Timeline

Timeline

General Sylvanus Thayer

The Founder

Located in historic Braintree, Massachusetts, Thayer Academy was founded in 1877, in accordance with the will of General Sylvanus Thayer, a native of Braintree. Sylvanus Thayer led a distinguished life as a soldier, engineer, educator, and philanthropist.

1785

Sylvanus Thayer is born in Braintree, Massachusetts.

In addition to founding the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, he contributed funds to establish the Thayer Public Library in Braintree


1807

Sylvanus Thayer graduates as valedictorian from Dartmouth College.

Soldiers at West Point

1808

Sylvanus Thayer graduates as valedictorian from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

1870 - 1879

1870

1871

On July 10, 1871, Sylvanus Thayer signs his will, which includes a bequest to build "an academy in which young persons of the male sex (or both male and female if my trustees deem it expedient) shall be educated [...] to promote the cause of education in the Commonwealth, according to my ability, and [to benefit] the town of Braintree, the place of my birth."

General Sylvanus Thayer's handwritten will

1872

On September 2, 1872, Sylvanus Thayer dies at the age of 87.

1876

Ground is broken for the construction of Thayer Academy.

Main Building at Thayer Academy

1877

Thayer Academy Opens. Judge Asa French, chairman of Thayer Academy’s Board of Trustees, oversees the opening. The original staff consists of three faculty members: Jotham B. Sewall, Charles Pitkin, and Anna Boynton Thompson.

1877

Tuition is free for students from Old Braintree (Braintree, Quincy, Randolph, and Holbrook) and $75/year for all others.

1877

Physics and chemistry teacher Charles Pitkin came to Thayer after teaching chemistry at the U.S. Torpedo Station in Newport, R.I., and Harvard.

The chemical labratory, Charles Pitkin’s field for experimentation. That is probably his handwriting on the wall.

1877

History and classics teacher Anna Boynton Thompson came to Thayer Academy after serving as principal of the Bird School for Young Women in South Boston.

1877

Professor Jotham B. Sewall is Thayer’s 1st Headmaster, and serves from 1877 to 1896. Jotham Sewall was an ordained minister who came to Thayer from his post at Bowdoin College as professor of ancient languages.

1880 - 1899

1890

1891

The Academe appears as the first student publication of all schools in the area.

1894

Glover Laboratory & White Gymnasium, designed by architects Hartwell & Richardson, is built, funded by Braintree native, Sarah White Glover. The building houses state-of-the-art chemistry and physics labs, plus two gyms on the top floor – one for boys and one for girls.

1895

The Thayer Academy Athletic Association is formed to include “any member of the school or faculty.”

1896

Headmaster Jotham Sewall retires.

Jotham Sewall was an inspired speaker and brought to Thayer Academy leadership, scholarship, and a concern for community that motivated him to contribute to the Braintree Village Improvement Society. Many students remembered him as the "white-haired angel." The Jotham B. Sewall Prize for General Scholastic Excellence is awarded each year at Commencement in honor of Thayer's first headmaster.

1896

William Gallagher P’1899, ’1899, ’1901, is named Thayer’s second Headmaster, and serves from 1896 to 1920.

1900 - 1919

1900

1904

Reunion is officially celebrated for the first time by the Class of 1883. Approximately 130 Thayer alumni and other community members gather at the Hotel Brunswick in Boston.

1907

The Parthenon Frieze in Main Building, a gift to the school from Anna Boynton Thompson, is completed through a bequest from John M. Rodocanachi, Greek Consul in Boston. A prize in Mr. Rodocanachi’s name is given to the top Thayer art student each year at Commencement.

1910

Structural defects in Main Building’s original tower make it necessary for it to be torn down and replaced with a tower five feet shorter. It is this tower and “its clear-toned bell” that is mentioned in the Academy’s Alma Mater, written by Lillian Sleeper Lane, to whom the tower was eventually dedicated.

1918

Thayer makes its first Alumni Appeal, asking that alumni contribute $5 to the school for three years.

1920 - 1929

1920

1920

Headmaster William Gallagher retires.

