Deerfield Academy

Deerfield Academy is an elite coeducational preparatory school in Deerfield, Massachusetts. Founded in 1797, it is one of the oldest secondary schools in the United States.[4] It is a member of the Eight Schools Association, the Ten Schools Admissions Organization, and the Six Schools League.

Deerfield Academy
Deerfield Academy in Winter, Deerfield MA.jpg
Main school building
7 Boyden Lane


United States
Coordinates42°32′47.19″N 72°36′19.06″W / 42.5464417°N 72.6052944°W / 42.5464417; -72.6052944Coordinates: 42°32′47.19″N 72°36′19.06″W / 42.5464417°N 72.6052944°W / 42.5464417; -72.6052944
Other names
  • Deerfield
  • DA
TypeIndependent, boarding and day school
MottoBe Worthy of Your Heritage
Established1797; 224 years ago (1797)[1]
CEEB code220685
Head of schoolJohn Austin
FacultyApprox. 125
EnrollmentApprox. 650
Campus size330 acres (130 ha)
Campus typeRural
Color(s)Hunter green and white   
Athletics conferenceSix Schools League
Team nameBig Green
NewspaperThe Deerfield Scroll
YearbookThe Pocumtuck
Endowment$595 million [2]
  • $61,480 boarding
  • $44,735 day


It is a four-year college-preparatory school with approximately 650 students and about 125 faculty, all of whom live on or near campus during the school year.[5] Deerfield had a 16.8% acceptance rate for the 2019–20 school year.[5] Its endowment is $590 million.[6]

The Academy grants $10.8 million per year to 36% of its students, meaning the average financial aid grant is $50,096 per year.[5] The student body hails from 38 U.S. states and 38 foreign countries. As of 2017, 32% of the student body were nonwhite American domestic students, and an additional 12% were foreign nationals or US expats.[7]


Deerfield Academy was founded in 1797 when Massachusetts Governor Samuel Adams granted a charter to found a school in the town of Deerfield.[8] It began to educate students in 1799.[9] The school was prestigious, and graduates occupied many congressional and gubernatorial seats in New England. By the end of the 19th century, industrialization had economically hurt Deerfield, which was rural. The board of trustees was considering closing the Academy, as only nine students remained.

In 1902, Deerfield appointed Frank Boyden as headmaster. Boyden also emphasized athletics as a component of education, sometimes playing on varsity squads that lacked players. Boyden retired in 1968.[9][10]

David M. Pynchon was appointed headmaster after Boyden. He expanded the curriculum, updated the school buildings, and expanded the endowment.

In 1989, the Academy reestablished coeducation, which Boyden had discontinued in 1948.[11] At the time male students had protested the decision.[12]

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.[9][13][14] It opened in the fall of 2007.

Margarita Curtis, previously Dean of Studies at Phillips Andover, was the first woman to hold the position of Head of School at Deerfield Academy, retiring in 2019.[15]

The current Head of School is Dr. John Austin, former Head of School at King's Academy in Madaba, Jordan.[16]


Deerfield Academy follows a trimester system, in which the school year is divided into three academic grading periods. Deerfield students take a full liberal arts curriculum, including English, history, foreign language, mathematics, laboratory science, visual and performing arts, and philosophy and religion. However, required courses are kept at a minimum to allow students to take more courses in the subjects that interest them most.[17]

Most courses last the entire year, whereas others can last for one to two terms. The required course load is five graded courses per term, but students may petition the Academic Dean to take a sixth graded course if desired.[18] There are no Saturday classes, and classes are held from Monday to Friday, typically from 8:30 am to 3:05 pm. On Wednesdays, classes end at 12:45 pm to accommodate athletic events, as well as to provide more time for clubs and community service.[19]

Deerfield does not rank students. Academic work is graded on a scale where the minimum passing grade is 60 and the median grades are between 85 and 90. A trimester average of 90.0 or above garners Honors distinction, whereas a trimester average of 93.0 or above garners High Honors distinction.[20]


Well over a quarter of Deerfield students matriculate into the Ivy League, MIT, and Stanford.[21] The most-attended colleges from 2001–2016 were Yale, Georgetown, Cornell, Dartmouth, UVA, and Harvard.[5]

Co-curricular activitiesEdit

Old Deerfield Sycamore
American Elm

Students are required to participate in a co-curricular activity each trimester. Some options include competitive or intramural sports, community service, dance, theatrical productions every term, yearbook, and many more.


