1834 to Today
Founded in 1834, Worcester Academy celebrates more than 175 years of achievements by our students, faculty, alumni, trustees, and heads of school. And while many famous alumni have passed through Worcester Academy’s doors, it is our school motto, “Achieve the Honorable,” that has remained the inspiration for each and every student and alumnus.
Talk to any graduate and he or she will tell you about receiving great real-world preparation for life, as well as having been transformed by the Academy experience. Every graduate has a host of good memories about exceptional faculty and classes, and friendships that have lasted a lifetime. And, each can tell you the value of working hard at Worcester Academy to ensure future success.
However, to truly appreciate the Worcester Academy legacy, one must first understand our beginnings.
Established as the Worcester County Manual Labor High School, the Academy first opened its doors as “a school for the education of youth in languages, arts and sciences; for promoting habits of industry and economy; and for inculcating the principles of piety and virtue.”
In 1846 the school officially became Worcester Academy; twenty-three years later it moved from downtown to our present location on the Union Hill campus. And in 1882, the Academy welcomed principal Dr. Daniel Webster Abercrombie, for whom the head of school’s house is named today. Dr. Abercrombie served Worcester Academy for 36 years, during which time he pioneered a progressive curriculum and built much of the school’s historic campus.
Over the years, Worcester Academy continued to progress: In 1974 we resumed the admission of girls after a hiatus of many decades ... 1987 saw the opening of the middle school, followed by the addition of sixth grade in 1996 ... and it was also during 1996 that the school’s buildings were connected to the Internet, signifying a remarkable boost to the educational opportunities afforded our students.
Remarkably, the last 10-plus years have been as momentous for Worcester Academy as any since Dr. Abercrombie. In 1997, Dexter P. Morse arrived to lead what has become one of the most astonishing periods of new growth and stability in the school’s history.
Under Mr. Morse’s leadership, the number of students at Worcester Academy has more than doubled, as has the number of faculty and staff. The school has completed numerous building renovations, including a $5.6 million reconstruction of Kingsley Laboratories in Summer 2008. Construction of New Balance Fields and Rader Hall (the first new academic building in a century) were completed in 2001.
A $31.5 million capital campaign was also successfully completed (the school’s endowment now exceeds $30 million) in 2003.
In 2006, Boston Magazine named Worcester Academy “Best Math School.” Also in 2006, the Academy bought six acres of the former St. Vincent Hospital property, located just two blocks away from the school’s main campus; four years later, the school purchased another four acres adjacent to those parcels.
In September 2011, Worcester Academy celebrated the opening of Morse Field, a new lighted synthetic turf field, at the corner of Winthrop and Providence streets (the St. Vincent’s property). The field’s opening, as well as the Kingsley renovation, are hailed as milestones in the success of the school’s most recent capital campaign – onWArd: The Campaign for Worcester Academy. Worcester Academy exceeded its goal of $50 million and raised a total of $52.2 million. The campaign funded finance property acquisitions, new construction, renovations to existing buildings, student tuition assistance and financial aid, and increased endowment.
In doing so, Worcester Academy is poised to take its place as the best urban independent school in the nation.
Times have changed since the Worcester County Manual Labor High School, and so have we – but like our mantra of 1834, Worcester Academy remains committed to providing our students with a solid real-world education.