Students dedicated to Dr. Gallagher the first edition of the Black & Orange, the school’s yearbook. They admired him for his kindness, his cordial greetings, and his counsel in civic, religious, educational and social matters. Some thought they might never have gone to college if it weren't for Dr. Gallagher. He is remembered for his high regard and concern for the town and citizens of Braintree.

1920

Stacy Southworth P '25, '34 is named Thayer’s third Headmaster, and serves from 1920 to 1948.

1921

On Columbus Day, the Alumni Association donates a flagpole to the school, and this gesture gives way to the tradition of bugle calls for Reveille at the beginning of the school day and Taps at the end of the day. This tradition continues into the 1970s.

1922

The Varsity Club publishes the first yearbook, naming it The Black & Orange for the Varsity Club colors. The first edition is a 36-page pamphlet that includes advertisements.

1924

In accordance with the will of Anna Boynton Thompson, Thayerlands opens for students in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. A few weeks later, a 5th grade class is added in response to strong demand.

1924

Gertrude Wilcox is named the first principal of Thayerlands (1922-1944).

1927

Thayer Academy celebrates its 50th Anniversary.

1927

Thayer begins to take boarding students, a service that is discontinued in the 1940s.

1927

Boys’ sports include football, baseball, and golf. Girls play field hockey and basketball and compete in an annual track meet. Girls also have the option to take classes in posture and modern interpretive dance.

1930 - 1939

1930

1930

Frothingham Hall opens. The new building is named in memory of U.S. Representative and Thayer Academy Trustee Louis Adams Frothingham and is also dedicated to the 146 Thayer students and alumni who served their country in World War I.

1930

Thayer’s Alma Mater, written by faculty member Lillian Sleeper Lane, is performed for the first time at the dedication of Frothingham Hall.

1930

Thayer is the 44th school in the country to become a charter member of the Cum Laude Society.

1934

Camp Thayer opens for the first time. Sam Long ’26 founded the camp and served as its director until 1948.

1940 - 1949

1940

1943

The school raises $8,573.85 and buys 14 trucks to contribute to the World War II effort.

1944

By 1944, more than 300 Thayer graduates are actively serving in the military.

1945

By this time, 649 Thayer alumni are in the service; 15 are dead; and 5 are missing.

1946

Coach Richard Sawyer P’68, ‘71, and Ward Donner join Thayer’s staff in the same year. Coach Sawyer works at Thayer until his retirement in 1996; During those 50 years, Sawyer was a teacher, a coach, and director of Camp Thayer. In 1997, the Sawyer Athletic Center is dedicated to him.

1946

Ward Donner is a member of Thayer’s faculty for 25 years, serving as teacher, coach, director of physical education, dean of students, dean of faculty, and acting head of school. Two memorial prizes are given in Ward Donner’s name each year: one at Last Chapel and one at Commencement.

1947

Dr. Stacy Southworth retires from active duty as Headmaster and becomes Headmaster Emeritus.

During his 28-year tenure, he opened Thayerlands, presided over the Academy's Semi-Centennial celebration in 1927, met the challenge of building a desperately needed new assembly space (Frothingham Hall) and improved the athletic facilities. During World War II, through regular correspondence, he actively supported the many former students who were serving in the military far from home. Students, faculty, and Braintree townspeople loved and respected him so much that they called him Uncle Stacy. Time, Inc. president Roy W. Larsen chose Mr. Southworth to share the prestigious Golden Key Award as the teacher who had most influenced his success.

1948

Gordon Thayer P’ 58, '60, '65 is named Thayer’s fourth Headmaster, serving from 1948 to 1966.

1947-1950

Thayer opens the Veterans’ School to help soldiers resume their studies and re-adjust to civilian life. About 400 students, funded by the GI Bill benefit from the program.

1950 - 1959

1950

Early 1950s

Thayer’s Parents’ Club is founded.

1952

Thayer Academy celebrates its 75th Anniversary, and as part of the celebration, Memorial Gym is dedicated to Thayer alumni who fought in World War II.

1953

The student news and literary magazine Panorama emerges on the scene. Panorama is replaced in 1964 by the literary magazine Prologue and the newspaper Tiger’s Eye. Both Prologue and Tiger's Eye are then replaced in 1997 by the award-winning student magazine Voice.

1954

Headmaster Gordon Thayer, in cooperation with the Quincy Chamber of Commerce, establishes an adult evening school, which later forms the nucleus for Quincy Junior College.

