Portsmouth Abbey School

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Portsmouth Abbey School
26 portsmouth abbey.jpg
285 Cory's Lane
Portsmouth, Rhode Island, (Newport County), 02871
United States
Coordinates 41°36′12″N 71°16′19″W / 41.60333°N 71.27194°W / 41.60333; -71.27194Coordinates: 41°36′12″N 71°16′19″W / 41.60333°N 71.27194°W / 41.60333; -71.27194
Type Private, Day & Boarding, College-prep
Religious affiliation(s) Roman Catholic,
Established 1926
Headmaster Daniel McDonough[1]
Grades 912
Gender Coeducational
Enrollment 350 (2014)
Average class size 13
Campus Suburban
Color(s) Crimson and Black         
Athletics conference Eastern Independent League
Sports 41 athletics teams in 16 sports
Mascot Raven
Accreditation New England Association of Schools and Colleges[2]
Publication The Raven (Literary Magazine)
Scriptorium (Scholarly Journal)
Portsmouth Abbey School Alumni Bulletin
Newspaper The Beacon
Yearbook The Gregorian
Abbot/Chancellor Rev Dom Caedmon Holmes OSB[3]
Assistant Headmaster John Perreira[4]
Admissions Director Steve Pietraszek[5]
Athletics Director Alfred Brown[6]

Portsmouth Abbey School, formerly known as Portsmouth Priory School, is New England’s co-educational Catholic Benedictine boarding and day school. It is run by the Benedictine Portsmouth Abbey, formerly Portsmouth Priory.

Located a short distance from Newport, Rhode Island, the campus sits on 525 acres bordered by Narragansett Bay and the Carnegie Abbey Club. The school has 350 boarding and day students in grades 9 – 12. Added features of Portsmouth Abbey School are its 41 athletics teams – varsity and junior varsity – diverse community service programs, squash & fitness center, multi-sport synthetic turf field, and its sailing, equestrian and golf facilities.


The school and monastery are located on land originally owned by the Freeborn family beginning in the 1650s. The land was later owned by the Anthony family, and in 1778 it was the site of the Battle of Rhode Island during the American Revolution. In 1864 Amos Smith, a Providence financier, built what is now known as the Manor House and created a gentleman's farm on the site with the help of architect Richard Upjohn. After buying the Manor House and surrounding land in 1918, Dom Leonard Sargent of Boston, a convert from the Episcopal Church, founded Portsmouth Priory on October 18, 1918. The priory was founded as, and remains, a house of the English Benedictine Congregation. It is one of only three American houses in the congregation, and maintains a unique connection with sister schools in England, including Ampleforth College and Downside School.

The school was founded as Portsmouth Priory by John Hugh Diman, a Benedictine monk, and a former Episcopalian. Portsmouth was not Diman's first school. In 1896, Diman founded Diman's School for Small Boys - later, St. George's School - in Middletown, Rhode Island. In 1912, aware that St. George's School catered to the sons of more affluent families and eager to provide educational opportunities to working-class students, Diman founded the Diman Vocational School in Fall River, MA. A conversion experience brought Diman to Catholicism and ultimately to the Benedictines who were just beginning a priory in Portsmouth. After joining the Order of Saint Benedict, Diman was again moved to found a school. In 1926, Diman founded the Portsmouth Priory School, which would be redesignated as Portsmouth Abbey School - indicating the increased size of its monastic community - in 1969.[citation needed]

Originally, Portsmouth Priory offered a classical education to boys. Using the British "public" school model, the Priory School employed a form system, and supplemented a student's education with co-curriculuar activities, such as athletics and the arts.

The school's campus is located on more than 525 acres (2.12 km2) on the shores of Narragansett Bay within the Diocese of Providence. Many of the buildings were designed by post-modern architectPietro Belluschi, dean of the architecture and planning school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In 2000, a parcel of the school's land was leased to the Carnegie Abbey Club where the student golf team practices and holds its interscholastic golf matches.[7]

Portsmouth Abbey School today[edit]

Today the school, often referred to as "the Abbey," has students from 17 nations and 26 states.[citation needed] Its enrollment totals over 350 students, living in the school's eight residential Houses or commuting from nearby towns.

The school has one full four-year academic merit scholarship for applicants with test scores in the 90th percentile or above. There have been annual scholarships for students with test scores in the 80th percentile or above. Portsmouth Abbey School offers matriculating students numerous opportunities for educational and spiritual enrichment, including the annual Haney Fellowships for rising Sixth Form (senior) students, the Ali Sacco '05 Internship at Children's hospital in Boston, the Rome Humanities Program, the Appalachia Service Trip, the Lourdes Pilgrimage, among other opportunities.

