Northfield Mount Hermon School

Coordinates: 42°40′03″N 72°29′08″W / 42.66750°N 72.48556°W / 42.66750; -72.48556
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Northfield Mount Hermon
1 Lamplighter Way


Coordinates42°40′03″N 72°29′08″W / 42.66750°N 72.48556°W / 42.66750; -72.48556
School typePrivate, day and boarding, college-preparatory
MottoEducation for the Head, Heart, and Hand
Discere et vivere
(Learn and Live)
Established1879; 145 years ago (1879)
FounderDwight L. Moody
Head of schoolBrian H. Hargrove
Faculty90 (on an FTE basis)
Enrollment672 total
82% boarding
18% day
Average class size12
Student to teacher ratio6:1
Campus size215 acres (core campus), 1,353 acres (total land holdings)
Campus typeRural
Color(s)Maroon and light blue   
Athletics20 interscholastic sports; 67 teams
Mascotthe Hogger
Endowment$185.9 million (June 30, 2023)

Northfield Mount Hermon School (abbreviated as NMH), is a co-educational college-preparatory school in Gill, Massachusetts. It educates boarding and day students in grades 9–12, as well as post-graduate students. It is a member of the Eight Schools Association and the Six Schools League.


Egalitarian origins[edit]

In 1879, Northfield, Massachusetts native Dwight Lyman Moody (1837–99) established the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies (renamed to the Northfield School for Girls in 1944[1]) in his hometown. Two years later, he established a brother school, the Mount Hermon School for Boys, across the Connecticut River in Gill, Massachusetts. The schools were consolidated into a single non-profit corporation in 1912, but operated separately until 1971.[2][3]

Moody initially envisioned the schools as a source of terminal education; in the early days, some of the students were in their thirties.[4] The schools offered separate programs of study to accommodate its student body's varying goals. Each offered a college-preparatory course and a technical course.[5] For a while, Mount Hermon also offered courses in agriculture and for future ministers.[6][7] In the early days, most Mount Hermon students enrolled in the ministerial program, whose curriculum was designed to be sufficiently rigorous that a graduate could "enter the ministry or a related field without further formal education."[7]

Memorial Chapel was featured in the film The Holdovers.[8] Although the school was founded by a Christian preacher, NMH is now a secular institution.[9] The Chapel hosts a weekly interfaith all-school meeting.[10]

An Evangelical preacher, D. L. Moody sought "to provide a Christian education for [students] of high purpose and limited means."[11] The schools charged low tuition ($100/year in 1881) compared to other boarding schools and relied heavily on donations from Moody's followers.[12] Through the 1920s, the rule was that "[n]o student was accepted if he could afford the fees of more expensive schools"; as a result, the students were "drawn largely from families at or near the poverty line," and as late as 1914, a majority of male students at Mount Hermon had previously worked in an occupation or trade.[13] In 1903 two-fifths of Northfield students did not live within commuting distance of a high school.[14] Students would attend, drop out, and return based on the family's economic needs back home.[15] In 1903, the schools reportedly enrolled 1,200 students and received at least four applicants for every vacancy.[16]

On campus, the schools tended to provide a "community life of minimum expenditure."[17] The schools operated a campus farm, and all students (both boys and girls) were required to perform some kind of labor to help fund the school's operations.[18][2][19] Today, each student is still required to hold a job on campus, working three hours a week.[20]

Evolution to nonsectarian college-preparatory school[edit]

Blake Student Center was donated by alumnus S. Prestley Blake, the founder of Friendly's Ice Cream.[21]

In the 1920s and 1930s, the Northfield schools shifted to a more conventional college-preparatory boarding school model. Enrollment remained high; by 1930, the schools' combined enrollment made the institution the largest private secondary school in the United States.[22] Mount Hermon's ministerial curriculum was eliminated, and although a minority of Mount Hermon graduates went on to college during the Moody years, by the 1940s "virtually all [Mount Hermon boys] did so,"[23][24] as did half the girls at Northfield.[25]

During the Great Depression, many Americans proved unable to pay even the Northfield schools' relatively low tuition fees. As such, the schools began accepting wealthy students in the 1930s.[26] Tuition increased from $324 in 1929 to $2,600 by 1963, quadrupling in real terms.[27] Nonetheless, the schools still educated large numbers of working- and middle-class students; in 1963, the school announced that it would double its financial aid budget, putting 60% of students on scholarship.[28][26] The cost of providing a college-preparatory education has increased over time, and the school's reliance on wealthy students has increased accordingly. The percentage of scholarship students halved from 1963 to 2015.[26][29]