1955

Thayer’s Summer Science Program for gifted students begins. It is the first such program in the country and becomes the model for several hundred others.

1960 - 1969

1960

1963

Thayer opens the Asian Institute, a program for gifted students, led by Yale Professor Henry Fenn. It offers courses in Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, and Asian Studies and becomes the model for 150 similar programs throughout the U.S. The success of this program earns the Academy the only invitation extended to a secondary school to participate in New York City’s 1964 World’s Fair.

1965

Southworth Library, named for former Headmaster Stacy Southworth, replaces the room at the top of Main Building and the science department's book collection in Glover. English and history teacher Lillian Wentworth P ’69,’70 accepts the position of Head Librarian.

1965

Headmaster Gordon Oliver Thayer retires.

Thayer's legacy surely takes the form of outreach into the community and beyond, as he presided over the initiation of College Day, the Summer School Program, the Summer Science Program, the Asian Institute, and a sister school relationship with Tamagawa in Japan. His work earned him the position of Education Specialist by the Massachusetts State Department.

1966

Ward Donner is named acting headmaster, serving from 1966 to 1967.

1967

Peter Benelli P ’75, ’80, ’81, GP ’09 is named Thayer’s fifth headmaster and serves from 1967 to 1991. Mr. Benelli was a graduate of Yale University with a master's in education from Harvard, and had been an inspiring English teacher at Thayer for nine years.

1968

Students seeking a forum for political debate start a newspaper called The Diatribe.

1968

Middle School English teacher Mike Shea initiates the tradition of the annual declamation contest, in which students perform a piece of writing; accepting the challenge of bringing it to life and sharing it with classmates.

1968

Diatribe staff leaders request changes to the Thayer’s student government organization, resulting in a system with representatives from all Thayer constituencies, replacing the tradition of closed meetings held by class officers.

1969

Thayer Trustees vote to phase out the lower grades at Thayerlands, eventually narrowing the scope to 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.

1970 - 1979

1970

1971

Writers for The Diatribe get an exclusive interview with former vice-president Hubert Humphrey. Melissa Blacker ’72,, Carola Friedman ’71,, and David Evans ’72, did the interview.

1978

Head Librarian Lillian Wentworth P ’69,’70 plans to retire, but is persuaded instead to stay on as director of publications & public relations. She remained in that position until 1987.

1978

Science teacher Peter Burleigh P'98, who taught at Thayer from 1970 to 1989, starts Thayer’s computer science program.

1980 - 1989

1980

1980

To ensure that class sizes remain small, enrollment is now limited to 400 students in the Upper School and 170 in the Middle School.

1982

The Class of 1986 is the first group of eighth graders who bequeath personally illustrated tiles to be permanently installed on a wall at the Middle School. This becomes a cherished tradition, drawing students back to the Middle School long after they've graduated, to re-visit their own tiles and those of former classmates.

1987

Once again, director of publications Lillian Wentworth P ’69,’70 tries to retire, but is recruited to be Thayer’s Head Archivist, a post she holds until her death in 2014. Mrs. Wentworth worked at Thayer Academy for a total of 53 years.

1989

Librarian Andrea Gordon GP’14, equipped with an early-model Macintosh computer and a modem, introduces students to the Internet.

1990 - 1999

1990

1991

Headmaster Peter Benelli P ’75, ’80, ’81, GP ’09 retires.
Peter Benelli is remembered for his wit, intelligence, and his passion for supporting students in reaching their aspirations. One student remembers him as a teacher with beautiful phrasing, who made Shakespeare real, valuable and understandable. Others have called him noble and one student from the class of 1969 wrote this for the 2013 memorial celebration of Mr. Benelli's life "When the gods created the role of headmaster, this, no doubt, was the man they had in mind!"

1991

Bill Elliott is named Thayer’s sixth Headmaster, and serves from 1991 to 1995.

1992

For the first time, Camp Bournedale is used as the site for Freshman Orientation.