Internet access is available in computer labs and all House libraries. The average size for a class is 12 to 14 students, with a student-teacher ratio of 7 to 1. Activities and clubs include the Appalachia Service Project, The Beacon (the student newspaper), The Raven (the art and literary magazine), Scriptorium (scholarly journal), The Gregorian (yearbook), Model United Nations, New England Math League, Future Problem Solvers, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Community Service Projects, Debate Club, Red Key (campus tour guides), Social Committee, Abbey Road a cappella group, Astronomy Club, Peer Tutors, Pro Deo Orchestra, Student Athletic Advisory Board, Teens Leading Children (TLC), and Student Council. The school also has extensive visual and performing arts offerings, with a fine arts center, a fully equipped photography lab and darkroom, a digital art studio, an art gallery (which alternatively displays traveling exhibits and selected student work), a robust drama program (which produces three plays per year, including the annual musical), a state-of-the-art music tech lab, advanced voice and instrumental offerings, and private music lessons.

The school has a radio station, WJHD 90.7 FM.[8]

In 2006, the school installed a Vestas V47-660 kW wind turbine, the first such project in Rhode Island,[9][10][11] to provide forty percent of the school's electricity.

Other green initiatives at Portsmouth Abbey School include the construction of two energy efficient faculty residences in September 2011, "unfolded" on campus by Blu Homes, a company building eco-friendly, prefabricated homes.

In addition, one of Portsmouth Abbey School's girls' residential houses, St. Brigid's, and the newest boys' residential house, St. Martin's, employ a number of conservation features, including recycled wood and low-VOC construction materials; hot-water solar panels; flooring materials from renewable and recycled sources; energy-recovery ventilators; low-flow shower heads and toilets; and high-efficiency/low-emission Viessmann boilers.

Portsmouth Abbey School's security and maintenance departments operate two electric vehicles on campus, and the School's dining services department has successfully implemented a "tray-less" dining program, a composting program, and a partnership with Newport Biodiesel (the School provides the waste cooking oil used by its dining services to Newport Biodiesel for clean-burning alternative fuel).

Each office on campus maintains paper and plastic recycling bins, and the Portsmouth Abbey School Alumni Bulletin, the School's bi-annual magazine, is printed on FSC-certified paper, a product group from well-managed forests and other controlled sources, all to benefit the environment.


In addition to the Carnegie Abbey Club golf course next door available for use by the faculty and by the golf team, the school's athletic facilities include eight squash courts and a fitness center, a six-lane, all-weather track, a multi-sport synthetic turf field, six tennis courts, an indoor ice hockey rink, two gymnasiums, and multiple outdoor playing fields.

Portsmouth Abbey is a member of the Eastern Independent League and has occasional contests against ISL (Independent School League) schools and other non-league boarding and day schools in New England. The Abbey's rivals include St. George's School and Pomfret School. Teams include a sailing team, golf team, wrestling team, squash team, and track & field teams, and a football team. Equestrian activities are offered at Abbey Club's Equestrian Center adjacent to the School. Portsmouth Abbey School's co-ed varsity sailors were New England champions in 2009, 2010 and 2013; they competed in Nationals in four of the past five years, earning 4th Place nationally in 2013. Recent graduates of the Portsmouth Abbey School Sailing Team have gone on to sail collegiately at notable schools including Brown University, Connecticut College, Villanova University, Dartmouth College, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, St. Mary's College, Georgetown University, College of Charleston and UVM, among others, as well meet with success on the national and international sailing scene, including 2007 graduate Juan Maegli, the Guatemalan 2008 Olympic representative in the Laser class and winner of a Gold Medal at the 2007 Pan-American Games in Hobie-Cats.


The school has a number of traditions such as the Raven Cup, a year-long school-spirit competition among the student residential houses; a six-day week with classes on Saturday mornings followed by athletics games; the Headmaster's Run, an annual all-School run through the fall campus; and a required year of Latin language study.

In the center of the School campus is a large quadrangle used exclusively for commencement exercises on which students and faculty are not allowed to walk. This "Holy Lawn" is an unwritten school rule that has no confirmed story of origin, however faculty and prefects have enforced discipline that no one is to be walking across the lawn without permission. Its name likely derives from the lawn's location in front of the Abbey Church of St. Gregory the Great. In 2000, a student film series produced a clip of a student running across the lawn from the perspective of a monastery security camera. The Abbot made a cameo appearance in which he pushed a button that sent a bolt of lighting from the sky, "electrocuting" the student. The clip celebrated the tongue-in-cheek mythology of the lawn's tradition. Although faculty, students and visitors are asked to circumvent the Holy Lawn when traveling through the main quadrangle, the space is used for special occasions, namely commencement.

