Chapel for the members of the class in general and Bruce in particular. We see in this structure a clear picture of the characteristics of Bruce as artist. The words of the Gospel of Matthew were lived each day of the planning and execution of his classmate, Bob Venturi, and Bob’s spouse and partner, Denise Scott Brown. I felt privileged to have a small part in the planning process.


“A city built upon a hill cannot be hid. It gives light to all in the house. In the same way let you light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven.”’ (Matthew 5:14-16) Three things make for great architecture as determined by Denise Scott Brown.


One day I asked Denise how her new book on the photography of architecture was doing as the photographs were on exhibit being shown around the world. She was a quick wit with a twinkle in her eye and indicated that she particularly liked the response she got when it was displayed in Venice. She was quick to add, “Jim, I am not talking about Venice, California.” She captured the essence of what every building should have. It should, first, have Commodity which refers to how useful a building is. Does it serve its purpose? Then firmness; will it hold up under use which is accomplished by using excellence in material selection; Third, and perhaps most important is how does the building enhance light in a meaningful way.


As many know this house, The Class of 44 Chapel, was built to be a light to the world. It won the American Institute for Architects’ highest award, the gold medal. The New York Times listed it in an article that it was one of eight structures in America that “were too cool for school.”


How do these three elements of great architecture reflect the personality of Bruce Mainwaring?


Commodity: The first element is that she and Bob wanted the chapel used as frequently as the one before, and they wanted a structure and seating that was built for the students. It is one of the most used religious structures in the Philadelphia area. The floor is made of a state of the art material, and the front pews are smaller designed for little children. One word to describe Bruce’s life as art is that he created and supported projects that were well used and useful by the world.


Recall that yearbook quote, that Bruce was always singing anywhere he was on campus. There is a musical experience in the Spring that brings all the Inter Ac Elite singing groups together for a night of song. Historically the group rotates from one school to the other. After the groups sung here in the ’44 chapel, the directors of music for each school approached me and requested that they come to sing all of their future programs in our chapel as they experienced the sound as magnificent.


Firmness: The use of the very best materials should be used to support worthy endeavors. Given Bruce’s propensity for hearing and singing music, we made sure that sounds within these walls were balanced by a team of acoustic specialists. The quality of the materials that Bruce used in his manufacturing plants was a call to use the highest quality in the construction of the building itself. It should be such that you don’t have to put up a sign that says “Handle with care!” Our students respected the chapel space throughout our history as a school.


Light is the third essential ingredient to a church structure in particular. The building must treat light with sensitivity as the symbol of light equals love in the schema of this sacred space. There was great interest in the windows. “You are the light of the world.” That is what we are commanded to be. “When we enter this sacred space, we must remember that we must act in accordance with Jesus’ words to live the ethical life and bring that force out into the world.” Jesus’ words move throughout this chapel and touch all that enter here with the importance of responding to the needs of others and the awesome responsibility of doing so. If these walls could talk, they would speak of the sacred biblical text of the story off all that is noble and true. Bruce’s life was a symbol of bringing light to the lives of those around him.


The keys to architecture’s greatness: Commodity, usefulness; Firmness; built with excellence; and Light, a symbol of love: “You are the light of the world.” The three words, commodity, firmness, and light describe our friend, our classmate, and benefactor, A. Bruce Mainwaring. Because his life was his art. Bach saw life and the sound of caring enmeshed together as one with each other and shines the light on our students who should look for inspiration to kindle their own spirit of gratitude, generosity and giving to others. They will look to the life of Bruce Mainwaring who could be found singing as he made his way through our school as a student. It was no secret that his classmates and many others noticed this because Bruce’s life was art itself.


Bruce Mainwaring: A Life of Gratitude and Giving Jim Squire 10/15/2022


We stand in a unique space this morning. Built by the gifts of the class of 1944 including Robert Venturi, his partner and spouse, Denise Scott Brown, and the focus this day on another artist of the class, Bruce Mainwaring. Bruce was an artist and it is that aspect of his life that we will celebrate today. It was Johann Sebastian Bach who stated the great paradox in life: “My life has always imitated art, and my art has always imitated my life.” We live in a world not of either/or, but of both and.


That statement captures the heartbeat of Bruce whose very life itself merged the world of art with the world of living. The EA Yearbook over the years has always been a challenge for someone to write about a student on their page in such a way that the words capture a classmate’s essence, their soul. They were successful in capturing the spirit of Bruce. His yearbook quotation reads: “Bruce was one of the musical talented students of our class and would be heard singing almost anywhere he went.” Hold that image in your mind…everywhere he went, music.


Bruce’s life was art! That is our theme. Just consider places that were near and dear to Peggy and Bruce that they supported. He had many connections to the art world. He began early winning a competition to join the St. James Boy Choir, sang in the Glee Club at EA and editor of the literary Magazine. At Penn he was called a renaissance man being a member of the Mask and Whig and later his many contributions to the Penn University Museum constantly leading that institution with forward thinking in the study of collections and what progress should look like ten years from now. He loved the orchestra and the opera.


His life’s work as CEO of three manufacturing industries enabled him to find a place for his leadership, innovation, thinking, and developing special steel tubing and cables of the highest quality. When I asked him, “What businesses needed the steel tubing that you make, he said, in his own humble way, they are for spaceships that will go deep into the frontier of space or to the depths of the ocean in a vessel and everything in between.” His childhood wonder and curiosity directed him to new frontiers.


