Days of Glory, for 215 Years
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 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 solidify 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 Deerfield’s transition from an all-boys to a coeducational institution, and he also 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 12 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’Byrne Curtis was appointed Deerfield’s 55th Head of School in July of 2006. Dr. Curtis had been a member of the faculty at Phillips Academy Andover for 16 years, most recently serving as Dean of Studies. Dr. 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. Dr. 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. Dr. 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.