“Benedictine Military School in Savannah,” written by Mr. Bob Ciucevich, BC Class of 1986, will leave you feeling like you discovered a family scrapbook that was tucked away in your great-grandfather’s chest in the attic.
It’s more than a book. It’s a love letter to BC and to everyone who cherishes the school.
“It is,” Ciucevich said, laughing about the love letter analogy. “I think everything you’re saying is exactly how I intended it. Good.”
If you graduated from BC or love history, the 127-page book is a must-have. Part of The Campus History Series by Arcadia Publishing, Ciucevich’s book is filled with historic photographs and stories from Benedictine’s archives. The $22 book is the perfect Christmas gift for the Cadet in your life. And 100 percent of the proceeds will go to support the annual Alumni Association Scholarship, which helps a Cadet in need. Purchase “Benedictine Military School in Savannah” at the BC’s Cadet Shop or online at https://thebc400.myschoolapp.com/podium/default.aspx?t=36644&rid=36198
In the book, Ciucevich tells the unique story of BC from its origin as a small, Catholic, all-boys’ high school on Bull Street to the dramatic growth that continues today on BC’s Seawright Drive campus. The school’s legacy began in 1874 with the establishment of St. Benedict’s Parish in downtown Savannah and the first monastery in the South at Isle of Hope in 1876.
Benedictine College, as it originally was called, was begun as a boys’ preparatory school in 1902. BC was organized on a military basis in the tradition of The Citadel and other Southern military schools of the era.
Ciucevich, owner of Quatrefoil Historic Preservation Consulting, a full-service historic preservation consulting firm that he founded in 1995 in his hometown Savannah, said the most challenging part of writing “Benedictine Military School in Savannah” was “trying to fit in everything.”
“There were some things that didn’t fit into the book,” he said. “It’s a good thing and a bad thing, the way Arcadia has a template. You have to work within their template and it’s a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a good thing because it makes you really condense down exactly what you want to say. I can be really verbose but I wasn’t able to. Because each photo, you’re only allowed to have 70 words, a 70-word caption. I kind of did the same thing you would do on Twitter and combine things to get in what I wanted. That was really challenging. That was a good thing because, like I said, it really made me refine what I wanted to say and get out the most important elements.
“But it was a bad thing in that a lot of times, because of the structure of the book, what I was trying to do was I was trying to limit certain topics to one page with two photos,” he continued. “And then I could go 150 words. I did that a lot. And there’s only so much I could fit in on 127 pages. The thing that really disappointed me the most was the part that I knew the most, the part where I didn’t have to do much research because I lived it, the ’80s on, you’ll notice, I really didn’t have a whole lot of room for Saint Vincent (Archabbey in Latrobe, Pa.) That was a negative aspect of it. I think I did a pretty good job of the transition from Belmont (Abbey in Belmont, N.C.) A lot of those monks, well, they taught me. So I wanted that stuff in there. But the stuff in the beginning, I really wanted people to understand … if anything, it’s really a history of the monks in Georgia. That’s really what it is. I’d like to do something more on the Saint Vincent monks.”
Ciucevich said another challenge was acquiring photographs.
“It was really difficult finding photos and images for the 19th century,” he said. “Pretty much what you see is what we have. That is it. There were a couple of things that I didn’t use. It was really hard to find good photos after the ’60s. Our archives didn’t have any. What happened was that’s when the kids started taking photos. And the photos back in those days, I remember cameras that I had back in the ’90s, everything was manual so you’d have out-of-focus photos. The photos that were in the yearbooks, there are no duplicates that I found. They’re not in the archives. So you would literally have to copy stuff from the yearbooks. So the quality is not there. That was a challenge.”
The book is a chronologic history of the school and the monastic community.
“You can’t talk about one without talking about the other,” Ciucevich said. “In a way, kind of like ‘Midnight in the Garden (of Good and Evil),’ you read that book and you realize that Savannah was really a major character in that, well, in the same way that’s kind of how I wanted this book to be. It’s about the school and how the school came about but it’s really about the Benedictines and their contributions. When you think about it, there’s only maybe three parishes in Savannah that they didn’t have something to do with. It’s pretty amazing.”
Ciucevich wrote that, in many ways, Benedictine is to Savannah what The Citadel is to Charleston, S.C.
“Absolutely,” he said. “That’s right. When you think about it, back in the old days – and today – if there was some sort of memorial or something going on, (people) would ask the Cadets to come. BC is our own Citadel. That’s our own version.”
A fact that Ciucevich finds fascinating is when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke in Savannah on Nov. 18, 1933, it was BC Cadets who played a prominent role during his visit.
“A lot of people don’t know this about FDR,” Ciucevich said. “When he came to Savannah, it was Savannah’s bicentennial. He came to Grayson Stadium and he spoke. There are photos of that. What people don’t know is that his entire route from the airport was lined by military. But guess who they saved for the very last? BC. Right when he came in at the entrance it was the Cadets. They were the honor guard for the president, to and from. They walked him in. That’s pretty cool.”
Ciucevich said he intentionally refrained from focusing on BC families to avoid wandering off track. He let the monks and their story serve as his guide. He also had Mr. Mike Dillon, BC Class of 1968, read the book before it was published.
“He vetted the book,” Ciucevich said of Dillon. “He read through it and he said, ‘I don’t see anything I would change.’ He said it was a good read. I wanted to make sure there wasn’t anything blatantly wrong. Everything I wrote in there, I at least had a couple of different sources (to verify). I put some of Maurice Sheppard’s (BC Class of 1959) stuff in there because I thought that was interesting. His football book (“Savannah’s Thanksgiving Day Football Classic: Benedictine vs. Savannah High”) has everything you would ever want to know.
“On purpose, I didn’t highlight families,” Ciucevich continued. “If the story could be told about the Benedictines or the school, that’s what I highlighted. But you could go down different avenues. It would be way too much. The only instances where I highlighted people were those little vignettes of alumni. I thought it was important to highlight certain individuals.”
Gathering information and photographs for the book was a labor of love for Ciucevich. He said it took 10 years to complete the project.
“The two books I’ve done, the other one was about Tybee, and it was an Arcadia book, too,” he said. “That came about from years of doing projects down there. Plus, our family had a place down there. Compiling all of that stuff. I have to do a lot of research for what I do, historic preservation, and I’ll be going through papers and I’ll see something on BC. I did the same thing with Tybee. I might be doing something totally different but I’ll go ahead and copy that article or whatever. I did the same thing for BC. In fact, I was doing that when I was doing the Tybee book. This was back in 2005. I would see stuff about Benedictine and I would immediately copy it or write it down. Little facts. It’s been about 10 years (working on the BC book).
“My son started going to BC and I started doing research on the architecture,” Ciucevich continued. “Me and Bro. Tim (Brown, O.S.B.), I mention him in the dedication, he and SCAD students would come and I would help him tour the (BC) buildings and talk. It started with that. And then there was (BC’s) 50-year anniversary (on Seawright Drive), and I did a slideshow (for the Cadets) that had the BC history. I used everything from that slideshow. A lot of that stuff (in the book) is verbatim what I wrote for the slideshow. It took me a good 10 years to come up with the information.”