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School History

"Days of Glory" 1797-2004
The sycamore tree now towering in front of the Academy building still bore the bare branches of a New England winter on March 1, 1797, when Governor Samuel Adams signed a bill granting a charter for the founding of an Academy in Deerfield. The school's trustees pledged the Academy to "the instruction of youth, and the promotion of piety, religion, and morality."

The arrival of Frank L. Boyden in 1902 marked the beginning of the second significant phase of the Academy's history. Mr. Boyden's legendary tenure at the Academy has been immortalized in the book, The Headmaster, by alumnus and noted author John McPhee (Class of 1949). Thousands of Deerfield graduates fondly remember Mr. Boyden not only as the driving force of the Academy, but also as the major figure of their developmental years.

In 1968, after 66 years of leadership, Mr. Boyden retired as headmaster. He was succeeded by David M. Pynchon. Mr. Pynchon greatly expanded and strengthened the curriculum and faculty and continued his predecessor's efforts to strengthen the Academy's economic support. Today Deerfield's endowment ranks among the very highest for American secondary schools.

Mr. Pynchon left Deerfield in May 1980, and Robert E. Kaufmann, then Associate Dean for Finance and Administration for Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, was appointed headmaster. Mr. Kaufmann who had taught under Mr. Boyden in the 1960s oversaw the transition from an all-boys to a coeducational institution and completed a major building and renovation program. Mr. Kaufmann retired as headmaster in 1994.

Eric Widmer, a graduate of Deerfield's Class of 1957, was appointed Headmaster in July of 1994.  During his twelve years of leadership, Mr. Widmer remained true to the principles of excellence set by his predecessors.  He strengthened the Academy's commitment to financial aid, which has made a Deerfield education increasingly accessible to a diverse student population; he initiated exciting international learning opportunities, which educate Deerfield students for global citizenship and leadership; he strengthened faculty recruitment, compensation and benefits; and he enhanced the physical environment for both living and learning by introducing state-of-the-art technology throughout the campus, creating an environment conducive to innovative learning.  In addition, Mr. Widmer spearheaded major renovations and building projects including the new Koch Center for Science, Mathematics and Technology.  Mr. Widmer retired in June of 2006, leaving a legacy of intellectual curiosity, kindness and wise leadership.  He currently serves as the founding Headmaster of King's Academy in Madaba, Jordan.

Margarita O'Bryne Curtis was appointed Deerfield's 55th Head of School in July of 2006.  Mrs. Curtis had been a member of the faculty at Phillips Academy Andover for sixteen years, most recently serving as Dean of Studies.  Mrs. Curtis graduated from Tulane University and earned her doctorate in Romance Languages and Literature from Harvard University.  Before joining the Andover faculty, she taught at Harvard where, for four consecutive years, she won the Certificate of Distinction in Teaching from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning.  Mrs. Curtis brings to Deerfield the highest qualities of leadership, character and intellect.  She is a rare scholar/educator with skills to inspire, to lead, and to manage Deerfield's global educational community.  Mrs. Curtis's educational philosophy is centered around the welfare of the students; she genuinely enjoys, understands and respects young people and inspires them with insight, a sense of humor and a high level of energy.  She believes that Deerfield, because of its traditions, close-knit community and dedicated faculty, is uniquely positioned to provide a superior education of the whole child, building character along with a commitment to educational excellence.  She engages the skills and talents of a devoted and caring faculty and staff as she collaboratively develops a bold vision that will carry Deerfield into its third century.

First settled in 1669, the historic village of Deerfield, Massachusetts occupies a rich meadow valley bordered by the hills of the Pocumtuck Range to the east and the Deerfield River to the west. Today the main street of Deerfield is nearly the same as it was when the Academy was founded over 200 years ago. The Academy's 280-acre campus is seamlessly interlaced with Historic Deerfield, where a preserved portion of the village operates as a museum.

The changing of seasons in this graceful corner of New England, from the brilliant colors of autumn to winter snows to the sudden green of spring, enriches the lives of the Academy's students and faculty.

The nearest town, Greenfield, is only five minutes north and is available for shopping, movies and a weekend meal. The lively college towns of Amherst and Northampton, twenty minutes to the south, offer galleries, bookstores, a wide variety of restaurants, coffee houses, movie theaters, and a unique collection of shops.

Tradition and Community
Tradition is a living process at Deerfield. The style, tone and character of the Academy are shaped in large part by its traditions. Certain habits of the community--songs, cheers, stories of the village and the school, family style meals, school meetings--are important reminders of the value of things that have been passed on to each new generation of students. Still, the importance of balancing tradition with the Academy's central task is recognized: addressing the collective and individual needs of young people at a critical period in their development and growth.

Deerfield is a school where the sound values, courtesy and work ethic of New England guide school life. The Academy's 598 students live and learn in an atmosphere of warmth, caring and support which is to a great degree derived from the friendships among students and with the faculty. It is the tradition of this spirit, which is treasured by the 10,000 alumni of Deerfield Academy.


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