Deerfield Academy

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Deerfield Academy
Deerfield Seal.png
Deerfield Academy in Winter, Deerfield MA.jpg
Main School Building
Be Worthy of Your Heritage
Deerfield, MA
Type Independent, boarding
Established 1797
Head of School Margarita O'Byrne Curtis
Faculty 110
Enrollment 600 total
520 boarding
80 day
Average class size 12 students
Student to teacher ratio 6:1
Campus Rural, 280 acres
127 buildings
Color(s) Hunter Green & White         
Athletics 20 Interscholastic Sports
Rival Choate Rosemary Hall
Newspaper The Deerfield Scroll
Endowment $532 million

Deerfield Academy is a highly selective independent, coeducational boarding school at Deerfield, Massachusetts, United States.[1] It is a four-year college-preparatory school with approximately 640 students and about 120 faculty, all of whom live on or near campus during the school year.

The acceptance rate at Deerfield Academy is currently around 16%.[2]

Deerfield 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, founded in 1956. There is a seven-school overlap of membership between the two groups.[3] Deerfield is additionally a member of the G20 Schools group.

In 2007 Deerfield's endowment was valued at US$415 million, or roughly $680,000 per student. Fees were around $37,000 for day students and $52,000 for boarders in 2012-2013.[4]


Deerfield Academy was founded in 1797 when Massachusetts Governor Samuel Adams granted a charter to found a school in the town of Deerfield.[5] It began to educate students in 1799.[6] The academy quickly established itself as one of the finest schools in the new republic, drawing boys from prominent families across New England. The school produced influential men that occupied many congressional and gubernatorial seats in New England. By the end of the 19th century, the shifting trends in industrialization had left rural Deerfield behind. The economic hardships of the times impoverished local farmers and drove them away to the wealthy cities. The board of trustees was considering closing the Academy, as only nine students remained. These were the school's darkest times. With little support from local farmers and a dire economic situation, the 100-year-old school was on the brink of collapse.

In the early twentieth century, Deerfield's fortunes rose with the appointment of Frank Boyden as headmaster. He quickly reorganized the school and provided it with a sound financial basis. He recruited students actively from local farms and towns, promising parents that their boys would be successful. Boyden had great confidence in the value of athletics as a component of education. He often played on varsity squads that lacked players. He attracted and trained many teachers who would become masters and keep long loyalties to the academy. The prestige enjoyed by the school today is a direct result of the foundations he laid over seven decades, including training scores of men as teachers and headmasters in their own right. After 66 years of service, Frank Boyden retired in 1968.[7][8]

David M. Pynchon was appointed headmaster after Boyden. He prepared the school for the late part of the 20th century by expanding the curriculum, updating the school buildings and putting the school on a firm financial footing by expanding the endowment.

In 1989 the Academy reestablished coeducation, which Boyden had discontinued in 1948.[9] At the time male students had protested the decision.[10]

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.[7][11][12] It opened in the fall of 2007.

The current Head of School, Dr. Margarita O'Byrne Curtis H '57, previously Dean of Studies at Phillips Andover, is the first woman to hold the position.[13]

The David H. Koch Center for Mathematics, Science, and Technology, named after David H. Koch '59, opened in 2007 and is Gold LEED certified.[14] The building was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.[15]


A tradition of Deerfield students takes place on the Sunday of commencement at the end of the year, the night when the graduating senior class has left campus. Students gather on the lower fields and celebrate the school, as well as the coming year, with The Stepping-Up 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.

Choate Day[edit]

A short list of the best-known rivalries[according to whom?] among American boarding schools would include AndoverExeter, GrotonSt. Mark's, LawrencevilleHill, and Deerfield–Choate. The final weekend of the fall sports season is "Choate Day," when the two schools compete in every sport at 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.[16]

Co-curricular activities[edit]

Old Deerfield Sycamore

Students are required to participate in a co-curricular activity each semester. Some options include competitive or intramural sports, community service, dance, theatrical productions every term, yearbook, and many more. In addition, many students are involved in at least one of the more than 50 student-run clubs or organizations.


