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.
Sylvanus Thayer is born in Braintree, Massachusetts.
Sylvanus Thayer graduates as valedictorian from Dartmouth College.
Sylvanus Thayer graduates as valedictorian from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
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."
On September 2, 1872, Sylvanus Thayer dies at the age of 87.
Ground is broken for the construction of Thayer Academy.
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.
Tuition is free for students from Old Braintree (Braintree, Quincy, Randolph, and Holbrook) and $75/year for all others.
Physics and chemistry teacher Charles Pitkin came to Thayer after teaching chemistry at the U.S. Torpedo Station in Newport, R.I., and Harvard.
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.
Professor Jotham B. Sewall is Thayer’s first Headmaster, serving from 1877 to 1896. Sewall was an ordained minister who came to Thayer from his post at Bowdoin College as professor of ancient languages.
The Academe appears as the first student publication of all schools in the area.
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.
The Thayer Academy Athletic Association is formed to include “any member of the school or faculty.”
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.
William Gallagher P ’1899, ’1899, ’1901, is named Thayer’s second Headmaster, serving from 1896 to 1920.
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.
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.
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.
Thayer makes its first Alumni Appeal, asking that alumni contribute $5 to the school for three years.
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.
Stacy Southworth P '25, '34 is named Thayer’s third Headmaster, serving from 1920 to 1948.
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.
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.
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.
Gertrude Wilcox is named the first principal of Thayerlands (1922-1944).
Thayer Academy celebrates its 50th Anniversary.
Thayer begins to take boarding students, a service that is discontinued in the 1940s.
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.
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.
Thayer’s Alma Mater, written by faculty member Lillian Sleeper Lane, is performed for the first time at the dedication of Frothingham Hall.
Thayer is the 44th school in the country to become a charter member of the Cum Laude Society.
Camp Thayer opens for the first time. Sam Long ’26 founded the camp and served as its director until 1948.
The school raises $8,573.85 and buys 14 trucks to contribute to the World War II effort.
By 1944, more than 300 Thayer graduates are actively serving in the military.
By this time, 649 Thayer alumni are in the service; 15 are dead, and five are missing.
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.
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.
Dr. Stacy Southworth retires from active duty as Headmaster and becomes Headmaster Emeritus.
During his 28-year tenure, Southworth 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 Southworth to share the prestigious Golden Key Award as the teacher who had most influenced his success.
Gordon Thayer P '58, '60, '65 is named Thayer’s fourth Headmaster, serving from 1948 to 1966.
Thayer opens the Veterans’ School to help soldiers resume their studies and readjust to civilian life. About 400 students, funded by the GI Bill benefit from the program.
Thayer’s Parents’ Club is founded.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ward Donner is named acting headmaster, serving from 1966 to 1967.
Peter Benelli P ’75, ’80, ’81, GP ’09 is named Thayer’s fifth headmaster and serves from 1967 to 1991. Benelli, a graduate of Yale University with a master's in education from Harvard, had been an inspiring English teacher at Thayer for nine years.
Students seeking a forum for political debate start a newspaper called The Diatribe.
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 in the Middle School.
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.
Thayer Trustees vote to phase out the lower grades at Thayerlands, eventually narrowing the scope to 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.
Writers for The Diatribe get an exclusive interview with former vice president Hubert Humphrey. Melissa Blacker ’72, Carola Friedman ’71, and David Evans ’72 conduct the interview.
Head Librarian Lillian Wentworth P ’69, ’70 plans to retire, but she is persuaded instead to stay on as director of Publications & Public Relations. She remained in that position until 1987.
Science teacher Peter Burleigh P '98, who taught at Thayer from 1970 to 1989, starts Thayer’s computer science program.
To ensure that class sizes remain small, enrollment is now limited to 400 students in the Upper School and 170 in the Middle School.
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 revisit their own tiles and those of former classmates.
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. Wentworth worked at Thayer Academy for a total of 53 years.
Librarian Andrea Gordon GP ’14, equipped with an early-model Macintosh computer and a modem, introduces students to the internet.
Headmaster Peter Benelli P ’75, ’80, ’81, GP ’09 retires.
Peter Benelli is remembered for his wit, his 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 Benelli's life: "When the gods created the role of headmaster, this, no doubt, was the man they had in mind!"
Bill Elliott is named Thayer’s sixth Headmaster, serving from 1991 to 1995.