Notable teachers and alumni[edit]

  • Alfonso Ossorio, Class of 1934, Philippine-born abstract expressionist who worked closely with Jean Dubuffet and Jackson Pollock; Ossorio's work appears in museums and private collections throughout the world
  • Robert F. Kennedy, U.S. Senator from New York, 65th U.S. Attorney General, brother of President John F. Kennedy. Attended, did not graduate.
  • U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) 1962–2009. Younger brother of President John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. Attended, did not graduate.
  • Peter M. Flanigan, Class of 1941, founder of Student Sponsor Partnership; financier; deputy campaign manager (1968) and assistant to the president, President Richard M. Nixon.
  • Bishop William J. McCormack, Class of 1941, former auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York (1987); former director of The Society of Propagation of the Faith (1990)
  • R. F. Patrick Cronin, Class of 1942, Dean of Faculty of Medicine at McGill University (1972–1977).
  • Michael Egan, Class of 1944, former U. S. Associate Attorney General (Carter Administration); former Georgia state senator; member of Georgia House of Representatives
  • Alvin Lucier, Class of 1949, composer of experimental music and sound installations that explore acoustic phenomena and auditory perception.
  • John Gregory Dunne, Class of 1950, novelist (True Confessions; The Red, White and Blue; Playland), screenwriter (A Star is Born, co-authored with his wife, writer Joan Didion), and literary critic.
  • William Ruckelshaus, Class of 1951, first Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, later became FBI Director and U.S. Deputy Attorney General
  • John E. Pepper, Jr., Class of 1956, former CEO and chairman of the executive committee of the Board of Directors of The Procter & Gamble Company and director of The Walt Disney Company; Vice President of finance and administration at Yale; senior fellow of the Yale Corporation; served on the boards of Xavier University; Boston Scientific; Motorola; National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America; Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame, 2008
  • Christopher Ogden, Class of 1962, biographer, journalist, lecturer.
  • Samuel G. White, Class of 1964, founding partner of Buttrick, White & Burtis; fellow of the American Institute of Architects
  • Father Jonathan DeFelice, Class of 1965, President Emeritus of Saint Anselm College; founder of the Association of Benedictine Colleges and Universities.
  • Benedict Fitzgerald, Class of 1967, an American screenwriter who co-wrote the screenplay for The Passion of the Christ with Mel Gibson. His other writing credits include a television screenplay of Moby-Dick in 1998 (uncredited) and Wise Blood in 1979.
  • E.J. Dionne, Class of 1969, Washington Post columnist and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
  • Terence F. McGuirk, Class of 1969, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, The Atlanta Braves; former Chief Executive Officer of Turner Entertainment Group, Inc.
  • Michael Kolowich, 1970, documentary filmmaker and Internet entrepreneur
  • U.S. Representative Phil English, Class of 1974, (R-PA) 3rd District, 1995–2009.
  • William A. Dembski, American mathematician, philosopher, and theologian; proponent of concept of intelligent design. Left the Abbey before graduating to attend the University of Chicago in 1977; was awarded his honorary diploma upon delivery of the 1988 Dom Luke Childs lecture at Portsmouth Abbey.
  • Christopher Buckley, Class of 1970, American political satirist, son of William F. Buckley Jr..
  • Dr. Timothy Flanigan, Class of 1975,a member of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Rhode Island and The Miriam Hospitals and Brown University Medical School; has been the PI on two special projects of national significance funded by HRSA to develop combined therapy for opiate addiction and HIV, as well as a model program of linkage to care for HIV positive person's leaving jail; traveled to Liberia in 2014 to aid Liberian medical staff in handling the ebola crisis. Dr. Flanigan is a deacon of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald, Class of 1978, (R-IL), 1999–2005.
  • William Haney III, Class of 1980, entrepreneur; documentary film maker (The Last Big Mountain, American Violet); an experienced environmental and technology entrepreneur and co-founder of Blu Homes; co-founder and president of Infante Sano, a nonprofit dedicated to improving maternal and neonatal health care in Latin America and the Caribbean in a medically sound and culturally sensitive manner
  • James D. Farley, Jr., Class of 1981 is executive vice president of global marketing, sales and service, Ford Motor Company.
  • Michael J. Mauboussin, Class of 1982, is head of global financial strategies at Credit Suisse; author of three books, including More Than You Know: Finding Financial Wisdom in Unconventional Places (named in The 100 Best Business Books of All Time by 800-CEO-Read); adjunct professor of finance, Columbia Business School; received the Dean's Award for Teaching Excellence in 2009
  • Leo Villareal, Class of 1986, is an artist who combines LED lights and encoded computer programming to create illuminated displays; creator of The Bay Lights, a privately funded living art sculpture with 25,000 lights that is said to be the biggest of its kind; it will shine each night on the San Francisco Bay Bridge through 2015. Leo received his BA in sculpture from Yale University and a graduate degree from NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Interactive Telecommunications Program.
  • Sean Spicer, Class of 1989, Communications Director for the Republican National Committee.
  • Matt D'Arrigo, Class of 1990 - artist founder/executive director of A Reason To Survive, Inc. (ARTS) a San Diego-based nonprofit dedicated to healing, inspiring and empowering children facing life challenges; ARTS provides free visual, performing, and literary arts programs to San Diego's most marginalized youth; Matt is featured for his fine mentoring work in the academy-award-winning documentary short, Innocente, and was listed as one of the 50 people to watch in 2008 by San Diego Magazine.
  • Angus Davis, Class of 1996, founder and CEO of Swipely; he joined Netscape in 1996 as the company's youngest employee at age 18; he helped establish Mozilla.org before co-founding TellMe in 1999, a speech recognition and mobile search start-up that grew to over 300 employees and was acquired by Microsoft - the largest-ever acquisition of a private company; Angus is active in education reform and serves on the board of the Center for Education Reform, Washington, D.C.
  • Charlie Day, Class of 1994, writer, actor and an executive producer of the series It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He appeared in Horrible Bosses (2011), opposite Jason Bateman, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, and Jamie Foxx and had a role in Going the Distance, alongside Justin Long and Drew Barrymore.
  • Mathieu Santos, Class of 2003, bassist for inde band Ra Ra Riot.
  • Rachel Wigton Jastrebsky, Class of 2005, marine biologist; triathlete, placing first in her 18-24 age group in Panama City, Fla. 2011 Ironman triathlon, with a time of 9:57.22.
  • Juan Ignacio Maegli Aguero, Class of 2007, sailed to a gold medal in the Pan-American Games in 2007, then followed in the footsteps of his father – three-time Olympian and Abbey alumnus Juan E. Maegli '75. He competed in Beijing (2008) and London (2012) in the Laser class (finishing 9th) and was the opening ceremony flag bearer for Guatemala. At College of Charleston (2013), he won the collegiate singlehanded national championships, the fleet racing nationals, and was named College Sailor of the Year.[12]
  • Naseemah Mohamed, Class of 2008, a graduate of Harvard University and a 2013 Rhodes Scholar. She is Director of African Programs at Harvard University, founder of the Ziolonge Arts-Literacy Project in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe,and co-founder of the Center for African Cultural Excellence(CACE). While at Harvard, Naseemah was the recipient of the Harvard College Women's Leadership Award, the Harvard Foundation Insignia Award, the Dorothy Hicks Lee Thesis Award, the Maurice Sedwell Ltd. Prize; and was a Harvard Michael C. Rockefeller Fellow.[13]
  • Michael Behan, Class of 2008, co-founder and CEO of Njabini, Inc, whose mission is to assist Kenyan families by working within rural communities in developing and replicating income-generating opportunities; works for Root Capital, a nonprofit social investment fund that grows rural prosperity in environmentally vulnerable places in Africa and Latin America by lending capital, delivering financial training, and strengthening market connections for small and growing agricultural businesses