Music facilities include the Elizabeth Wachsman Concert Hall, a professional recording studio, and numerous rehearsal and practice rooms. In recent years, Deerfield music students have excelled in competition, winning first prize in the Springfield Symphony Orchestra's Rhodes Solo Concerto Competition (2019), the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra's Solo Competition (2019), and the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Solo Concerto Competition (2019), as well as placing second in the J.Y. Park Piano Competition at Western Connecticut State University (2019). Participants of the program have been accepted to competitive music training programs that include the Perlman Music Program, Meadowmount School of Music, Heifetz International Music Institute, and Bowdoin International Music Festival. Deerfield musicians have matriculated at Harvard and Stanford Universities, among others.


Deerfield athletic teams compete with boarding schools and other private schools throughout New England. 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.

Extracurricular activitiesEdit

In addition to required co-curricular activities, many students are involved in at least one of the more than 50 student-run clubs or organizations.


Hike to the RockEdit

Each fall, the Head of School hikes with all the freshmen to the Rock, which is a ridge overlooking the Pocumtuck Valley. Students return many times to the Rock throughout their time at Deerfield, and a trip to the Rock is one of many seniors' last activities.

Sit-down mealsEdit

Seven times a week, the entire Deerfield community gathers in the Dining Hall for a family-style meal. Each round table consists of nine students and one faculty member. After every Sunday night dinner, the entire student body sings the Deerfield Evensong.

Choate DayEdit

"Choate Day" occurs during the final weekend of the fall sports season. Deerfield competes with Choate in every sport at both 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)[citation needed] 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 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 pump up the student body with Deerfield cheers and chants.[22]

Stepping-Up BonfireEdit

The Stepping-Up Bonfire is an event that takes place during the night of Commencement day, after the graduating senior class has departed from campus. Students gather on the Lower Fields and celebrate the coming year in a 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.

School MeetingEdit

Every Wednesday morning, the entire student body and faculty gather in the Hess Auditorium. Students sit by year, and after each class shouts its own cheer, students sing the Deerfield fight song. School Meetings contain announcements, student performances, and invited speakers.


Academic facilitiesEdit

  • The Arms Building houses the English department. It was designed by Charles Platt in 1933 and donated by Jennie Maria Arms Sheldon.[23]
  • The Boyden Library is a three-story library that originally opened in 1968 and was named in honor of former headmaster Frank L. Boyden and his wife Helen Childs Boyden. The library was renovated in 2015.[24] After renovations, the Boyden Library now houses the College Advising Office, as well as the Academic Dean's Office.[25][26] The library also houses the Center for Service and Global Citizenship (CSGC).[27] It also contains an open Innovation Lab, which allows students to construct objects of their own design.[28]
  • The Hess Center for the Arts was renovated in 2014 and contains facilities for the visual and performing arts. The Hess Center contains the Hess Auditorium (often called the "Large Aud"), where weekly School Meetings are held. There are two galleries, the von Auersperg Gallery and the Hilson Gallery, which both exhibit student, faculty, and outside artwork. The orchestral and choral groups perform every trimester in the Elizabeth Wachsman Concert Hall. The Reid Black Box Theater is home to the theater program's productions.[29]
  • The Kendall Classroom Building houses the Language Department. It contains a language lab and a 160-seat auditorium (often called the "Small Aud") and is where the school newspaper and yearbook are written.[30]
  • The Koch Center houses the Math Department, Science Department, and Computer Science Department, as well as the Information Technology Services and Communications offices. The Koch Center contains a planetarium and the Garonzik Auditorium, which contains 225 seats. The Koch center also includes an astronomy viewing terrace and the Louis Cafe.[31]
  • The Main School Building was completed in 1931 and initially served as the classroom building for the entire school. The Main School Building houses the Admission and Financial Aid Office, and prospective students wait in the Caswell Library.[32] After renovations in the 1980s, the building houses the History Department, Philosophy & Religion Department, and administrative offices.[33]