1995

Bill Elliott retires. Under Bill Elliott’s leadership, Thayer Academy began an annual exchange program with the Northampton School in England, which still continues. The 1995 edition of the Black and Orange yearbook dedicated the yearbook to him, writing, “We have come to respect and admire Mr. Elliot for his fairness, friendliness, sensitivity. Mr. Elliot has shown consistent respect to all the members of our community. The philosophical perspectives and the humanistic values he shared with us in all his talks at school meetings and other occasions will remain with us. We will miss Mr. Elliot…."

1995

Eric Swain is named Thayer’s 7th headmaster, and serves from 1995 to 2003.

1995

Under the direction of Information Technology Director Mark Nelson P ’03, ’06, Thayer’s first campus-wide network is installed, providing centralized file services, intra-school email, and web-browsing capability through TigerNet 1.0.

1995

The school’s first website is built by two students, Geoff Greenberg ’97 and Josh Jensen ’95, under the supervision of IT Director Mark Nelson P ’03, ’06, and with input from Head Librarian Andrea Gordon P '82, GP '14 and Publications Director Denise Kedian P ’91. This first version of www.thayer.org consisted of an online viewbook and a directory of library research tools.

1998

Three new buildings are dedicated at Reunion ’98:

  • The renovated and expanded Thayer Academy Middle School
  • Cahall Campus Center, which houses the new dining hall and student locker rooms
  • The Coach Richard V. Sawyer Athletic Center, which houses Alumni Gym, the Tiger’s Den, Memorial Gym, and offices for the Athletic Director and the Summer Programs Director.

1999

The student lounge, formerly located in the east end of Glover, is moved to the basement of Main and renamed The Brickyard.

2000 - 2009

2000

2001-2002

Thayer Academy celebrates its 125th year. The gala celebration includes a performance by the West Point Glee Club and an Alumni Chorus.

2002

The Class of 2002 kicks off the Senior Legacy tradition, choosing the renovation of the tower and restoration of its clock and chimes as its gift to the school.

2003

Headmaster Eric Swain retires. Mr. Swain, known for his sincerity and wisdom, presided over the 125th Anniversary of the school, revived the tradition of celebrating Founders Day, and challenged one Middle School class each year to a snowball fight.

2003

Ted Koskores ’70, P ’10, ’13 is named the eighth Headmaster of Thayer Academy, and serves from 2003 to the present.

2004

A new wing housing new biology labs is added to the Glover building.

2004

Thayer’s Learning Through Travel program is enriched through initiatives by Headmaster Ted Koskores ’70, P ’10, ’13, who appoints Upper School French Teacher Jim Pickel P ’91, ’95 as Coordinator of Thayer’s Learning Through Travel Program.

2005

The opening of a new fitness center takes strength training at Thayer to a new level. In 2011, the building is named The Fish Center for Physical Fitness in appreciation for the generous support of John and Cyndy Fish P ’10.

2005

Latin becomes a required course in the 6th grade.

2005

Eighth grade students make the first annual trip to West Point. The trip becomes a tradition that informs every student at the Middle School about the connection between West Point and Thayer Academy.

2005

Windows to History by Thayer archivists Lillian Wentworth P ’69,’70 and Larry Carlson P ’02, ’05, ’10, is published. The book documents the stained glass window project initiated by art teacher Louise Weatherbee Pennock, who taught at Thayer from 1938 to 1966.

2006

A 2004 gift of land from local real estate developer and philanthropist Thomas J. Flatley P ’78, GP ’03, ’08, '09, ’11 becomes Thayer’s South Athletic Campus. Coincidentally, this plot of land sits on the birthplace of Thayer’s founder Sylvanus Thayer. The fields are surfaced with all-weather turf and are available to Braintree athletic programs when not in use by Thayer teams.

2007

The Jared Branfman ’00 Sculpture Garden, located on the lawn outside Southworth Library, is dedicated, two years after Jared dies of spinal cancer. The sculpture is a gift from alumni, parents, friends, and the Class of 2007 Senior Legacy.

2007

A gift from Judith Bryant Hale ’56 and her husband Robert, helps Thayer establishes the Hale Learning Center to support students who face language-based learning challenges.

2007

The house formerly occupied by physics teacher Fernand LaChance (who taught at Thayer from 1975 to 2008) is converted into a living laboratory with the goal of making it a Net Zero Energy house – one that will produce as much energy as it consumes.

2007

The Upper School’s first annual Diversity Day is celebrated.

