The debate over whether schools should continue to teach handwriting in today’s digital age understandably gets a little personal for folks in Geneva. When Platt R. Spencer — known as the father of American handwriting — has his name literally written across your town’s history, that can certainly tilt the scale in a debate about practical matters.
Spencer’s legacy is a big part of Geneva’s, and whatever educators and lawmakers decide when it comes to the future of handwriting curriculum in schools, we’re glad to see those in the community working hard to keep his memory alive. Whether that is through the annual Spencerian Penmanship Contest, or with Platt R. Spencer Elementary School’s main entrance decorated with hand-carved sandstone signs depicting its name in the famed Spencerian script or the recent raising of 17 commemorative banners on lights throughout the city to celebrate that heritage, it is easy to see Spencer’s influence living on.
Much of the credit for preserving that legacy goes to the Platt R. Spencer Historical Society, which was formed back in 2008. This year they had multiple fundraisers to raise money to purchase the banners, which were created by local sign artist Bill Conrad. He used a design from Michael Sull, a renowned artist and expert on the Spencerian style who, in a piece of well thought out symmetry, also had a hand in the sandstone entrance at the elementary school. In addition to the banners, over the last few years the society members have worked to create entire rooms dedicated to Spencer and his work at the county courthouse, the Geneva Public Library and the Ashtabula County Historical Society’s Jennie Munger Gregory Memorial Museum in Geneva-on-the-Lake.
We thank all those volunteers involved with the Platt R. Spencer Historical Society for their sincere and dedicated efforts — about 100 members and 12 regular board members including President Beth Stillwell, Vice President Vaughn Reese, Board Member Donna Reese, Corresponding Secretary Charlotte Hunt, Treasurer Phil Schmidt and Recording Secretary Cathie Schmidt. We also offer belated congratulations to the winners of this year’s Spencerian Penmanship Contest, Shyla Marshall, Mason Smith and Gabriella Clugh. During the competition students were given a passage to copy using the Spencerian style. These efforts are a true example of how to keep a piece of history and tradition alive from generation to generation.