Just days before being confirmed by the Senate as the nation’s Labor Secretary, exiting Mayor Martin Walsh declared this Friday, March 26, “Leonard Nimoy Day” in the City of Boston in honor of the English High graduate who skyrocketed to international fame in the 1960s for his portrayal of the iconic character, Mr. Spock, on the classic TV series, “Star Trek,” on what would’ve been Nimoy’s 90th birthday.
Walsh wrote that Nimoy, who died at age 83 in February of 2015, “through his fictional character, Mr. Spock – half human/half Vulcan – gave the immigrant, the refugee, and the oppressed, a hero for ‘the Outsider.’”
Nimoy honed his acting skills at the Elizabeth Peabody House and the West End House, as well as through a summer scholarship for acting lessons at Boston College in his teens, wrote Walsh, and he was awarded an honorary degree from Boston University in 2012.
One local connection of Nimoy’s overlooked in the city’s official proclamation is that he’s also a graduate of English High School, Class of 1948.
Michael Thomas, president and CEO of the English High School Association (EHSA) of Boston, said, “We are honored to join Mayor Walsh and the City of Boston in celebrating Leonard Nimoy Day on what would have been his 90th birthday.”
Nimoy caught the acting bug as a member of English High’s Drama and Discussion clubs, and School Radio Play, according to Thomas, and he was also a member of the Switchboard Boys in 1948.
“English High School has a long list of distinguished alumni,” Thomas said, “but just as important, the school has always been an educational beacon of hope and a stepping stone for the working-class population in the city.”
After graduating from English High, which was then located on Montgomery Street in the South End, Nimoy, who was the son of a barber, said Thomas, used the “seed money” he received from his grandfather to move to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career.
“I encourage all Bostonians to recognize Leonard Nimoy’s commitment and dedication to the Arts and the lasting impact that he has left on the community,” Walsh wrote in the proclamation, the local news outlet that first reported the story.
Walsh’s proclamation dovetails with an effort to build a memorial to Nimoy in the West End that South End artist Tom Stocker began in earnest in March of 2015, one month after the actor’s death.
Somewhat surprisingly, Stocker, who regularly watched the series in reruns in the ‘70s and even saw “Star Trek: the Motion Picture” upon its theatrical release in 1979, has never considered himself a “Trekkie.” But instead Stocker’s interest in Nimoy was piqued after watching “Leonard Nimoy’s Boston” – a half-hour special that first aired on WGBH-TV in 2014 in which Nimoy, accompanied by his filmmaker son, Adam, returned to his native city to reminisce about growing up as the son of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine in the old West End.
Nimoy also revealed in his autobiography “I Am Not Spock,” that he based the Vulcan salutation, which comprises a raised hand with the palm forward and thumb extended while the middle and ring finger ring fingers are parted, on a rabbinical blessing he saw performed during a religious service he accompanied his grandfather to as a boy at an Orthodox synagogue in the old West End.
Stocker, who has been in close contact with Leonard’s daughter, Julie Nimoy, has finalized the design for the memorial, which, he said, depicts the Vulcan hand salutation crafted from stainless-metal lattice and illuminated from inside using LED lighting. The Vulcan hand salutation (along with its accompanying spoken expression of well-wishing, “Live Long and Prosper”) ranks among the most indelible and instantly recognizable images from the “Star Trek” universe.
Stocker, a Northampton Street resident, said he drew his inspiration for the design from “Scrolls” – a 16-foot-high sculpture by Boston-area artist David Phillips” crafted from perforated stainless steel to resemble the form of a violin and illuminated from within via LED lighting that sits on the lawn across from the New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall.
Progress on the Nimoy Memorial is now moving at a swift pace, said Stocker, although the Nimoy family, which is fully on board with the project, has asked him to not yet divulge who would fund the project, as well as its possible location.
Stocker, who initially proposed “Leonard Nimoy Day” to the City of Boston, has also reached out to Montreal, Canada, the hometown of William Shatner, who played Captain James T. Kirk on “Star Trek” opposite Nimoy and remained a close friend of Nimoy’s throughout his life, in regard to that city declaring March 22, which was Shatner’s 90th birthday, “William Shatner Day.” But so far, Stocker hasn’t heard back from them.
As for the status of the memorial, Stocker said he had hoped to have more information to share on this project in time for the day honoring Nimoy.
“This is sort of an appetizer for the main course,” Stocker said last week of the information he has provided to date, “with meatier details coming down the line.”