By Diana McElfresh, ’18
Fred Chandler knew he wanted to be a teacher since his days as an English major at St. Bonaventure University. The 1991 graduate worked alongside middle school students one summer, helping as a counselor for a football clinic held at the university and hosted by Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly. His week working and spending time with campers gave him the teaching bug.
Today he is Headmaster of the St. Albans Lower School, an Episcopal boys school in Washington, D.C. The school serves students grades four through eight, and Chandler has around 260 boys in his division.
He teaches his students in what he describes as a loosely Socratic method.
“I ask a lot of questions; I like to get discussions going,” he explained, adding that he derives a great joy from teaching young people. They’re impressionable, they’re full of promise, they aren’t jaded yet. I find young people equally fun, charming, frustrating and maddening.”
Though St. Albans isn’t Catholic, Chandler feels the atmosphere is similar to the education he received at St. Bonaventure.
“St. Albans feels Franciscan in some ways, driven by the chaplains here at school,” he said. “There is a warmth, there’s compassion, there’s a spiritual core that’s vibrant, and yet it’s welcoming in very profound ways.”
This culture of compassion and spirituality that extends into his adult life is one Chandler cherishes from his time at Bona’s. A small-town boy, Bonaventure crucially expanded his horizons.
“I know Bonaventure is a small Franciscan university, but it felt really big to me at the time,” he explained. “The guys and girls that I met helped me learn about different types of people. I liked having friends that were very different from me and friends who were very similar to me.”
From his time and friendships forged at Bona’s, Chandler discovered his greatest strength.
“I’m good at going up to someone and introducing myself," he said. "I go to great lengths to try and make people feel welcome and I really feel like I got that from my friends at Bonaventure."
His friends taught Chandler to broaden his interests, as well.
“My closest friends gave me the tools to meet other people at Bonaventure who I normally wouldn’t hang out with, some of whom were on the newspaper,” he said, adding that in his senior year he worked as an editor of the opinions section of The Bona Venture. He also played on the varsity lacrosse team throughout his time at Bonaventure.
Chandler made a big impact on his friends. Erik Addington, ’91, said a particular op-ed Chandler wrote for The BV during the Gulf War sparked a debate throughout campus.
“While Fred has many great qualities, I think his doggedness and grit is what has served him well, both at Bona’s and beyond in his professional career,” said Addington.
Chandler’s time at Bonaventure is dear to him, and he has shown his devotion through volunteering his time to the Bonaventure Fund along with several of his classmates.
“I think about Bonaventure every day,” he said. “The teachers and my friends there just made it wonderful.”
McElfresh is a senior journalism and mass communication major. She is interested in pursuing advertising after graduation in May 2018.
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