Hans Maeder

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Hans Karl Maeder (December 29, 1909 – September 8, 1988) was an innovative educator who founded the Stockbridge School in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and served as its director and headmaster for 23 years.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Maeder was born in Hamburg, Germany on December 29, 1909, the third child in a prosperous family. He described his father as an authoritarian nationalist and anti-Semite who embraced Hitler's message. Maeder left home at 18, refusing to go into business as his father had wished, and deciding instead to become a teacher.

Maeder, a socialist,[2] eventually joined the anti-Nazi movement, and fled Germany in 1933 to avoid arrest. He went to Denmark, where he taught at the Udlose Boys Home, an institution for boys with problems.[3] During this time and later travels Maeder wrote for the anti-Nazi underground.[4][clarification needed] But in 1937, Maeder was forced to leave Denmark and subsequently traveled to Kenya, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Philippines. Maeder arrived in Hawaii to teach in 1941,[5] but was interned as an enemy alien[3] on December 8, the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Maeder was released from an internment camp in Texas on February 23, 1943. Arriving in New York, Maeder soon obtained a position as the director of the boys' division of a YMCA in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.[5] In September 1944, Maeder took a teaching job for a year at Windsor Mountain School in Lenox, Massachusetts, several miles from the site of the future Stockbridge School.

Maeder then moved to the Walden School, a private day school in Manhattan, teaching German and the history of languages and briefly serving as the school's director in 1947 and 1948. It was at Walden that he met his wife Ruth, a widow at the time, through her son David, a Walden student whom he later adopted. Maeder left Walden in 1948 to found Stockbridge School.

Stockbridge School[edit]

The Maeders paid $60,000 to acquire the 1,100-plus acres of the former estate of Daniel Rhodes Hanna, son of Mark Hanna. Their purchase of what became the site of Stockbridge School occurred shortly after the failure of Liberal Arts, Inc. to establish a Great Books-based college associated with St. John's College, Annapolis, Maryland, on the same site. The property had been vacant since the Great Depression and extended from the summit of West Stockbridge Mountain to the shore of a lake called the Stockbridge Bowl. Only a portion of this extensive property became the school campus, with the Maeders retaining title to the remainder.

As a progressive private boarding school for adolescents, Maeder intended that Stockbridge School's educational philosophy be interracial, nondenominational and international. The school was notable for being completely racially integrated from its inception and Maeder made successful efforts to recruit an international student body.

To help express Maeder's philosophy, and in light of his experiences as a German refugee and expatriate, the school flew the United Nations flag just below the American flag beginning in 1948, three years after the U.N. came into existence. For some years, its curriculum included a junior year abroad, and Stockbridge briefly operated a branch in Corcelles, Switzerland.

The best-known Stockbridge School alumnus is Arlo Guthrie, whose arrest for littering by Stockbridge police shortly after graduation in 1965 inspired the song "Alice's Restaurant". Alice Brock had been the school librarian before opening a lunch counter in Stockbridge. Among other notable alumni are Chevy Chase, Benjamin Barber, Dr. Kenneth Edelin and Gunter Nabel.

Final years[edit]

Maeder retired from Stockbridge School in 1971. The school closed five years later, in 1976, as a result of declining enrollment and debt. In 1978 the school campus became the site of the DeSisto at Stockbridge School, a wholly unrelated institution.

After leaving Stockbridge, Maeder worked as an educational consultant in New York City.[3] His wife, Ruth, died in 1976. He died in Manhattan in 1988; the cause of his death was prostate cancer.[1]


  1. ^ a b David E. Pitt, Hans K. Maeder, Stockbridge Founder, Dies at 78, New York Times, September 11, 1988
  2. ^ Global Thinker Benjamin Barber's Ideas on Capitalism and Conflict No Longer Seem So Academic, The Washington Post, November 6, 2001. Retrieved from Benjamin Barber's website, September 24, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Maeder, Hans Karl, Biographical dictionary of modern American educators. Pages 212-213.
  4. ^ Franklin, Rasjidah (2001), Berta Rantz: Her life and legacy, Teacher Education Quarterly, Summer 2001
  5. ^ a b http://stockbridgeschool.org/stories/maed2.html Children Are The Same Everywhere 1945, issue of CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Gunter Nabel (1986), A Fight for Human Rights: Hans Maeder's Politics of Optimism for World Understanding through Education. Documents of the Stockbridge School. Frankfurt/Main: Dipa-Verlag. ISBN 3-7638-0508-7