Deerfield athletic teams compete with boarding schools and other private schools throughout New England, including Berwick Academy, Phillips Andover, Phillips Exeter Academy, Cushing Academy, Choate Rosemary Hall, Loomis Chaffee, Suffield Academy, Bridgton Academy, Worcester Academy, Kent School, Tabor Academy, Taft School, Westminster School (Connecticut), Brewster Academy, Salisbury School, Berkshire School, Brunswick School, Williston Northampton School, Hotchkiss School, Avon Old Farms, Northfield Mount Hermon, and Hopkins School. The athletic directors of Deerfield and the other members of the Eight Schools Association compose the Eight Schools Athletic Council, which organizes sports events and tournaments among ESA schools.[17] 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.

Deerfield Academy Press[edit]

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 mission of the Press is to stimulate and nurture interest in creative and academic writing and to provide a formal outlet for student writings in English, history, and foreign languages.


  • Deerfield 1797-1997: A Pictorial History of the Academy, Andrea and Robert Moorhead, editors
  • The Headmaster's Series, focusing on the history of the school and current topics in international education
  • The Art & Poetry Series, including poetry broadsides, exhibition catalogues, faculty poetry, and special student projects
  • The Academy Series, featuring three annual student publications

Notable alumni[edit]

American Elm

Heritage Award[edit]

Deerfield Academy recognizes one alumnus every year for its Heritage Award given for "life time civic achievement." Among the past recipients are authors Saul Bellow and John McPhee, District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, Senator John Chafee, National Geographic's Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor and youth AIDS activist Dr. John Chittick. The Academy published a book in 2013 about the 30 recipients from 1984 to 2012, Beyond the Valley.

Faculty Sexual Abuse and Deerfield's Response[edit]

In 2004 an alumnus revealed to Deerfield's then headmaster Eric Widmer that he had been sexual abused in the Winter of 1983 by faculty member Peter Hindle.[18] Widmer responded sympathetically but did not press for details.[18] The school was aware a parent previously in the 1980's raised concerns about Hindle, and had responded with written and verbal warnings.[19] 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."[18]

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, now deceased.[20][21] The school stripped Hindle's name from an endowed mathematics teaching chair and a school squash court, and barred him from campus events.[18][20] 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 1950's. Their deaths, and the statute of limitations, precluded pursuing criminal charges.[22]

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.”[22]

In books and popular culture[edit]

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.”[23][24] McPhee spent a year at Deerfield as a postgraduate student.[25]

John Gunther's book Death Be Not Proud (1949)[26] 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.[27] The book was later made into the 1975 movie Death Be Not Proud, starring Robbie Benson as Johnny Gunther.[28]

Deerfield alumnus and later Horace Mann School history teacher Andrew Trees wrote a satiric novel titled Academy X (2007),[29] a tale of corrupt "transcript primping" set in an unnamed prep school.[30] 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".[30]

In Martin Scorsese's 2007 film The Departed, Leonardo DiCaprio's character attended Deerfield. He was kicked out for "wailing on a gym teacher with a chair".[citation needed]

In AMC's television series Mad Men, Pete Campbell attended Deerfield.

Season 11 Bachelorette Contestant Ian Thomson attended Deerfield and, later, Princeton.[31] He left the ABC network show in Week 6 after calling Kaitlyn “a surface level person".[32] During his exit in the episode, he said, "I went to Princeton, Deerfield, and that's what I have to offer.".[33]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Cooke, Brian P. Frank Boyden of Deerfield: The Vision and Politics of an Educational Idealist. Lanham, Md.: Madison Books (1994)
  • Cookson, Peter W. Preparing For Power: America's Elite Boarding Schools (1985) (ISBN 0-465-06268-7)
  • McLachlan, James. American Boarding Schools A Historical Study (1970)
  • McPhee, John. The Headmaster: Frank L. Boyden (1966) ISBN 0-374-51496-8
  • Moorhead, Andrea D. and Moorhead, Robert K. Deerfield, 1797-1997: A Pictorial History of the Academy (1997) (ISBN 0-9632800-1-5)