Bruce’s life was art! His soul was special to all who loved him and those he loved back and those who just became part of expanding his world with more friends and associates. His soul could be found in his smile and understated glee when you looked into his eyes and there you would inevitably see that he viewed the world around him with gratitude.


One of the great secrets of life was known to Bruce. It was the metaphorical brush that made big strokes of painting on those canvasses that supported his commitment to learn and help others to grow. That secret is not so much a secret. It is, “You only get to keep what you are willing to give away.” He was an artist of the voice, the dance, the drama, and other artists of the soul joining him in the adventure of funding new frontiers. He edited a book of essays about climate change which examined how selected cultures responded to climate events. He and others addressed the consequences of our threats to this earth, our island home. even if it was his tubing to take people to our next frontier in space or the bottom of an ocean and everything in between to see new possibilities.

Bruce’s life was his art! It is a perspective and vision that empowers us to stand a little taller, to feel a little more included, and to sense we are valued. I saw this most clearly in the lives of Bruce and Peggy. When you were in conversation with either Bruce or Peggy, they possessed the ability to have others feel that you were their great friend. They did this by totally being focused on the person, on me and on you, as few can do or be. We call it holy hospitality. We could say we are better people for just knowing them. They were people of grace and style, something that has gotten lost in the noise and rudeness of our present culture. Those two were the very best of old school.


Bruce’s life was his art! Our school community is filled with gratitude for the abundance of support for building this Class of 1944 Chapel for the members of the class in general and Bruce in particular. We see in this structure a clear picture of the characteristics of Bruce as artist. The words of the Gospel of Matthew were lived each day of the planning and execution of his classmate, Bob Venturi, and Bob’s spouse and partner, Denise Scott Brown. I felt privileged to have a small part in the planning process.


“A city built upon a hill cannot be hid. It gives light to all in the house. In the same way let you light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven.”’ (Matthew 5:14-16) Three things make for great architecture as determined by Denise Scott Brown.


One day I asked Denise how her new book on the photography of architecture was doing as the photographs were on exhibit being shown around the world. She was a quick wit with a twinkle in her eye and indicated that she particularly liked the response she got when it was displayed in Venice. She was quick to add, “Jim, I am not talking about Venice, California.” She captured the essence of what every building should have. It should, first, have Commodity which refers to how useful a building is. Does it serve its purpose? Then firmness; will it hold up under use which is accomplished by using excellence in material selection; Third, and perhaps most important is how does the building enhance light in a meaningful way.


As many know this house, The Class of 44 Chapel, was built to be a light to the world. It won the American Institute for Architects’ highest award, the gold medal. The New York Times listed it in an article that it was one of eight structures in America that “were too cool for school.”


How do these three elements of great architecture reflect the personality of Bruce Mainwaring?


Commodity: The first element is that she and Bob wanted the chapel used as frequently as the one before, and they wanted a structure and seating that was built for the students. It is one of the most used religious structures in the Philadelphia area. The floor is made of a state of the art material, and the front pews are smaller designed for little children. One word to describe Bruce’s life as art is that he created and supported projects that were well used and useful by the world.


Recall that yearbook quote, that Bruce was always singing anywhere he was on campus. There is a musical experience in the Spring that brings all the Inter Ac Elite singing groups together for a night of song. Historically the group rotates from one school to the other. After the groups sung here in the ’44 chapel, the directors of music for each school approached me and requested that they come to sing all of their future programs in our chapel as they experienced the sound as magnificent.


Firmness: The use of the very best materials should be used to support worthy endeavors. Given Bruce’s propensity for hearing and singing music, we made sure that sounds within these walls were balanced by a team of acoustic specialists. The quality of the materials that Bruce used in his manufacturing plants was a call to use the highest quality in the construction of the building itself. It should be such that you don’t have to put up a sign that says “Handle with care!” Our students respected the chapel space throughout our history as a school.


Light is the third essential ingredient to a church structure in particular. The building must treat light with sensitivity as the symbol of light equals love in the schema of this sacred space. There was great interest in the windows. “You are the light of the world.” That is what we are commanded to be. “When we enter this sacred space, we must remember that we must act in accordance with Jesus’ words to live the ethical life and bring that force out into the world.” Jesus’ words move throughout this chapel and touch all that enter here with the importance of responding to the needs of others and the awesome responsibility of doing so. If these walls could talk, they would speak of the sacred biblical text of the story off all that is noble and true. Bruce’s life was a symbol of bringing light to the lives of those around him.


The keys to architecture’s greatness: Commodity, usefulness; Firmness; built with excellence; and Light, a symbol of love: “You are the light of the world.” The three words, commodity, firmness, and light describe our friend, our classmate, and benefactor, A. Bruce Mainwaring. Because his life was his art. Bach saw life and the sound of caring enmeshed together as one with each other and shines the light on our students who should look for inspiration to kindle their own spirit of gratitude, generosity and giving to others. They will look to the life of Bruce Mainwaring who could be found singing as he made his way through our school as a student. It was no secret that his classmates and many others noticed this because Bruce’s life was art itself.

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