MONCKS CORNER — Family and friends of the late Henry R. Luce, publisher and philanthropist, gathered at Mepkin Abbey on April 4 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth April 3. The Mepkin property was owned by Luce and his wife, Clare Booth Luce, from 1936 until the late 1940s.
Guests of honor at the event included Henry Luce III, son of Henry Luce and chairman and CEO of the Henry Luce Foundation, and Peter Paul Luce, another son. Other members of the immediate family from throughout the world, and many of the Luce’s Lowcountry friends from the 1930s and 40s, also attended. The event included a grave side service, vespers in the Abbey Church and a dinner with the monastic community. Henry Luce III and Ralph Graves, longtime managing editor at Time, spoke about Henry Luce’s contributions to the publishing world at the vesters service.
Graves called Luce the most distinguished and successful publisher this century. He related that Luce asked questions all the time, and was relentless in his pursuit of answers. “That curiosity led to excitement and achievement,” said Graves.
Henry Luce developed Time magazine in 1923, when he was 25 years of age and recently graduated from Yale. He later developed Fortune, Life and Sports Illustrated magazines. Today, Time, Inc., has 30 magazines with circulation of more than 25 million worldwide.
On April 3, Henry Luce III was in attendance at the U.S. Postal Service’s national dedication of the Henry Luce stamp in New York, part of their “Great Americans” stamp series. A South Carolina special cancellation of this stamp, featuring the Mepkin Abbey logo, was available at the Monck’s Corner Post Office on April 4 to highlight Luce’s connection to the Lowcountry. The special cancellation will also be available by mail order until May 4.
The Luces brought the Mepkin property, originally over 7,000 acres, to use as a seasonal home and hunting preserve. While owners, they commissioned Loutrel Briggs, noted landscape architect, to develop the famed series of terraced gardens, which now serves as the family gravesite. They also had the residential compound restored and built a number of additional buildings.
Following the untimely death of Mrs. Luce’s daughter, the Luce’s contributed 3,200 acres of the property to the Cistercian Trappists, who established a monastery on the site in 1949. The monks of Mepkin Abbey are committed to a life of prayer, scriptural study, manual labor and hospitality, based on the 900-year-old Cistercian Trappist tradition. They support themselves with a commercial egg and compost operation, and host nearly 10,000 visitors annually, 900 of them retreatants from many faiths and walks of life.
A building program is now in progress on the Abbey grounds, including the building of the Clare Booth Luce Library. The 11,000-square-foot theological library, begun in early March, was made possible by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. The building program also includes a senior wing to care for the older monks, and renovation and expansion of the dining facilities to accommodate the growing number of guests hosted by the monastery each year.
The Henry Luce Foundation, based in New York City, was established 60 years ago by the Luce family and has assets of over $680 million. The foundation funds a wide variety of international efforts to further interdisciplinary education and approaches to world issues.