The schools' ties to Evangelical Christianity weakened amidst the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy, and the schools eventually shifted to "a more liberal brand of Protestantism."[30][22] Compulsory attendance at most Sunday chapel services was abolished in 1970.[31]

Ethnic and regional diversity[edit]

Northfield Mount Hermon has a long tradition of educating minority and international students. (D. L. Moody was harshly criticized for his failure to oppose the emerging segregation movement when visiting the South in 1876; he founded Northfield Seminary three years later.[32])

As late as 1950, the Northfield schools were two of a handful of New England boarding schools admitting African-American students.[33][34] One of Mount Hermon's first graduates, Thomas Nelson Baker Sr., was a freed slave who became the first African-American to obtain a PhD in philosophy in the United States.[35] Several notable black lawyers attended the Northfield schools in the 1940s and 1950s, including judges William C. Pryor and Anna Diggs Taylor[36] and civil rights attorney James Nabrit III, who argued (and won) Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education.[37][38] In 1963 Mount Hermon's president pioneered a program to prepare black students to attend private schools, which developed into the A Better Chance program.[39][40]

Sixteen of Northfield Seminary's first 100 students were Native Americans.[2] In an era where the U.S. government sought to relocate Native Americans to federal boarding schools, Moody sought to train Native teachers who would return to their communities and open local schools.[41][42] At Mount Hermon's first commencement in 1887, one student addressed the audience "in his native language, for the representatives of the Sioux, Shawnee, and Alaskan tribes in the school."[43] Henry Roe Cloud, class of 1906, was the first Native American to graduate from Yale.[36][44] The Athabascan Walter Harper attended the school in the 1900s after becoming the first man to summit Denali.[45] In the 1970s and 1980s, the school educated two of "the first Navajos to matriculate at Princeton."[46]

The Northfield schools were also reputed for their openness to international students, many of whom were referred to the schools by American missionaries.[47] They have educated students from Asia since at least 1886;[48] and Chan Loon Teung, class of 1892, was Harvard's first Chinese graduate.[35][49] Pixley Seme, the founder and president of the African National Congress, graduated from NMH in 1902.[36] In 1889 Mount Hermon enrolled 37 international students from 15 countries, mostly Canada and the British Isles; 3 students came from East Asia, 3 from Turkey, and 1 from Africa.[50] In 1904 it enrolled 113 international students from 27 countries, including 14 from Asia.[50]

21st-century downsizing and reorientation[edit]

Northfield Seminary's Marquand Hall (pictured in 1904) is now part of Thomas Aquinas College's Northfield campus.[51][52]

From 2004 to 2005, NMH closed its Northfield campus and announced that it would halve its enrollment.[53][54] The school explained that it wanted to reduce its high operating costs, including faculty salaries and the expenses of running two campuses.[54] It sold Northfield's academic core in 2009 and the surrounding grounds in 2016.[55][56] Since 2019, Northfield has hosted a satellite campus of California-based Catholic liberal arts college Thomas Aquinas College.[53][57]

Since the downsizing, NMH's faculty and student body have shrunk, but the share of students on financial aid has not increased. In 2003, NMH educated 1,124 students, 42% of whom were on financial aid.[58] In the 2023–24 school year, the school enrolled 630 students, 37% of whom were on financial aid.[59] The student-teacher ratio remained constant at 6:1.[58][59] In the 2023–24 school year, 23% of the student body came from abroad, and 33% of the American students (25.4% of the student body) identified as people of color.[59]

NMH is currently conducting a fundraising campaign which aims to raise $225 million, including $120 million for the endowment ($65 million for financial aid, $10 million for faculty salaries, $45 million for general purposes) and $55 million for facility improvements.[60]

The school was a major filming location for Alexander Payne's 2023 film The Holdovers, standing in for the fictional Barton Academy.[8][61]


Tuition and financial aid[edit]

In the 2023–24 school year, NMH charged boarding students $72,647 and day students $48,302, plus other mandatory and optional fees.[62] International students were charged an additional $3,345.[62]

37% of the student body is on financial aid, which covers, on average, $56,314 (77.5% of tuition) for boarding students and $34,361 (71.1% of tuition) for day students.[60] The school commits to meet 100% of an admitted student's demonstrated financial need.[63]

Endowment and expenses[edit]

NMH's financial endowment stood at $185.9 million as of June 30, 2023.[64] In its Internal Revenue Service filings for the 2021–22 school year, NMH reported total assets of $311.8 million, net assets of $212.4 million, investment holdings of $178.0 million, and cash holdings of $23.3 million. NMH also reported $36.7 million in program service expenses and $9.1 million in grants (primarily student financial aid).[65]