In popular culture[edit]

The 2008 movie The Clique, produced by Alloy Entertainment, was partially filmed at Portsmouth Abbey School.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "From Our Headmaster". Portsmouth Abbey School. Retrieved January 7, 2016. 
  2. ^ NEASC-CIS. "NEASC-Commission on Independent Schools". Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  3. ^ "Rev. Dom Caedmon Holmes Elected to Second Term as Abbot". Portsmouth Abbey School. August 24, 2015. Retrieved January 7, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Meet Our Faculty". Portsmouth Abbey School. Dr. John D. Perreira. Retrieved January 7, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Meet Our Office". Portsmouth Abbey School. Retrieved January 7, 2016. 
  6. ^ "Athletics at the Abbey". Portsmouth Abbey School. Meet Our Department. Retrieved January 7, 2016. 
  7. ^ Carnegie Abbey Club
  8. ^ "Radio/TV - Radio in Portsmouth:WJHD-FM". Rhode Island Roads Magazine. Retrieved 2009-03-17. 
  9. ^ "U.S. Wind Energy Projects - Rhode Island". American Wind Energy Association. 2008-11-19. Retrieved 2009-01-18. [dead link]
  10. ^ "Wind Powering America: New England Wind Project: Portsmouth Abbey". United States Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  11. ^ Opalka, William (August 2006). "Wind Goes To School". North American Windpower. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  12. ^ http://www.sailingworld.com/racing/maegli-agueros-rapid-rise-through-ranks
  13. ^ http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2012/12/meet_2013_rhodes_scholar_naseemah_mohamed.html

External links[edit]