  1. ^ anon. "Private School Search". Handbook of Private Schools. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  2. ^ anon. "Fast Facts". Deerfield Academy. Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  3. ^ Smith, Taylor, "History of the Association," The Phillipian, February 14, 2008.
  4. ^ [1] Academy Web page. Updated 2010-03-16.
  5. ^ a b c d "Boyden, Deerfield Headmaster 66 Years, Will Retire in June" (PDF). Fulton History. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  6. ^ "School History". Archived from the original on 2007-12-15. Retrieved 2008-01-30. 
  7. ^ a b "School History". Archived from the original on 2007-12-15. Retrieved 2008-01-30. 
  8. ^ McPhee, John. "The Headmaster". Retrieved 2008-01-30. [dead link]
  9. ^ Gold, Allan R. (1988-02-01). "Deerfield Journal; 'Deerfield Boy' Is Wary Of Life After Girls". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-30. 
  10. ^ Quinn, Laura. "When Prep School Goes Coed Following The Lead Of Many Other Private Schools, Lawrenceville Finally Broke With Tradition To Admit Girls." Philadelphia Inquirer. March 20, 1988. Retrieved on July 3, 2014. "When the boys at Deerfield Academy, the prestigious Massachusetts prep school, stormed out of their cafeteria several weeks ago to protest the school's decision to admit girls for the first time, there were young men at the Lawrenceville School here who grumbled in sympathy."
  11. ^ "Great Expectations". 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-30. [dead link]
  12. ^ "U.S.-style boarding school planting roots in Jordan". 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-30. [dead link]
  13. ^ "Deerfield Appoints Andover Dean as First Woman Head". January 27, 2006. Archived from the original on 2008-05-17. Retrieved 2008-01-30. 
  14. ^ "LEED Buildings in NE § Environmental Studies E-119 (Fall 2008-2009)". 
  15. ^ "Deerfield Academy - Koch Center for Science, Math & Technology Project Page". [dead link]
  16. ^ Grace Alford-Hamburg, "Deerfield Day, A History of Rivalry and Tradition," The News, November 11, 2011; James Chung, "Choate Day," The Deerfield Scroll, November 7, 2012
  17. ^, May 2, 2010;, May 3, 2009;, April 11, 2007.
  18. ^ a b c d Whit Sheppard. "What Happened at Deerfield". Boston Globe Magazine. Retrieved August 20, 2015. 
  19. ^ Jess Bidgood (April 2, 2013). "Ex-Students Recall Deerfield Teachers Accused of Abuse". The New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2015. 
  20. ^ a b Fox, Jeremy (March 31, 2013). "Deerfield Academy finds teacher misconduct". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2013-04-25. 
  21. ^ Staff (August 21, 2015). "The recent history of New England prep school sex scandals". Retrieved August 23, 2015. 
  22. ^ a b Tim Molloy (August 18, 2015). "DA can't charge prep school teacher who ‘partially' admitted relationship - Massachusetts news -". Retrieved August 20, 2015. 
  23. ^ "School History". Archived from the original on 2007-12-15. Retrieved 2008-01-30. 
  24. ^ McPhee, John (1966). The Headmaster. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. p. 7. ISBN 0374514968. 
  25. ^ John McPhee (1 September 1992). The Headmaster: Frank L. Boyden of Deerfield. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-70868-9. 
  26. ^ Gunther, John (1949). Death Be Not Proud. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-092989-8. 
  27. ^ "Reading Guide". Gunther, John: Death Be Not Proud. Harper Collins. n.d. Retrieved May 24, 2013. 
  28. ^ Wrye, Donald (Director) (1975). Death Be Not Proud (Made for Television Movie). USA. 
  29. ^ Trees, Andrew (2007). Academy X. Bloomsbury USA. ISBN 1596911786. 
  30. ^ a b Salkin, Allen (November 18, 2007). "Private School, Public Fuss". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-05-24. 
  31. ^ "Former Princeton Track Star is Racing for a Rose on “The Bachelorette”". Runner's World. 
  32. ^ "'The Bachelorette' recap: Aren't we naughty". Toronto Sun. 
  33. ^ "The Bachelorette : Week 6: Dublin - Kaitlyn's Irish Wake - Season 11 Episode 7 Watch Full Episode -". ABC. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°32′47.19″N 72°36′19.06″W / 42.5464417°N 72.6052944°W / 42.5464417; -72.6052944