When Justice Neil M. Gorsuch was a sophomore at Georgetown Preparatory School, he had no clue that a young man two grades ahead of him might someday become his colleague — on the highest court in the land.
By nominating U.S. Appeals Court Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, a 1983 graduate of Georgetown Prep, President Trump on Monday gave the elite private school a shot at a distinction that no other high school can claim. If Kavanaugh is confirmed, two of its graduates will sit on the Supreme Court — and will have been nominated to the court less than 18 months apart.
After graduating from the Montgomery County school, Kavanaugh went on to receive his undergraduate and law degrees from Yale University. (If confirmed, there would be four justices on the high court who graduated from Yale Law School.)
Stephen Ochs, who has taught social studies at the school for more than four decades, recalls both of them as students. Kavanaugh was his student, and Ochs interacted with Gorsuch when he was student body president. He recalls that in a mock trial exercise, Kavanaugh presented like a seasoned attorney, a quality Ochs attributed to both of the student’s parents being lawyers.
“He just made his case so well. His questions were so insightful,” Ochs said in an interview Tuesday.
Gorsuch and Kavanaugh add to a pantheon of distinguished alumni. The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome H. Powell, graduated in 1971. The school’s graduates include two sitting congressmen and four current or former ambassadors.
In remarks Monday, Kavanaugh referenced his education at Georgetown Prep: “The motto of my Jesuit high school was ‘Men for others.’ ”
“I’ve tried to live that creed,” Kavanaugh said, speaking in the East Room of the White House. “I’ve spent my career in public service from the executive branch in the White House to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. I’ve served with 17 other judges, each of them a colleague and a friend.”
The school, founded in 1789 along with Georgetown University, is steeped in the Jesuit tradition. Every class starts with prayer, and the school sets aside time every week for silent self-reflection, a practice known as the Examen.
That extends to the school’s curriculum. Ochs said the school’s social studies courses center on the question of how to create a just society. Students are urged to pursue careers furthering that goal.
“There’s an ethos that there’s a larger purpose in life,” Ochs said. “We’re called as a part of our faith to try to make the world a better place . . . and that’s an obligation.”
In a statement on the school website, Georgetown Prep’s president, the Rev. James R. Van Dyke, congratulated Kavanaugh on his nomination.
“He is a proud Prep alumnus and holds the school in the highest regard,” Van Dyke said. “Judge Kavanaugh has Georgetown Prep’s prayers and support as he faces the confirmation process.”
Kavanaugh’s class includes actor Erik LaRay Harvey; Michael Bidwill, president of the Arizona Cardinals NFL team; and Maryland state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for governor in June.
Bidwill, along with three other classmates, wrote a letter of support to members of the U.S. Senate Monday night, according to the Arizona Cardinals website. About 150 graduates of the school signed on.
“We represent a broad spectrum of achievements, vocations, political beliefs, family histories and personal lifestyles,” the letter read, according to the website. “We unite in our common belief that Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh is a good man, a brilliant jurist, and is eminently qualified to serve as an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.”
A story written about Bidwill’s friendship with Kavanaugh for the team’s website was tweeted from the Cardinals account, drawing backlash from some fans who did not want to see the team wade into politics.
Not every graduate was thrilled to share the distinction with Kavanaugh. Jessica Sidman, a food editor for the Washingtonian, tweeted, “Fun fact: Trump’s Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh went to the same high school as chef/restaurateur @davidchang.” David Chang, founder of the Momofuku group of restaurants, responded: “There is nothing fun about this fact.”
The school educates nearly 500 young men in the Jesuit tradition on a verdant, 93-acre campus in an affluent stretch of suburban Montgomery County, north of the District. All its graduates head to four-year colleges or universities, according to its website, and students come from 19 countries. Students have the option to live in school dormitories.
The tuition for day students is $37,215 a year; it is $60,280 for students who live on campus. Many students receive financial aid.
Current students expressed pride that another graduate could make it to the high court, but some said they were also conflicted. Some of Trump’s policies on immigration, they say, conflict with their school’s values.
“He seemed sincere when he shouted out Georgetown Prep, our motto, ‘Men for Others,’ ” said Conor Luck, a 17-year-old rising senior from Potomac, Md., who is traveling on a school mission trip to Nogales, Mexico, to work with recently deported migrants.
Ryan Martin, also a rising senior, said he was conflicted over Kavanaugh’s nomination. They said they hope Kavanaugh would carry the school’s values — particular empathy for the less fortunate — to the halls of the Supreme Court and into conversation with Gorsuch.
“Maybe they will talk to each other and think about that idea of ‘men for others,’ ” Martin said.