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Students walking on campus

What is a Sextant?

With the sextant emblem featured so prominently on our homepage, it occurs to us that many outside of Belmont Hill may not be familiar with this instrument and its function.  The dictionary tells us that the sextant is an instrument for determining the angle between the horizon and a celestial body such as the sun, the moon, or a star. It is used in celestial navigation to determine latitude and longitude.

Dr. R. Heber Howe, our founding head of school, explained the significance of the sextant and why it was chosen as our emblem during a speech at the closing exercises of Belmont Hill on Friday, June 6, 1924.

Sextant Divider

About a year ago, when the organizers of the Belmont Hill School were discussing various plans and projects for launching the new institution successfully, they were confronted by the problem of finding a satisfactory emblem. To be appropriate, the device would have to symbolize some fine ideal in education. It would have to express, in one way or another, the spirit that we wished to propagate--namely: that of service through scholarship.

And so, in the course of many weeks, quite a number of emblems were suggested. Curiously enough, perhaps because several of us loved the sea and everything connected with it, nautical devices seemed to be the favorites. Some of these, like the compass and the capstan, were apparently suitable; but one by one, either through too great intricacy or because of lack of originality, they were rejected. Finally, however, it occurred to someone that the sextant might be used. The sextant was a symbol of orientation, and the chief purpose of education was, of course, to orientate. For it is only by "finding ourselves", by discovering our capacities and aptitudes, that we can be of service to the community. Thus, after some discussion, the sextant was adopted, and was made into the present School Seal…

The Sextant