By MATT LEE, ’13
If you’ve been following along since the last edition, you’d know that John P. Stevens neither donated his land for the founding of our high school as rumors suggest, nor provided funds toward its construction. So then who exactly was the man behind the name we see every day? A wealthy businessman? A humanitarian activist? A townsman? The answer to that would be all of the above.
John P. Stevens was a Plainfield resident who attended Phillips Academy and eventually Yale University. He was sent overseas to fight in World War I, but returned after the war and earned a law degree from Harvard. He was also the chairman for the Greater New York appeal of the Red Cross during World War II that earned millions for the charity organization.
What we know him for, however, is not his upbringing but rather his extremely successful career. Stevens was the wealthy President of John P. Stevens & Co., one of the largest textile manufacturers in the United States back then. The company was founded in the 1800s in Andover, Massachusetts, and by 1960, it had 50 plants in 41 locations across the Eastern seaboard, from Massachusetts to New York to South Carolina. Head of one of the largest companies in the States, Stevens was the modern-day equivalent of a CEO of a “Fortune 500” company.
Stevens was also a member of the Edison Board of Education from 1940 to 1959 and acted as its President for fifteen years, leading the Board through a population spike crisis and the construction of three elementary schools, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams Middle Schools and Edison High School.
Even though he was one of the wealthiest men in America at the time, Stevens, as described by his son, spent many “long night[s] at school board meetings… trying to find money for new schools” — imagine Mark Zuckerberg going back to his hometown to try and help out the school system there. That was John P. Stevens.
To say the very least, this man was wholeheartedly committed to activities that benefited the general public. He was a trustee to the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, Muhlenberg Hospital, American Museum of Natural History, and New York Public Library, while also guiding the Edison school district through a period of rapid expansion and development. Though his accomplishments are great, this man’s unrelenting service and dedication to his community stand out as the reasons why our school is proudly named John P. Stevens.