Building Upon Tradition: Four Giants of the Woodworking Program

warren-shelleyWarren Shelley, 1943-1977

For 34 years, Warren Shelley held dual roles inside and outside the classroom as the Manual Training teacher and the Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds. He also taught Mathematics, Mechanical Drawing, and Driver’s Education. In the post-war era, Shelley was tasked to train the upper elementary and junior high boys (the girls were entrusted to Peg Cowan in the Art Room down the hall) in basic tool usage, construction, design, and interpretation of plans. Maintenance of a small school during and after the war years presented many problems, so the shop not only served the students but the maintenance department as well. Although faced at times with a shortage of materials, Shelley’s diligence and patience with his students showed clearly on many a bookcase, salad bowl, or chessboard. For a brief period, Shelley focused his energies solely on sustaining first-class grounds at the school, so MFS students were instead guided by the efforts of Harry Snyder, Euell Gibbons, Robert Marohn, Wolfram Graber, and Harry Stevenson.

 

chuck-boothbyChuck Boothby, 1977-1992

Chuck Boothby straddled the two seemingly disparate worlds of woodshop and English during his time at MFS. The connection and similarity between the disciplines? In his own words, Boothby said, “In both writing and woodworking, I sought the growth of good habits: patience, neatness, creativity, and goosebump delight.” In his role as woodshop teacher, Boothby pioneered the Middle School cyclical electives program, which included one trimester of woodworking at the time. Each year, students would focus on one project – containers in sixth grade, toys in seventh grade, small pieces of furniture in eighth grade. Additionally, Boothby helped usher in the first female students to the shop and woodworking equipment, giving students of both genders an opportunity to be comfortable using basic hand tools. Boothby often stated his belief that that only exceptional schools provided woodworking opportunities for their students.

 

marty-richterKonrad (Marty) Richter, 1992-2012

Marty Richter presided over the woodshop and photo lab for 20 years at Moorestown Friends, guiding students from fifth grade through Upper School in the use of their eyes, hands, and hearts to find their own vision. The homes of many alumni families are graced by stools, shelves, bowls, boards, and toys, all constructed in the woodshop. Photos hang on many walls that were developed in the dark room under Richter’s tutelage. But Richter was much more than a teacher and an artist. He was an influential Quaker within the community and was able to speak inspiringly about his own spiritual journey. He provided a calm and steady Quaker presence – a reminder of the school’s roots and an example to the students. His quiet intensity and desire to see more, learn more, and understand more served as a daily model for growth. Through his instruction in the woodshop and photo lab, Richter taught his students that patience, craftsmanship, and skill must all be learned in order to live an Examined Life.  

 

_mas0832Michael Webster, 2012-Present

Michael Webster earned a B.F.A. in 2009 in painting from East Carolina University, where he also taught figure drawing and painting courses at the Pitt County Arts Council. In 2010, he curated the exhibition “Countertransference: Social Art Practices” at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. The following year, in Chicago, Webster founded an afterschool program which promotes art discussion, creation, and professional practices called Proto-Studio at the city’s largest public school. He taught there for two years before graduating with his M.F.A. in sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2012. At SAIC, Webster was a teaching assistant for three woodworking/furniture design courses and that was where he learned how to run a shop in a professional and organized way. With his fine arts background, Webster aims to further develop the rich student talent pool at MFS by fostering an imaginative and intellectual studio environment.

 

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