The Sawyer Medal
Each year, students in Gloucester Public Schools grades 8-12 who have attained high academic achievements may be awarded the Sawyer Medal (see the requirements.) Samuel Sawyer, after whom the medal is named was perhaps the greatest single benefactor in all of Gloucester history.
Samuel Elwell Sawyer was born in Gloucester on Nov. 25, 1815 and he died 73 years later in Gloucester on Dec. 15, 1889. He loved and remained thoroughly dedicated to the community.
He was a diligent and hard worker. Born to a working class family he began his business career working as a clerk in a dry goods store in his early teens. After a few years, still in his teens, he worked his way into a position as a salesman with a Boston firm.
He was bold and forward in his thinking; not afraid to try new things. In Boston, he associated himself with a larger company as manager and then part owner in a company that bought and sold materials and goods around the world.
He was tenacious — he didn’t give up even when he experienced financial losses. He didn’t become discouraged. He persevered and through hard work managed to amass a large fortune.
He remained modest in his wealth and conducted himself with honor and integrity in his business affairs.
Throughout his life he believed it was important to give back to others what fortune had bestowed upon him. He was very generous to charities and actively supported many civic, art and literary organizations. To quote Arthur Joy, “Samuel Sawyer was indeed soft of heart about Gloucester.”
He was very interested in promoting the intellectual welfare of the community, especially Gloucester’s children and schools. He established a fund to incorporate music into the school curriculum; gave money to furnish medals as prizes for excellence in studies.
He recognized that the key to learning and success in life came through reading and education. So that everyone could further their education, he believed that Gloucester should have a public library. At that time, we did not have a free library in the community. With foresight he started out giving small endowments that required matching or greater funds from the community. In that way he wanted the citizenry to buy into the idea and become a part of a shared effort. Eventually he purchased one of the oldest and most beautiful homes in Gloucester and deeded it to the community with a more than suitable endowment for books. The library we have today on Dale Avenue bears his name, though out of modesty, he was not comfortable with the naming.