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Main School Building
7 Boyden Lane
|Type||Independent, boarding and day school|
|Motto||Be Worthy of Your Heritage|
|Head of school||Margarita Curtis|
|Campus size||330 acres (130 ha)|
|Color(s)||Hunter Green and White|
|Athletics conference||Six Schools League|
|Team name||Big Green|
|Newspaper||The Deerfield Scroll|
Deerfield Academy (also known as Deerfield or DA) is an independent, co-educational boarding and day school in Deerfield, Massachusetts, United States for students in grades 9-12 and post-graduate (PG). Founded in 1797, it is one of the oldest secondary schools in the United States. It is a four-year college-preparatory school with approximately 650 students and about 125 faculty, all of whom live on or near campus during the school year. Deerfield had a 16.4% acceptance rate for the 2017-2018 school year. Its endowment is $590 million.
The Academy grants $10.8 million per year to 36% of its students, meaning the average financial aid grant is $50,096 per year. The student body hails from 38 U.S. states and 38 foreign countries. Approximately 32% of the student body identifies as American students of color, and an additional 12% identifies as foreign nationals or US expats.
Deerfield Academy is a member of the Eight Schools Association (ESA), begun informally in 1973–74 and formalized in 2006, and of the Ten Schools Admissions Organization (TSAO), founded in 1956. The two associations aim to promote cooperation among top New England boarding schools and meet regularly to discuss ways to improve. Additionally, Deerfield is a member of the Six Schools League (SSL), which is an athletic league composed of New England prep schools aimed at promoting healthy competition.
Deerfield Academy was founded in 1797 when Massachusetts Governor Samuel Adams granted a charter to found a school in the town of Deerfield. It began to educate students in 1799. The school was prestigious, and graduates occupied many congressional and gubernatorial seats in New England. By the end of the 19th century, industrialization had economically hurt Deerfield, which was rural. The board of trustees was considering closing the Academy, as only nine students remained.
In 1902 Deerfield appointed Frank Boyden as headmaster. Boyden reorganized the school financially and recruited students from Greenwich and Darien. This criterion for acceptance has been upheld to this day. Boyden also emphasized athletics as a component of education, sometimes playing on varsity squads that lacked players. Boyden retired in 1968.
David M. Pynchon was appointed headmaster after Boyden. He expanding the curriculum, updating the school buildings, and expanded the endowment.
Eric Widmer '57 served as headmaster from 1994 to 2006. He stepped down in June 2006 and soon after assumed the position of Founding Headmaster at King's Academy in Madaba, Jordan, a school inspired in part by HM King Abdullah II's Deerfield years in the 1980s. It opened in the fall of 2007.
Deerfield Academy follows a trimester system, in which the school year is divided into three academic grading periods. Deerfield students take a full liberal arts curriculum, including English, history, foreign language, mathematics, laboratory science, visual and performing arts, and philosophy and religion. However, required courses are kept at a minimum to allow students to take more courses in the subjects that interest them most.
Most courses last the entire year, whereas others can last for one to two terms. The required course load is five graded courses per term, but students may petition the Academic Dean to take a sixth graded course if desired. There are no Saturday classes, and classes are held from Monday to Friday, typically from 8:30 am to 3:05 pm. On Wednesdays, classes end at 12:45 pm to accommodate athletic events, as well as to provide more time for clubs and community service.
Deerfield does not rank students. Academic work is graded on a scale where the minimum passing grade is 60 and the median grades are between 85 and 90. A trimester average of 90.0 or above garners Honors distinction, whereas a trimester average of 93.0 or above garners High Honors distinction.
Students are required to participate in a co-curricular activity each trimester. Some options include competitive or intramural sports, community service, dance, theatrical productions every term, yearbook, and many more.
Deerfield athletic teams compete with boarding schools and other private schools throughout New England. Deerfield is also a member of the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC).
Around 2010 Deerfield Academy's lacrosse program had success, and was a perennial contender, along with rival Salisbury School, for the New England title. In 2009 Salisbury defeated Deerfield 7-6, resulting in a shared New England Championship title. In 2010 Salisbury defeated Deerfield 9-6. Salisbury went on to win the New England title. However, in 2011 Deerfield beat Salisbury 11-7 in the penultimate game of their season. Deerfield went on to beat Exeter in the last game of their season, securing both an undefeated season and the New England title. They secured the ranking of number one in the state of Massachusetts, and a ranking of number three in the nation. Deerfield's golf, men's water polo, and swimming teams are strong. In 2008 Deerfield held the New England Prep School Championship title for men's swimming, men's water polo, and golf.
In addition to required co-curricular activities, many students are involved in at least one of the more than 50 student-run clubs or organizations.
Each fall, the Head of School hikes with all the freshmen to the Rock, which is a ridge overlooking the Pocumtuck Valley. Students return many times to the Rock throughout their time at Deerfield, and a trip to the Rock is one of many seniors' last activities.
Seven times a week, the entire Deerfield community gathers in the Dining Hall for a family-style meal. Each round table consists of nine students and one faculty member. After every Sunday night dinner, the entire student body sings the Deerfield Evensong.
