There’s No E in Wapdiacl

When I was in sixth grade, more than half a century ago, the man who brought the news of President Kennedy’s assassination to my classroom was The Reverend Francis Caswell, headmaster of Dexter School from 1938 to 1964.

Rev. Caswell was a beloved teacher and mentor to hundreds of Dexter graduates over the years, including President Kennedy and his older brother Joseph, National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy, and Washington Post Editor Ben Bradlee.

Rev. Caswell took on the extraordinary task of sending a postcard to every Dexter graduate on his birthday, hundreds and hundreds every year.

These postcards, duly forwarded by my mother, found me in all the different places where I resided throughout my life and served as a cheery reminder of this warm and caring educator.

Rev. Caswell — he was actually known to us as Mr. Caswell — taught us Latin and Social Studies, and I still remember a mnemonic device he taught us for remembering all the members of the U.S. president’s cabinet: St. Wapdiacl.

(Secretary of State, Treasury, Welfare, Attorney General, Postmaster General, Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, and Labor).

I can attest to the effectiveness of this mnemonic device, because I still remember it after more than fifty years.

“But,” you might ask, “what about the Department of Education and the Department of Energy?”

These two departments were not included in Mr. Caswell’s mnemonic device because they didn’t exist at the time.

The Department of Energy was created in 1977 and the Department of Education in 1979.