Packer Collegiate Institute
|Packer Collegiate Institute|
|170 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, New York, 11201
|Headmaster||Dr. Bruce Dennis|
|Grades||pre-K - 12|
|Newspaper||The Packer Prism|
The Packer Collegiate Institute is an independent college preparatory school for students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Formerly the Brooklyn Female Academy, Packer has been located at 170 Joralemon Street in the historic district of Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City since its founding in 1845.
In Brooklyn Heights in 1845, a committee of landowners and merchants interested in improving the education of girls raised funds for a new school, which they called the Brooklyn Female Academy, and which they located on Joralemon Street. Although the school was successful, both financially and educationally, with steadily increasing enrollment, on January 1, 1853 the building caught fire and burned to the ground.
The Academy received an offer from Harriet Putnam Packer, the widow of William S. Packer, to give $65,000 towards rebuilding the school if it were named after her late husband; this would be the largest gift ever made for the education of girls. The new building was designed by the Minard Lafever, a noted designer of Brooklyn churches, and opened in November 1854. The chapel is notable for having stained-glass Tiffany windows.
After the Episcopal parish of St. Ann's, whose James Renwick-designed church at Livingston and Clinton street was around the corner from the school, moved into the abandoned Holy Trinity Church on Montague Street – also designed by Minard Lefever – in 1969, the church was sold to the school. A modernist connecting building, including a glass atrium which can be seen from Livingston Street, was added in 2003, designed by Hugh Hardy of H3 Collaborative Architecture.
Until 1972 Packer was primarily a girls school, with boys attending only kindergarten through fourth grade while girls and young women were enrolled through high school as well as a two-year junior college. The junior college program is no longer operational.
Many technological resources found at Packer aim to facilitate collaboration, innovation, expression, understanding and exploration. The school believes that in the hands of the faculty and students, technology could strengthen the school's learning community. Packer has a laptop program and the institution describes itself as a "laptop school where technology is woven into the curriculum at all levels." The guidelines of the program state that every student must have a laptop from fifth grade through graduation in twelfth grade. Met with much skepticism at first, Time Magazine reports the thinking behind the laptop program in detail below:
The wireless Packer would be very different from the old Packer. All assignments, handouts, work sheets, what-have-you would be distributed electronically. (Thus rendering the copy machine, possibly the only device on earth less reliable than the computer, obsolete.) Students would take notes on their laptops in class, then take their laptops home and do their homework on them. To turn in an assignment, they would simply drag and drop it into the appropriate folder, where the teacher could wirelessly retrieve it. Voila: the paperless classroom. 
Packer has visual arts, photography, media arts, dance, drama, orchestra, brass choir, chamber music, wind ensemble, chorus and a Middle and Upper School jazz band. Among Packer's facilities lies the Janet Clinton Performing Arts Center, which features instrumental and choral music classrooms, a dance studio and the Pratt Theater. This state-of-the-art performance space supports theatrical productions throughout the year.
Notable alumni and faculty
- Lucy Burns - suffragist
- Elizabeth Gaffney - editor and author (Metropolis: A Novel)
- Ethan Hawke, class of 1983 - actor (Reality Bites, Dead Poets Society'), writer and producer
- Virginia Heinlein, 1935 - wife of and calphao-author with Robert A. Heinlein
- Malcolm D. Lee, 1988 - film and television director (Roll Bounce, Everybody Hates Chris, Undercover Brother)
- Lois Lowry, 1956 - author (Number the Stars, The Giver)
- Elisabeth Woodbridge Morris, 1898 - author, professor of English at Vassar College
- Mary White Ovington, 1890 - author, civil rights leader, co-founder and Executive Secretary of the NAACP
- Rosanna Scotto, 1976 - television news anchor, FOX 5 News (New York City)
- Ida Carlton Thallon, 1894 - Professor of Greek, Latin and History at Vassar College, archeologist and writer
- Shelby White, 1957 - author, art collector and benefactor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (with late husband Leon Levy)
- Chris Williams - an environmental activist and author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to the Capitalist Ecological Crisis. He is chair of the science department at Packer.
- Barbara Severy Wellington Winthrop, 1965 - chef, entrepreneur and poet
- Deborah Ann Woll, 2003 - actress (True Blood)
- Mary Woronov, 1962 - member of Andy Warhol's Factory.
In popular culture
- Packer can be seen as a set for the CW television series Gossip Girl in multiple episodes throughout the first three seasons, as both interior and exterior locations.
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