For the first time, Camp Bournedale is used as the site for Freshman Orientation.
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 to him notes: “We have come to respect and admire Mr. Elliott for his fairness, friendliness, and sensitivity. Mr. Elliott 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. Elliott ..."
Eric Swain is named Thayer’s 7th headmaster, serving from 1995 to 2003.
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.
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.
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.
The student lounge, formerly located in the east end of Glover, is moved to the basement of Main and renamed The Brickyard.
Thayer Academy celebrates its 125th year. The gala celebration includes a performance by the West Point Glee Club and an Alumni Chorus.
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.
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.
Ted Koskores ’70, P ’10, ’13 is named the eighth Headmaster of Thayer Academy, serving from 2003 to the present.
A new wing housing new biology labs is added to the Glover building.
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 the program's coordinator.
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.
Latin becomes a required course in the 6th grade.
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.
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 until 1966.
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, General Sylvanus Thayer. The fields are surfaced with all-weather turf and are available to Braintree athletic programs when not in use by Thayer teams.
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.
A gift from Judith Bryant Hale ’56 and her husband Robert helps Thayer establish the Hale Learning Center to support students who face language-based learning challenges.
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.
The Upper School celebrates its inaugural Diversity Day.
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.
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 entryways and social gathering spaces; the CFA also includes a set-building shop behind the stage; choral and dance studios; and instrumental practice rooms.
The opening event in the CFA doubles as 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.
Hale Learning Centers, named for Thayer benefactor Judith B. Hale ’56, are opened in both the Middle and Upper Schools.
Mandarin is added to the Upper School curriculum.
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.
Southworth Library undergoes a dramatic redesign, making it the destination of choice for sophomores, juniors, and seniors whenever they have a free period.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Judith Bryant Hale ’56 Courtyard is dedicated in the fall.
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.
The Pulsifer College Counseling Center, named for Gordon and Annellen Pulsifer P ’15, officially opens.
The William M. Smith Wrestling Center, also known as the Tiger’s Den, is dedicated to longtime Wrestling Coach Bill Smith.
The Harold B. Hatch Endowed Fund is established and the inaugural Harold B. Hatch Community Run is held in honor of the Thayer math teacher and coach of the track & field and cross country teams. Affectionately known as HBH, 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."
Middle School Spanish Faculty Allynn Lodge is named a National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Teacher of the Future.
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 28-year tenure was a teacher, a coach, a college counselor, an Assistant Headmaster, a Director of Studies, a Dean of Faculty, and an Upper School Director.
Thayer Academy’s Collaborative Design Lab is unveiled.
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.
The Thayer boys hockey team wins the New England Championship.
New turf fields are added to the Main Campus.
Thayer Middle School opens its new Collaborative Design Lab.
Thayer names Jenn Welch as the school's first Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
One hundred and fifty students participate in Les Mis — making it the largest cast for a Thayer musical.
Thayer names its basketball court in honor of Rob Dixon '79 P '03, '16.
Author Derek Green visits Thayer during the inaugural Bailey-King Author Series.
The inaugural Grade 5 class begins its studies at the Middle School.
For the first time ever, both the boys and girls crew teams compete in the Head of the Charles Regatta.
Girls soccer wins the New England Championship.
Project RISE officially becomes part of Thayer Academy.
Thayer girls track & field wins its 19th ISL championship.
The Class of 2018 takes part in the inaugural Senior Walk, a new tradition in which seniors walk from the CFA to the Main Green flanked by underclassmen and faculty members.
Both girls varsity soccer and girls varsity cross country win their respective New England championships.
Thayer dedicates its baseball field in honor of Justin A. Lloyd '12.
The boys and girls varsity track teams both win the New Englands, with the girls squad taking the ISL crown as well.
The Computer Science and Robotics Wing of Glover Building opens.
The Academy unveils the Thayer Sports Center (with Valicenti Ice Rink) on its South Athletic Campus.
Legendary coach and athletic director Arthur Valicenti Jr. '51 P '75, '75, '77, GP '10, '14 dies at age 87.
In March, the global COVID-19 pandemic closes Thayer's campus for the rest of the academic year. The Academy launches ThayerConnect, its distance learning program, to continue classes remotely.
The Class of 2020 Alumni Walk is dedicated in recognition of seniors who persevered in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In September, Thayer reopens its campus, making use of a hybrid model of instruction for the Upper School and in-person instruction for the Middle School.