“The Boys in the Boat” – St. Sebastian’s All School Read in 2015 – was released as a movie on Christmas Day 2023. Based on Daniel James Brown's acclaimed book, the cinematic version tells the inspiring, true story of Joe Rantz and the members of the US Olympic rowing team’s quest for a gold medal at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
St. Sebastian’s was blessed to host Joe Rantz’s daughter, Judy Willman, along with her husband Ray, for the All School Read Assembly in September 2015. Judy shared family photos, archived film footage, and fond memories of her father and his fellow teammates during his long life as a devoted family man, accomplished athlete, and Olympic rower.
Following their visit to St. Sebastian’s, Judy and Ray wrote the following letter about their visit to the School and the very positive observations they made about our community. The lessons from “Boys in the Boat” inspired our students and faculty, and in turn, our mission and ethos inspired the Willman’s.
Dear Bill, Brendan, and all of you at St. Sebastion’s who made our visit such an extraordinary experience,
Ray and I had such an amazing time while we were with you. The hospitality and the feeling of total acceptance was a comfort to be enfolded in. We, of course, love to share anything related to Mom and Dad and the rest of the “Boys in the Boat” and your enthusiasm to learn more was very rewarding.
I think though the thing that left us feeling most blessed was beginning to understand just what a unique and caring program your school provides to its students and in consequence draws out of them. This quality of education...including the Arts and the focus on the teachings of Christ and how to apply them to one’s life...makes for a person who understands the importance of others in their life. A person who reaches out to, gives to, cares for, and nurtures others, rather than being a person whose world revolves only around himself with the function of the people around him being only how they can serve him.
It became even more obvious to us as we read through some of the material you sent home with us what an important work your school is performing! We so desperately need leaders whose inherent nature expresses compassion, understanding, love of fairness, and integrity. And you at St. Sebastion’s are teaching your youth to be that kind of people. They are caring, courteous, educated, and focused on the greater task ahead. And they are so well schooled in this attitude that they present it on their own outside of the school environment and with no expectation of “reward” for their actions other than the knowledge that they have kept true to their “moral compass”.
This gives us hope for the future. Hope for our nation’s leadership. Because for every St. Sebastion’s graduate out there, the world becomes a little better place.
Judy and Ray Willman Redmond, WA