An ardent admirer of Buckminster Fuller, Class of 1913, Gordon Chase was determined over his 35 years as chair of Milton’s Visual Arts Department to keep Fuller’s light burning bright.
I was happy to see Buckminster Fuller highlighted in the latest [Spring ’23] Milton Magazine! He was a hero of mine all through college and beyond. He inspired me to move in 1978 from Groton School to become chair of the Visual Arts Department at Milton, where I initiated a seven-year quest to have Bucky design a new arts center for the school.
Bucky spoke twice at the school around 1980, toward the end of his life. I personally escorted him around. In fact, my own art teaching took place in the same room where Bucky had his most influential teacher—Mr. LeSeward—as his physics teacher. Bucky did a synergetics workshop on the second floor of Warren Hall in this very room. Bucky showed me where he grew up, on Columbine Road on the other side of Turner’s Pond, talked about the old ice house, showed me where he raced his Dymaxion vehicle on Ruggles Lane, and reminisced about being the quarterback of the football team where, he said, he acquired his “anticipatory design sense.”
I even traveled to New York to confer with Bucky and his architectural partner Shoji Sadao about designing an arts center for Milton Academy. The Milton trustees at the time saw this as a step too far. A student cartoonist drew a picture of a geodesic dome made of Georgian brick and asked “How will we bend and curve the Greek columns?”
Hal Pratt and I taught an architecture course in the early 1980s. The students, led by the Helms brothers, constructed an impressive three-quarter geodesic dome that sat proudly in the center of the campus until other students rolled it away to “Lake O’Hare”—the pond next to the football field.
I organized two full-fledged exhibitions about Fuller for the Nesto Gallery. There should be a collection of photographs in the school archives, and all his books in the library, along with Fuller’s résumé, which is literally about one-inch thick and includes all his events and talks around the world in the 1960s and 1970s. He was a true visionary who preached a gospel of people and nations helping each other and using design to transcend and to solve the world’s problems. One of his books was titled I Seem to Be a Verb, which was the truth about the man. He loved Milton Academy and was and still is our most illustrious graduate.