An Enduring Sign of Adaptability in a Changing World
Concord Academy has evolved from a small, local, all-girls’ school into an internationally known coeducational school. The curriculum has changed to reflect the times. Over the years, the campus, the dining hall, and the Chapel have changed.
But the chameleon—CA’s symbol of adaptability—has not.
First introduced in the late 1920’s as one of the academy’s early art and literary magazines, the chameleon has been with Concord Academy for more than eighty years. Since then, the chameleon’s place in the CA community grew to include adorning class rings, senior coffee mugs, and to even be carved into the podium in the chapel.
But what does it mean? Nina Nitze Thompson ’65 and Heyden White ’67, in Fifty Years of Growth Concord Academy 1922-1972, a history of the first 50 years of Concord Academy’s history, wrote the following:
“The school’s mascot is a fitting one. The chameleon we are told represents the ability to adapt to a changing environment. Concord Academy has not always been the same: It has been able to adjust to the evolving needs of the students whom it has educated…. But, to carry the image a little further, even a chameleon changes its color, it remains a chameleon. Concord Academy also has certain basic characteristics or qualities which have been constant throughout the various periods of the school’s existence.”
This is a wonderful explanation. The chameleon is an enduring sign of adaptability to a changing world. It is a symbol of remaining true to one’s true self. And it is a sign of resilience.
Patches and Pins
During the early 1950s, the chameleon was awarded in recognition of good citizenship and athletic ability. Lisa Jenney Paige ’53 recalls students gathering in the gymnasium—now the Student-Faculty Center—with great anticipation at the end of the year. “The first year you were eligible for an award was in eighth grade,” Paige said. “I believe that’s the year I received a chameleon patch, which I sewed on the sleeve of my green blazer.” Students during those years wore green blazers with white piping on the lapels and pockets, which could have been considered an unofficial school uniform.
“In ninth grade a ‘CA’ made out of green and white felt letters was awarded and sewn onto the pocket of the blazer,” Paige recalled. “Then, in sophomore and junior year, you could receive a CA pin; I think one was silver and one gold. Senior year only one person received the citizenship award, which was a white blazer with a gold CA on the pocket.”
In the 1930s and ’40s, each class designed its ring. Helen Reynolds Smith ’36 recalls that her class created a chameleon intaglio in green onyx set in gold. It’s unclear whether rings featured the chameleon through the thirties and early forties. But Anna Borden Sides ’44 says the chameleon ring still used today was created by her class—a plain gold ring with a chameleon image etched in a recess of the rectangular top. Sides said other classes admired the design and decided to make it official and permanent. Since at least the sixties, the chameleon ring has been worn tail-in until graduation, when it is turned to face the world.
Animated chameleon gif courtesy of Kathy Drasher ’78.