Other facilitiesEdit

  • The Hitchcock House is the Academy bookstore.
  • The Dining Hall is where Deerfield hosts its traditional sit-down meals.
  • The 3-Floor D.S. Chen Health Center was opened in 2019 and is staffed 24/7. It contains a fully equipped examination and inpatient facility as well as counseling and is prepared to handle emergency response services, supported by the Deerfield Security team.[34]
  • The Physical Plant
  • The Shipping and Receiving Office

Athletic facilities[35]Edit

Outdoor FacilitiesEdit

  • Fair Family Field is a turf field.
  • Headmaster's Field is a baseball field.
  • Jamie Kapteyn Field
  • Jim Smith Field is used by the varsity football team in the fall and boys varsity lacrosse team in the spring.
  • Lower Level & South Division Field comprise 90 acres of athletic fields. They are home to boys varsity soccer, JV soccer, and field hockey teams in the fall and JV lacrosse in the spring.
  • Rowland Family Field is used for varsity field hockey.
  • There are 21 tennis courts.
  • The track is an eight-lane 10 mm full pour track surface with two synthetic turf fields.

Indoor FacilitiesEdit

  • The David H. Koch Natatorium holds an eight-lane pool and separate diving well.
  • The Dewey Squash Courts house 10 international squash courts
  • The East & West Gyms house 3 basketball courts and are used by the varsity and JV volleyball teams in the fall and JV basketball teams in the winter.
  • The Fitness Center contains cardiovascular and weight machines, as well as free weights.
  • The Ice Rink is used by the varsity and JV hockey teams.
  • The Kravis Room is used for wrestling.


Deerfield has 15 dormitories: Barton, Bewkes (is know a faculty residence), DeNunzio, Dewey, Field, Harold Smith, John Louis, John Williams, Johnson-Doubleday, Louis-Marx, Mather, McAlister, Pocumtuck, Rosenwald-Shumway, Scaife, and the newly christened O'Byrne Curtis—named for retiring Head of School Margarita O'Byrne Curtis.. Every dorm is single-sex, and a faculty resident lives on each hall.[36] Juniors and seniors live together in the same dorms, whereas sophomores live in their own dorms. Since 2015, all 100 incoming ninth-graders have been housed together in the Ninth-Grade Village, which consists of two single-sex dormitories connected by a large common room.[37]

Deerfield Academy PressEdit

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 press also provides an outlet for student writings in English, history, and foreign languages.[citation needed]

Faculty sexual abuse and Deerfield's responseEdit

In 2004 an alumnus revealed to Deerfield's then headmaster Eric Widmer that he had been sexually abused in the Winter of 1983 by faculty member Peter Hindle.[38] Widmer responded sympathetically but did not press for details.[38] The school was aware a parent previously raised concerns about Hindle in the 1980s, and had responded with written and verbal warnings.[39] 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."[38]

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 and had died in 2007.[39][40][41] The school stripped Hindle's name from an endowed mathematics teaching chair and a school squash court, and barred him from campus events.[38][40] 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 1950s. Their deaths, and the statute of limitations, precluded pursuing criminal charges.[42]

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."[42]

In books and popular cultureEdit

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."[9][43] McPhee spent a year at Deerfield as a postgraduate student.[44]

John Gunther's book Death Be Not Proud (1949)[45] 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.[46] The book was later made into the 1975 movie Death Be Not Proud, starring Robby Benson as Johnny Gunther.[citation needed]

In Martin Scorsese's film The Departed (2006), William "Billy" Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is said to have attended Deerfield during his youth, though he was expelled for "whaling on a gym teacher with a folding chair."

