- Evelyn Longman
- School History
Sellers Hall, on The Chaffee School’s Palisado campus, opened in 1949. Honoring the extraordinary leadership of Chaffee’s third Director, Florence Sellers, the building expanded classroom and laboratory space, and continued a decades-old Chaffee tradition of the Senior Door reserved for use by faculty and the senior class. A sculptural rendering of the Loomis Institute seal, set into the pediment above Sellers’s center front entrance, signified the importance of the door and the tradition. One might expect Chaffee’s mascot, a greyhound, to peer out from this prominent and storied location; it was, however, a pelican that greeted seniors each morning.
This sculpture is one of the most striking and historically rich examples of the Loomis Institute seal. The design bears familiar symbols: a vulning pelican atop a crown; a knight’s helmet; the shield featuring three fleur de lis; scrolling foliage with cords and tassels; and the Latin motto, “Ne Cede Malis.” The glossy painted finish includes bold contrasts of maroon, silver, yellow, blue, and cream. Light undulates across the rich colors and gracefully sculpted raised forms. One can imagine the object gleaming on a sunny day at Sellers Hall.
The Artist and The Object
Designed by Evelyn Longman, acclaimed artist and spouse of Loomis Headmaster Nathaniel Batchelder, the sculpture is cast in aluminum, a departure from much of Longman’s earlier work done in bronze. Batchelder, on behalf of Longman, sought “preliminary advice” in a letter to the Modern Art Foundry in January 1949. He noted that she was keen to finish the object with the “authentic colors” of the Loomis family coat-of-arms and wondered what metal would produce a surface most suitable for painting. Later that year, he conveyed to artist friend, Georg Lober, “Mrs. B[atchelder] claimed that she retired last June; but…she has made an ornament to go on the pediment of a new building for our girls’ school. She is at the point where she is going to do only what she wants to do.” This was surely a labor of love.
The Loomis Institute Seal
The original Loomis Institute seal probably dates to the 1880s. After the school charter, written by the five Loomis Founders, gained the Connecticut State Legislature’s approval in 1874, artist and Founder Osbert Loomis created a seal featuring the family’s coat-of-arms. He circulated a sketch drawing in 1880, and while it does not survive, his 1886 letter to his brother John celebrated the vulning pelican and Ne Cede Malis as symbols of the school’s purpose and suggests these would be prominent elements in his design. An illustration of the seal featuring the pelican, shield, and motto appeared in the Loomis School’s first yearbook, published in 1916. Later iterations included the elegant scrolling foliage and knight’s helmet seen in the Senior Door sculpture.
The Chaffee School
The Chaffee School opened in 1927 as the girls school of The Loomis Institute, and it seemed natural that the pelican would be mascot for both the boys and girls schools. Two years later, Chaffee students discovered an alternate, lesser-known Loomis family coat-of-arms bearing a greyhound. They saw this as a better symbol for their school, and Chaffee adopted the greyhound as its mascot. The Chaffee School’s spirit of loyalty and ambition quickly became embodied in the greyhound.
The school’s second director, Jeannette Cloud, envisioned an expanded campus and, in 1934, established the annual Spring Day to raise a building fund. The event grew to feature a Penny Auction, a White Elephant Sale, and a variety of games. Contributions by parents, friends, and the Loomis Institute Board of Trustees added to Spring Day proceeds and boosted planning for Sellers Hall after wartime restrictions and shortages had discouraged virtually all ideas of expansion during the early 1940s. The building’s dedication commemorated Cloud’s and Sellers’ persistence as much as it celebrated new spaces for teaching and learning.
The Chaffee Class of 1949 featured an enthusiastic, detailed history of Sellers Hall in the 1949 yearbook, noting how its construction shaped their time at the school. “We look back upon the birth and development of this building as a story of earnest ambition and proud fulfillment.” They also included what students today might refer to as a “shout out” to Evelyn Longman, acknowledging her roles as an independent career artist, the working spouse of a school headmaster, and one arbiter of memory and meaning at the Chaffee School. “We are indebted to Mrs. Batchelder for the design and execution of the Loomis Institute seal…for the decoration of the pediment above the front entrance. Chaffee girls, past, present, and future will look with pleasure on this artistic work from the skillful hands of our headmistress.”