James and Forslund Gymnasiums

NMH has one of the strongest athletic programs in New England. Notable teams include boys' basketball (2013 national title, 4 New England titles),[66][67] boys' cross country (27 New England titles),[68] track and field (8 New England titles),[69] boys' soccer (7 New England titles, the most of any school),[70] girls' volleyball (7 New England titles),[71] girls' basketball (5 New England titles),[72] wrestling (5 New England titles),[73] and girls' alpine skiing (3 New England titles).[74]

In recent years, NMH's postgraduate program has become a popular option for students seeking to bolster their academic and athletic resumes before applying to college.[75] In 2014, the Harvard Crimson wrote that NMH "has become the standard layover destination for [postgraduate basketball] players in the Ivy League."[76] (The previous year, 47.7% of Ivy League men's basketball players had prep school experience.[75]) According to the NMH website, "[o]ver the past 15 years, NMH has sent 45 players to the Ivy League, which is more than 3x the amount of any other program."[67]

In February 2024, the school announced plans to build a new hockey rink (to open in 2025-26) and to convert its existing hockey rink into a new set of basketball and tennis courts (to open in 2026). The project is estimated to cost $20 million.[77]

William G. Morgan, the inventor of volleyball, graduated from Mount Hermon in 1893.[78] NMH also claims to have invented the sport of Ultimate Frisbee in 1968.[79]

Arts programs[edit]

Rhodes Arts Center opened in 2008.[80]

The Rhodes Arts Center houses a concert hall, a black-box theater, and art and music rehearsal spaces and practice rooms.[80][81]

Memorial Chapel houses a 2-manual 27-stop, 37-rank tracker organ with a pedal compass of 30, and a manual compass of 56.[82]

Notable alumni[edit]


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  2. ^ a b c "Our History". Northfield Mount Hermon School. Retrieved 2024-04-22.
  3. ^ State Library of Massachusetts (1912). Acts and resolves passed by the General Court, 1912. Boston, MA: Secretary of the Commonwealth. pp. 610–11.
  4. ^ Curry, Joseph (1972). Mount Hermon from 1881 to 1971 : an historical analysis of a distinctive American boarding school. University of Massachusetts, Amherst. pp. 48-52.
  5. ^ Carter, pp. 79, 87.
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  13. ^ Curry, pp. 1-2, 56-57, 99-100.
  14. ^ Carter, p. 101.
  15. ^ Carter, p. 84.
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  17. ^ Allis, Jr., Frederick S. (1979). Youth from Every Quarter: A Bicentennial History of Phillips Academy, Andover. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. p. 279.
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  27. ^ Carter, p. 123.
  28. ^ Carter, p. 215.
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  32. ^ Blum, Edward J. (2001). "Gilded Crosses: Postbellum Revivalism and the Reforging of American Nationalism". The Journal of Presbyterian History (1997-). 79 (4): 288–90. ISSN 1521-9216.
  33. ^ Plaut, Richard L. (1954). "Racial Integration in Higher Education in the North". The Journal of Negro Education. 23 (3): 314–15. doi:10.2307/2293229. ISSN 0022-2984.
  34. ^ Yoo, Paula (2021-04-20). From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement. WW Norton. ISBN 978-1-324-00288-8.
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  40. ^ Carter, p. 220.
  41. ^ Carter, p. 69.
  42. ^ Ehrlander, Mary F. (2017). Walter Harper: Alaska Native Son. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 85–86.
  43. ^ Askins, Kathryn (2009). Bridging Cultures: American Indian Students at the Northfield Mount Hermon School. University of New Hampshire. pp. 116, 119–120.
  44. ^ "Yale Celebrates First Native American Graduate: Henry Roe Cloud". YaleNews. 2010-10-29. Retrieved 2024-04-23.
  45. ^ James, David (2022-05-21). "Alaska Magazine | The Brief, But Bright Story of Walter Harper". Alaska Magazine. Retrieved 2024-04-23.
  46. ^ Bush, Alfred L. (2020). "A Few Incidents from My Life Among the Indians on the Princeton Campus". The Princeton University Library Chronicle. 78 (1): 115. ISSN 0032-8456.
  47. ^ Sargent, Porter (1920). A Handbook of American Private Schools. Boston, MA: Porter Sargent. p. 227.
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  49. ^ Ly, Long V.; Jager, Martine J. (2012). "Three Generations of Eminent American Chinese: Lives Intertwined With History". Asia-Pacific Journal of Ophthalmology (Philadelphia, Pa.). 1 (3): 129–134. doi:10.1097/APO.0b013e31825633e4. ISSN 2162-0989. PMID 26107327.
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External links[edit]