During the struggle for functional operation of the school, Commissioner McKee’s health was failing. In fact, he was a sick man before he began to see correction of the continued delays in what he considered as “his school.” In spite of his illness, he kept right on. Friends who saw him remarked on his grave condition. His courage was apparent to the writer who saw him at his home a day or so before he died. The author and Mrs. Hampton had also visited him and Mrs. McKee the month before at Twilight Park, the beautiful McKee summer home at Haines Falls in the Catskills.
All Staten Island and New York were shocked to learn of Commissioner Ralph R. McKee’s death on Saturday, October 26th, the very day the article was published telling of his great work for the Vocational High School. An inspiring tribute was paid to his memory by Dr. Harold G. Campbell, Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Grady, the Board of Education, and other city officials attended the funeral services in the St. John’s Episcopal Church, Rosebank, Staten Island.
Undoubtedly the greatest memorial was the naming of the Vocation High School in his honor.
On Monday, October 28th, immediately following Mr. McKee’s death, Mr. Harrigan called a meeting of the faculty. Dr. Hampton proposed a resolution calling for the naming of the school in the Commissioner’s memory, and he was authorized to draw up such a resolution to be forwarded on behalf of the faculty to the Board of Education. The resolution read as follows:
A RESOLUTION FOR NAMING THE “RALPH R. McKEE VOCATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL.”
In the death of Ralph Rappe McKee, Vice President of the Board of Education, the City of New York has lost a devoted servant. Serving in public office for a quarter of a century, he exemplified the truism first enunciated by Thomas Jefferson in 1804: “When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself as public property.” Ralph R. McKee, during fourteen years as a member of the Board of Education, was truly the property of the children, the parents and the teachers. No question was too difficult to be grappled with, not task to onerous to be assumed.
He felt that, among offices of the public trust in human government, the administration of education offered some of the gravest responsibilities.
During a residence of forty-one years in Staten Island, he came to know the educational needs of the borough intimately. The results of his supervision may be seen in the erection during his terms in office of thirteen grade school buildings, additions to Curtis High school, the building of the Port Richmond High School and Vocation High School, two new high schools on the South Shore now under construction, additions to several elementary schools, and erection of numerous temporary structures. These educational facilities constitute a collective monument to the memory of Ralph Rappe McKee.
But in a more intimate way, the Staten Island Vocational High School became his problem and his pride. It was his answer to the needs of the new day. The light of his life went out as he spent his last hours fighting successfully for the further assistance for the Vocational School which he fathered.
It would seem a fitting memorial to one who so well served the people of Staten Island and New York City to name this institution “The Ralph R. McKee Vocational High School.” The faculty of the Staten Island Vocational High School respectfully requests the Board of Education to give consideration to this proposal.
Katherine Treadwell Butler
Dorothy D. Russell
Mary M. Whalen
Vernon B. Hampton, Chairman
October 28, 1935 Committee on Resolution
Action on the Resolution was taken by the Board of Education on November 27, 1935, and the new school became Commissioner McKee’s memorial, as the Ralph R. McKee Vocational High School. Its graduates and former students are carrying on the tradition of service and sacrifice around the world, as these traits were exemplified by the one whose name the school proudly bears.
The school library was established in 1935, special effort being directed toward that end to conform to the application for a State Charter. Mr. Harrigan first obtained a Miss Grannis from WPA. She was followed by Miss Margaret Greenberg. In February 1937, regularly licensed school librarians were appointed to all vocational high schools for the first time. Miss Frances Hankinson came to McKee from Tottenville High School on a transfer at that time. When the school was formally dedicated, June 10, 1936, Dr. William E. Grady, Associate Superintendent of Schools, spoke of Mr. McKee with affection. He also disclosed that Mr. McKee nursed a secret desire to have the St. George school named after him.
“Mr. McKee didn’t ask to have the school so named, but I knew that it was in his heart. He endeared himself to us by his spirit, tolerance, and his interest in schools. He lived with the school. Justice and mercy were combined in every decision he made, I am sure.”
Hence the resolution and subsequent action fulfilled a cherished wish of this departed friend.
It is a special significance that the Shield Emblem of the Vocational High School is the McKee Family coat-of-arms.
The school was fortunate from the beginning in its genial Custodial Engineer, Mr. High Jennings, who cooperated with the Principal and faculty and who took justifiable pride in the fine building and valuable equipment in his charge.
The McKee High School continued to operate annexes, at Elm Park and Mount Loretta. Miss Etta G. Connelly was the capable director and teacher in charge of these annexes. Important milestones in the development of the school marked the activities of the first year of the history of the school. On November 13, 1935, the first Parent Teachers Association was organized, with Mr. L. C. Roberts, President; Mrs. E. C. Franke, Vice President; Mr. P. Francis Edgar, Secretary; and Mr. Walter E. Heap, Faculty Advisor.