More of the First Twenty Years
The early years really set the tone for the Society, which fell into a comfortable routine. The Executive Committee generally met monthly except in summers. The Society’s year followed a seasonal pattern: In the fall, the Society elected new officers and members of the Executive Committee, sponsored a lecture, and observed the Red Mass. In the spring, the Society sponsored another lecture, held the annual dinner and presented the Monsignor Paul J. Taggart St. Thomas More Award. And, after a summer break, things began again.
The Society has been blessed with officers willing to step up and take the lead. The initial bylaws called for both a president and president-elect, and that ensured at least some continuity. A later change in the bylaws added the vice president to the line of automatic succession, ensuring even more. Over the years, many leaders of the Delaware bar have stepped into leadership roles in the Society. For example, four presidents of the Society have also been presidents of the Delaware State Bar Association (Richard Kirk, Harvey Rubenstein, Geoffrey Gamble, and J.R. Julian). One president of the Society was a sitting Supreme Court Justice (Justice Joseph Walsh).
Initially the Executive Committee had about a dozen members. Over the years, it has grown to almost three dozen. As it happens, many past presidents remain active in the Society by serving on the Executive Committee. Fortunately, many newer and younger members of the bar have stepped forward and joined the Society’s leadership, making a nice balance between experience and enthusiasm.
In the early years, meetings of the Executive Committee were held at the Town Wharf Restaurant on the Market Street Mall. When the Franciscan Brothers opened the Franciscan Center just a few doors down the Market Street Mall, meetings were shifted there and were held there for more than ten years. When the Franciscan Center closed, meetings moved to the Parish House at St. Joseph’s Church in downtown Wilmington, also the home of the Red Mass on several occasions. After several years there, the meetings shifted to the modern offices of sitting presidents.
In January 2007, the Executive Committee held a half day retreat at Irisbrooke, the home of the Raskob Foundation, and invited officers of the Philadelphia St. Thomas More Society to attend. The two groups explored subjects of mutual interest. That process was repeated in January 2008, when officers of the Baltimore St. Thomas More Society were invited. Again, the two groups exchanged ideas and discussed their histories. That led the Executive Committee to propose a larger scale retreat for neighboring societies. That retreat was held in June 2008 at Irisbrooke. The Executive Committee hosted representatives of societies in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Camden, and Delaware County.
*Many thanks to Dick Kirk for providing the material on the history of the Society.