John McCain, EHS Class of 1954 (courtesy image)

John S. McCain III: 1936 – 2018

The Honorable Senator John Sidney McCain III (EHS Class of 1954) died Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018. He was 81.

The Navy pilot and Vietnam War veteran, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war, began his career as a public servant when elected as a U.S. Congressman from Arizona in 1982. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986 and served in that role for the remainder of his life. Senator McCain twice ran for President of the United States, first losing in the Republican primaries to George W. Bush in 2000, and then to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

He is survived by his wife Cindy; daughters Sidney, Meghan and Bridget; sons Jimmy, Jack, Doug and Andy, and several grandchildren. 

On Sunday, his family released the details of his memorial service, which will take place over five days this week in three different cities. On Wednesday, Aug. 29, he will lie in state at the Arizona State Capitol. On Thursday, Aug. 30, he will be moved to the North Phoenix Baptist Church for a memorial service celebrating his life and legacy beginning at approximately 10 a.m. PT. On Friday, Aug 31, McCain will lie in state in the rotunda at the United States Capitol. A formal ceremony celebrating his life and service will begin at 11 a.m. and will be broadcast live. He will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol for the remainder of the day. On Saturday, Sept. 1, a mass service for invited guests will be held at the Washington National Cathedral. At approximately 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 2, a private memorial service will be held at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. A private burial will be held in the academy's cemetery following the service.

“This country has lost one of our great public servants,” said EHS Head of School Charley Stillwell, “and our school family has lost one of our most inspirational examples of the intellectual and moral courage our school’s mission calls on us to develop in each of our graduates. Whether in overcoming the challenges of his captivity in Hanoi or passionately pursuing in the Senate policies to strengthen the country, Sen. McCain has given all of us powerful lessons in what living an honorable life can mean.”

Sen. John McCain spoke to the Episcopal High School community during his 2008 campaign for President of the United States (courtesy photo)

As a three-year student at Episcopal High School, McCain was a talented athlete who played football, wrestling and tennis. As a senior, he wrestled in the 127-pound weight class and held the record for “fastest pin” for two years. He also served on the staff of The Chronicle (newspaper) and Whispers (yearbook), Dramatics Club, E Club, Missionary Society, and Blackford Literary Society, among others.

At the time, the EHS student body was 240 boys and 22 faculty members, and the annual tuition was $1,400. The school observed a Sunday and Monday weekend, rather than Saturday and Sunday.

The EHS Honor Code, which is one of the oldest among secondary schools, was as important to student life in the 1950s as it is today. When asked what about his Episcopal experience had the greatest impact on his life, the Senator once responded in a visit to the school community in 2008, “My exposure to the Honor Code, which has guided me throughout my life.” (See the full transcript of McCain's 2008 speech at Episcopal High School.)

Senator McCain kept close ties to the school over the decades. In Faith of My Fathers, a memoir published in 1999, the Senator described fond memories of his years at Episcopal and the confidence he gained from his experience and teachers, particularly English teacher William B. Ravenel, about whom he wrote: “Were William B. Ravenel the only person I remember from high school, I would credit those days as among the best of my life.”

In 1987, the Senator received the Distinguished Alumnus Award. In 2001, the school presented Senator McCain with the Phillips Integrity in Action Award “recognizing his life of service, which epitomizes the highest ideals of honor and integrity – values that are at the core of Episcopal High School,” then-Headmaster Rob Hershey wrote at the time.