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Masons consecrate new Tiffin Elementary School with cornerstone ceremony

Denis Stubbs, Senior Grand Steward for the Grand Lodge of Iowa of the Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons, applies a level to the cornerstone of Tiffin Elementary during a ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 1, at the new school. Masons checked to ensure the stone was square, level and plumb in accordance with ancient traditions. (photo by Chris Umscheid)

TIFFIN — When cathedrals were built across Europe thousands of years ago, the first stone placed was the cornerstone. Extreme importance was placed on it being square, level and plumb. Centuries later, laying the cornerstone became more of a symbolic process, as when George Washington presided over the Masons’ Masonic cornerstone ceremony for the United States Capitol building in 1793.
The Masons continue the tradition today, and performed the cornerstone ceremony for the Clear Creek Amana Community School District (CCA) at the new Tiffin Elementary on Sat., Aug 1.
Charles D. Yates, Grand Master for the Masons in Iowa, explained that the cornerstone was originally placed in the northeast corner of any building erected, a tradition the Masons adopted.
“We check the cornerstone so that its plumb, level, true, square…all the things it should be,” as part of the ceremony, said Grand Master Yates. Masonic honors are only bestowed upon certain buildings: churches, schools, buildings for charitable purposes, and for the administration of justice and a free government.
“As Masons we support our public school system,” Yates said. “We believe that supporting our youth and educating our youth is the key to our future.”
The Deputy Grand Master took a square to the stone, and reported to Yates, “I find the stone to be square. The craftsmen have performed their duty.” The moral and Masonic uses of the square, according to the ritual, “teaches us to square our actions by the square of virtue, and by it we prove our work.” The Senior Grand Warden then applied a level, which the Masons believe teaches equality. Again, the report was that the stone was satisfactory. Next, the Junior Grand Warden applied the plumb, which the Masons say teaches “rectitude (rightness of principle or practice, moral value, correctness, straightness) of life and conduct.” Again the stone was found compliant.
Corn, wine and oil are also used in the Masonic ritual as an emblem of plenty (corn), refreshment (wine) and joy and gladness (oil). “May the blessings of bounteous Heaven be showered upon us, and upon this and all noble undertakings,” the Junior Grand Warden said while depositing the corn. “May the Great Architect of the Universe fill us with virtue, wisdom and gratitude.” The Senior Grand Warden asked, “May the Great Architect of the Universe so refresh and strengthen us that we may never become weary in well-doing, and may the spirit that shall go herefrom cheer and refresh the weary and heavy-laden.”
The Deputy Grand Master poured the oil.
“May the blessing of Heaven abide with us continually, and may the Grand Master of Heaven and Earth shelter and protect the widow and orphan, and vouchsafe to them and the bereaved, the afflicted, and sorrowing everywhere the enjoyment of every good and perfect gift.” Flowers were placed upon the stone, “as emblems of the love and beauty that this edifice adds to the peace and tranquility to the community,” Yates said before asking the blessing of God.
“May he have protected the workmen from every accident. May the structure here erected, have been contrived by wisdom, executed in strength, and adorned with beauty. May it long be preserved as a monument of the energy and liberality of its founders, and of this free and enlightened government, under whose protecting care it is our privilege to live.”
CCA district Superintendent Tim Kuehl spoke briefly, thanking voters for approving the $48 million bond issue that made the new elementary school, renovation at the middle school and expansion of the high school (scheduled to begin next spring) possible.
“The biggest thing that hits me is the importance of public education. I think it’s just as important, if not more important than ever, that we have a strong school system, and I think we’re fortunate to enjoy that here at CCA,” Kuehl said. He also expressed thanks to the school board of directors and the district’s staff. “Without the staff, this shell doesn’t mean much for education.”
Tiffin Elementary Principal Dan Dvorak, previously principal at Clear Creek Elementary in Oxford, also spoke about the bond issue and the wide margin of its approval.
“It shows that our community sees the importance of education of our youth today,” said Dvorak. He reminded the assembly, “As we move forward and continue to grow as a district, we don’t know what things are going to look like in a few years, but we know we are going to continue to grow.”
Dvorak also made a promise.
“We’ll give our best effort each and every day to make a great school who will represent you in the highest manner possible. We appreciate what we have before us,” he said.
Tiffin City Councilman Mike Ryan, also a Mason in Canopy Lodge 290 along with Tiffin councilman Jim Bartels, spoke on behalf of the Lodge and the City of Tiffin. Ryan called the new school, “The highest expression of democracy and civic duty.” He thanked supporters of the bond issue, and those who opposed, alike.
“Everybody had an opportunity to express themselves,” said Ryan. “The wonderful thing about democracy and a society where we can come together like this, is that the decision has been made by the voters, and now the people charged by the voters to discharge their decisions have done just that.” He called it an honor for Tiffin to have such a facility.
“We’ve wanted this for awhile, we’ve waited for the demographics to get right for the school board to make a decision to put a school here…and here it is, and what a wonderful addition,” said Ryan.
As a council representative, Ryan also committed to working within the vision shared by the city and the school distrct.
“We will try to do right by this school and we’ll continue to really work closely with the school board,” Ryan said.
Tiffin Elementary will host an open house on Friday, Aug 24 from 5-7 p.m.