Geneva students participate in Spencerian Penmanship Contest

Geneva Platt R. Spencer Elementary School students Chloe Dodge (first and second grade winner), Taylor Schultz  (third and fourth grade winner) and Mason Smith (fifth grade winner) have penned their way to top honors in the school’s annual Spencerian Penmanship Contest. The students and Principal Michael Penzenik are pictured with a framed letter from internationally renowned Spencerian Master Penman Michael Sull thanking the Geneva School District and the Spencer Historical Society for their efforts to preserve the heritage of Platt R. Spencer, the Geneva native known as the father of American penmanship. 

GENEVA — The writing is literally on the wall and carved in stone when it comes to celebrating the history and heritage of Geneva Platt R. Spencer Elementary School. 

Students walk beneath iconic hand carved sandstone signage depicting the building’s name in Spencerian script. Platt R. Spencer students do their part to preserve the art of cursive writing through their participation in the annual Spencerian Penmanship Contest. 

This year, Mason Smith (fifth grade winner), Taylor Schultz (third and fourth grade winner) and Chloe Dodge (first and second grade winner) were judged to be winners in the competition.  

GPS Principal Michael Penzenik said the annual Spencerian Penmanship Contest is important to the school’s heritage. Students entering the contest are provided with a brief passage to copy using the cursive writing style pioneered by Platt Rogers Spencer, the Geneva native who is known as the father of American penmanship. 

Winning entries exhibit the best execution of the technique. 

“It’s important to the history of our school and Geneva, and the contest helps us remember and honor our past,” Smith said. “We can see Spencerian Script every day above the door of our school and it always reminds us.”

The decorative lintel above the elementary entrance was created using a template designed by internationally renowned Spencerian Master Penman Michael Sull to commemorate the eponymously named building’s heritage. 

Sull thanked the school district and the Spencer Historical Society for their efforts to preserve Spencer’s heritage in a letter. 

“We have accomplished something of great significance for we have preserved and extended an important part of American history, and therefore, part of our heritage and culture. Our past, the people who came before us and their own accomplishments serve as a foundation for our beliefs, our sense of respect and our responsibilities as citizens, parents and educators. The legacy of Platt Rogers Spencer will never be forgotten and you should always be proud of your vision and your efforts,” he wrote.

The technique for creating the flowing handwriting style originated by Spencer is still taught by Sull’s protégé, master penman Harvest Crittenden at the Spencerian Saga Workshops hosted at The Lakehouse Inn in Geneva-on-the-Lake each fall. 

Spencer was originally inspired by the natural beauty of the Lake Erie Shores as he created the ornate and graceful script which bears his name. Local lore has it that Spencer could not afford expensive writing materials and honed the unique penmanship technique by tracing the letters in the sand. 

The Spencerian Saga Workshops, designed to perpetuate interest in the skill, attract devotees from across the globe to learn and practice the art of writing in Spencerian script. 

Crittenden is one of only 12 individuals worldwide to earn the designation of master penman by the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting. The Spencerian Saga has brought participants to Geneva-on-the-Lake from Italy, Japan and Canada as well as from numerous U.S. cities.

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