"Choate Day" occurs during the final weekend of the fall sports season. Deerfield competes with Choate in every sport at both varsity and sub-varsity levels. The tradition began in 1922 with an exchange of letters between Deerfield head Frank Boyden and Choate head George St. John. Since then, busloads (in the early years, trainloads) of students have made the 80-mile journey along the Connecticut River valley to cheer their teams on the rival's campus.
In the days leading up to the event, rallies and activities are held at both schools. And each campus is decorated in spirited banners and signs to excite the students during the week leading up to the events. At Choate the Boar Pen cheerleaders are selected and a fire-breathing dragon is ignited. At Deerfield in the Main Auditorium, the cheerleaders put on skits mocking their opponents, and there are speeches given by Mr. Morsman, Captain Deerfield, the step team, and the head cheerleaders. In the athletic building, the school seal is encircled by students so that Choate athletes will not tread on it. When events at the Auditorium end, the student body rushes to the lower fields where a bonfire, topped by a burning C, awaits it. Captain Deerfield, the varsity captains, and the cheerleaders rile up the student body with Deerfield cheers and chants.
The Stepping-Up Bonfire is an event that takes place during the night of Commencement day, after the graduating senior class has departed from campus. Students gather on the Lower Fields and celebrate the coming year in a bonfire. This event is also the place of the debut of the new Captain Deerfield and an opportunity for the Junior Cheerleaders to take the lead. The bonfire has been followed up by a dance for the rising seniors.
Every Wednesday morning, the entire student body and faculty gather in the Hess Auditorium. Students sit by year, and after each class shouts its own cheer, students sing the Deerfield fight song. School Meetings contain announcements, student performances, and invited speakers.
Deerfield has 16 dormitories: Barton, Bewkes, DeNunzio, Dewey, Field, Harold Smith, John Louis, John Williams, Johnson-Doubleday, Louis-Marx, Mather, McAlister, Pocumtuck, Rosenwald-Shumway, Scaife, and New Dorm. Every dorm is single-sex, and a faculty resident lives on each hall. Juniors and seniors live together in the same dorms, whereas sophomores live in their own dorms. Since 2015, all 100 incoming ninth-graders have been housed together in the Ninth-Grade Village, which consists of two single-sex dormitories connected by a large common room.
The Deerfield Academy Press was founded in May 1997 with the publication of Deerfield 1797-1997: A Pictorial History of the Academy, the first written history of the school. The press also provides an outlet for student writings in English, history, and foreign languages.
In 2004 an alumnus revealed to Deerfield's then headmaster Eric Widmer that he had been sexually abused in the Winter of 1983 by faculty member Peter Hindle. Widmer responded sympathetically but did not press for details. The school was aware a parent previously raised concerns about Hindle in the 1980s, and had responded with written and verbal warnings. Nearly a decade later in 2012 the alumnus raised the matter again, this time with headmaster Margarita Curtis, who he says "displayed clear moral authority and offered unconditional support from the start."
An investigation by the school's lawyers confirmed the allegations and uncovered more: In late March 2013 the school published information that two former faculty members had engaged in multiple sexual contacts with students: Peter Hindle who taught at the school from 1956 to his 2000 retirement, and Bryce Lambert who retired in 1990 and had died in 2007. The school stripped Hindle's name from an endowed mathematics teaching chair and a school squash court, and barred him from campus events. A subsequent criminal investigation by the District Attorney's office revealed that at least four teachers, three deceased and one still alive, had engaged in sexual conduct considered "criminal in nature" with students extending back into the 1950s. Their deaths, and the statute of limitations, precluded pursuing criminal charges.
Deerfield spokesman David Thiel said “I think you saw from us an amount of transparency when this came to light that was unusual, and I hope that sets a good example for institutions and helps to assure that students are safer everywhere.”
In the book The Headmaster (1966), author John McPhee reviews the life and work of Deerfield's most famous, formative headmaster, Frank Boyden, last of the "magnanimous despots who... created enduring schools through their own individual energies, maintained them under their own absolute rules, and left them forever imprinted with their own personalities.” McPhee spent a year at Deerfield as a postgraduate student.
John Gunther's book Death Be Not Proud (1949) discusses the long struggle of his son John Gunther Jr. (called "Johnny") a Deerfield student, against a deadly brain tumor. The ovation Deerfield students gave the boy as he managed to walk the church aisle to receive the diploma he had earned despite the ravages of the disease is a powerful—and heartbreaking—scene. The book was later made into the 1975 movie Death Be Not Proud, starring Robby Benson as Johnny Gunther.
In Martin Scorsese's film The Departed (2006), William "Billy" Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is said to have attended Deerfield during his youth, though he was expelled for "whaling on a gym teacher with a folding chair."
Deerfield alumnus and later Horace Mann School history teacher Andrew Trees wrote a satiric novel titled Academy X (2007), a tale of corrupt "transcript primping" set in an unnamed prep school. After publication of the novel Horace Mann declined to renew Mr. Trees' teaching contract. The resulting controversy over academic freedom was reported in a New York Times article, "Private School, Public Fuss".