2007

Headmaster Ted Koskores establishes a sister-school relationship with the WeiYu High School in Shanghai. Thayer now has sister schools in England, Spain, France, and China.

2008

Thayer's Center for the Arts (CFA) opens with a 540-seat theater named The Hale Theater for Judith B. Hale ’56. The theater includes two lobbies serving the dual function of entryway and social gathering spaces; a set-building shop behind the stage; choral and dance studios; and instrumental practice rooms.

2008

The opening event in the CFA is a fundraiser in the form of a Gala Concert featuring the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, Thayer choral and jazz ensembles, concert violinist Charles Castleman ’57, composer and pianist Suzanne Ciani ’64, and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler P ’07, ’10 who performs with his daughter Chelsea Tallarico ’07.

2008

Hale Learning Centers, named for Thayer benefactor Judith B. Hale ’56, are opened in both the Middle and Upper Schools.

2008

Mandarin is added to the Upper School curriculum.

2009

The dedication of the Fernand LaChance Physics Lab, funded in part by the Class of 2009 Senior Legacy, honors Mr. LaChance, a faculty member in the Upper School science department from 1975 to 2008.

2010 - 2019

2010

2011

Southworth Library undergoes a dramatic re-design, making it the destination of choice for sophomores, juniors, and seniors whenever they have a free period.

2011

The first annual M5 Regatta (The Million Meter Marathon for Matt & the Military) is organized by science teacher and U.S. Marine veteran Jim MacVarish P ’11 to raise funds for the Matthew Healey ’09 Fund and the Wounded Warrior Project.

2011

The Benelli Writing Center is established in honor of Peter Benelli P ’75, ’80, ’81, GP ’09, whose influence on the quality of the Thayer experience as an English teacher, an advocate of excellent writing, and a headmaster reverberates beyond his 33-year tenure with the school.

2011

Napoleon Lherisson ’06 is the Academy’s first Teaching Fellow. As part of Thayer’s Teaching Fellows Program, Napoleon earns a master’s degree in 2015.

2011

A Student Commons is established in the Cahall Campus Center, giving students an alternative to the library as a place to gather, talk, and study during their free periods.

2011

Brandon Odom '04 is the Academy’s second Teaching Fellow. As part of Thayer’s Teaching Fellows Program, Brandon earns a master’s degree in 2015.

2012

The Judith Bryant Hale ’56 Courtyard is dedicated in the fall.

2012

The Hanflig Technology Center is named in honor of Jay Hanflig and Donna Sinden P ’16. The Hanflig Technology Fellows program is initiated, giving students with a strong interest in technology a forum for independent projects and making them living resources for faculty and students who want to tackle technology challenges.

2013

The Pulsifer College Counseling Center, named for Gordon and Annellen Pulsifer P’15, officially opens.

2013

The William M. Smith Wrestling Center, also known as the Tiger’s Den, is dedicated to longtime Wrestling Coach Bill Smith.

2013

The Harold B. Hatch Endowed Fund is established and the 1st Annual Harold B. Hatch Community Run is held in honor of Thayer math teacher and coach for the track & field and cross-country teams. Affectionately known as HBH, Mr. Hatch has the distinction of starting Thayer’s girls’ track program. An HBH quote that appears on the back of official Hatch Run t-shirts reads, "Today is the youngest day of the rest of your life. Get out for a run."

2014

Middle School Spanish teacher Allynn Lodge is named a National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Teacher of the Future.

2014

At Homecoming, the Marshall B. Litchfield Biology Wing in Glover is dedicated to honor Marshall B. Litchfield P ’78, better known as Litch, who during his twenty-eight year tenure was a teacher, a coach, a college counselor, Assistant Headmaster, Director of Studies, Dean of Faculty, and Upper School Director.

2015

Mandarin is added to the foreign language curriculum at Thayer Middle School.

2015

Thayer Academy’s Collaborative Design Lab is unveiled.

2015

Thayer’s first annual Women in Science Luncheon features a panel of five women who have excelled science-related fields: Kaela Leonard ’03, Tori Martin ’01, Kristin Zalinskas Voldan ’97, Board Chair Paula Becker P ’12, ’14, and former Science Department Head Kathleen Ottina P ’03.

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