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.


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

Braintree Public Library


Sylvanus Thayer graduates as valedictorian from Dartmouth College.

Soldiers at West Point


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

1870 - 1879



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


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


Ground is broken for the construction of Thayer Academy.

Main Building at 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.

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


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 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



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, and serves from 1896 to 1920.

1900 - 1919



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.

1920 - 1929



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, and serves 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.

1930 - 1939



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.

1940 - 1949



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 5 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, 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.


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 re-adjust to civilian life. About 400 students, funded by the GI Bill benefit from the program.

1950 - 1959


Early 1950s

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.

1960 - 1969



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. 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.


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 and sharing it with classmates.


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.

1970 - 1979



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.


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.


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

1980 - 1989



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 re-visit 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. Mrs. 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.

1990 - 1999



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!"


Bill Elliott is named Thayer’s sixth Headmaster, and serves 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 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…."


Eric Swain is named Thayer’s 7th headmaster, and serves 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.

2000 - 2009



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, and serves 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 Coordinator of Thayer’s Learning Through Travel Program.


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 to 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 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 establishes 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’s first annual Diversity Day is celebrated.


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 entryway and social gathering spaces; a set-building shop behind the stage; choral and dance studios; and instrumental practice rooms.


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.


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.

2010 - 2019



Southworth Library undergoes a dramatic re-design, 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 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."


Middle School Spanish teacher 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 twenty-eight year tenure was a teacher, a coach, a college counselor, Assistant Headmaster, Director of Studies, Dean of Faculty, and 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, Inclusion, and Equity.


One hundred and fifty students participate in Les Mis--making it the largest cast in a Thayer musical.


Girls soccer wins the New England Championship.


Project RISE officially becomes part of Thayer Academy.


Thayer Academy adds a 5th Grade class to the Middle School.


Thayer girls track & field wins its 19th ISL championship.