Deerfield alumnus and later Horace Mann School history teacher Andrew Trees wrote a satiric novel titled Academy X (2007),[47] a tale of corrupt "transcript primping" set in an unnamed prep school.[48] After publication of the novel Horace Mann declined to renew Mr. Trees' teaching contract. The resulting controversy over academic freedom was reported in The New York Times article, "Private School, Public Fuss".[48]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ George Adams (1853). "Education in Massachusetts: Incorporated Academies". Massachusetts Register. Boston: Printed by Damrell and Moore.
  2. ^ "Trustees of Deerfield Academy: Form 990 for period ending June 2018". Propublica. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  3. ^ "Tuition". Deerfield Academy Website. Deerfield Academy. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  4. ^ anon. "Private School Search". Handbook of Private Schools. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d "Fast Facts". Deerfield Academy. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  6. ^ "Better Dead than Coed". Retrieved 2019-01-10.
  7. ^ "The Deerfield Experience". Deerfield Academy. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  8. ^ "Boyden, Deerfield Headmaster 66 Years, Will Retire in June" (PDF). Fulton History. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d "School History". Archived from the original on 2007-12-15. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  10. ^ McPhee, John. "The Headmaster". Archived from the original on 2001-01-09. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  11. ^ Gold, Allan R. (1988-02-01). "Deerfield Journal; 'Deerfield Boy' Is Wary Of Life After Girls". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  12. ^ Quinn, Laura. "When Prep School Goes Coed Following The Lead Of Many Other Private Schools, Lawrenceville Finally Broke With Tradition To Admit Girls Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine." The 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."
  13. ^ "Great Expectations". 2006. Archived from the original on December 22, 2005. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  14. ^ "U.S.-style boarding school planting roots in Jordan". 2006. Archived from the original on March 13, 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  15. ^ "Deerfield Appoints Andover Dean as First Woman Head". January 27, 2006. Archived from the original on 2008-05-17. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  16. ^ "New Deerfield Academy Headmaster Led School in Jordan".
  17. ^ "Graduation Requirements". Deerfield Academy. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  18. ^ "Petition to Take a Sixth Graded Course". Deerfield Academy. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  19. ^ "Class Schedule". Deerfield Academy. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  20. ^ "Grading and Assessments". Deerfield Academy. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  21. ^ "School Profile" (PDF).
  22. ^ Alford-Hamburg, Grace, "Deerfield Day, A History of Rivalry and Tradition," The News, November 11, 2011; James Chung, "Choate Day," The Deerfield Scroll, November 7, 2012
  23. ^ "Arms Building". Deerfield Academy. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  24. ^ "Boyden Library". Deerfield Academy. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  25. ^ "College Advising | Departments | Deerfield Academy". Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  26. ^ "Academic Dean | Departments | Deerfield Academy". Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  27. ^ "Center for Service and Global Citizenship | Departments | Deerfield Academy". Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  28. ^ "Innovation Lab | Departments | Deerfield Academy". Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  29. ^ "The Hess Center for the Arts". Deerfield Academy. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  30. ^ "Classroom Building". Deerfield Academy. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  31. ^ "Koch Center". Deerfield Academy. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  32. ^ "Admission and Financial Aid | Departments | Deerfield Academy". Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  33. ^ "Main School Building". Deerfield Academy. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  34. ^ "Health Center | Departments | Deerfield Academy". Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  35. ^ "Athletics Facilities". Deerfield Academy. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  36. ^ "Dormitories". Deerfield Academy. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  37. ^ "Ninth-Grade Village". Deerfield Academy. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  38. ^ a b c d Sheppard, Whit. "What Happened at Deerfield". The Boston Globe Magazine. Retrieved August 20, 2015.
  39. ^ a b Bidgood, Jess (April 2, 2013). "Ex-Students Recall Deerfield Teachers Accused of Abuse". The New York Times. Retrieved August 20, 2015.
  40. ^ a b Fox, Jeremy (March 31, 2013). "Deerfield Academy finds teacher misconduct". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
  41. ^ Staff (August 21, 2015). "The recent history of New England prep school sex scandals". Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  42. ^ a b Molloy, Tim (August 18, 2015). "DA can't charge prep school teacher who 'partially' admitted relationship - Massachusetts news -". Retrieved August 20, 2015.
  43. ^ McPhee, John (1966). The Headmaster. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. p. 7. ISBN 0374514968.
  44. ^ McPhee, John (1 September 1992). The Headmaster: Frank L. Boyden of Deerfield. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-70868-9.
  45. ^ Gunther, John (1949). Death Be Not Proud. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-092989-8.
  46. ^ "Reading Guide". Gunther, John: Death Be Not Proud. Harper Collins. n.d. Retrieved May 24, 2013.
  47. ^ Trees, Andrew (2007). Academy X. Bloomsbury USA.
  48. ^ a b Salkin, Allen (November 18, 2007). "Private School, Public Fuss". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-05-24.

Further readingEdit

  • 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)
  • Massachusetts Board of Education; George A. Walton (1877), "Report on Academies: Deerfield Academy", Annual Report...1875-76, Boston – via Internet Archive
  • 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)

External linksEdit