Centennial News & Stories

For 100 years, Concord Academy has cultivated the creativity to tackle challenges, the resilience to adapt to change, and the drive to make a difference in the world. Over the course of CA’s Centennial year, we will share stories that support CA’s mission and its longstanding values and traditions.

Down Memory Lane

Between 2019 and 2022, former faculty member and author Lucille Stott spoke with more than 300 alums ranging from the class of 1938 to the class of 2025. Her book, Concord Academy at 100: Voices from the First Century, is a testament to the celebration of both individuality and community that guided CA throughout its first century and continues to animate the school today.

Service and Sustainability at CA: Highlights from 100 Years

Throughout Concord Academy’s history, our students, faculty, and staff have taken action to care for one another and our earth. In these highlights from CA’s 100 years, we see exemplified a common commitment to service and sustainability.

Service During World War II

During the 1940s, CA students supported war relief efforts by knitting, sending care packages, and staging plays and doing chores to raise funds. They trained as plane spotters on Nashawtuc Hill, practiced first aid, and prepared surgical dressings for local blood banks. Many young alumnae served overseas—Headmistress Wheeler’s scrapbook from 1942 lists 33 in service in the Women’s Army Corps, Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, and the Red Cross. Faculty also served in the Red Cross, including English teachers Doreen Young and Mary Manso, who was awarded the Army’s Medal of Freedom. This commemorative painting hangs in the J. Josephine Tucker library.

Good Citizens

In CA’s early years, a coveted white jacket—a prize for citizenship—was awarded annually to one senior. Headmistress Elizabeth B. Hall ended the tradition, placing importance on good citizenship for all students. “We need to serve in order to be our whole selves,” she said in an assembly in November 1960. In the following decade, CA’s curriculum began to reflect that. Ruth Scult, a social worker, taught an influential course in community service, taking students on field trips to the Framingham Women’s prison and what was then called the Fernald State School, where they interacted with children with disabilities. Illustration by Elizabeth M. Corey ’59.

Environmental Conference & Earth Day

Several months before the first national Earth Day, CA students organized an Environmental Crisis Conference. Held in December 1969, the gathering welcomed 230 representatives from 20 public and private schools, along with elected officials and environmental professionals. A few months later, CA celebrated the first Earth Day in 1970 by setting up information-exhibit booths at several locations in downtown Concord. Along with students from Xavier, Concord-Carlisle High School, and Middlesex, they showed their concern about the environmental crisis with exhibits highlighting pollution in the Concord area and urged townspeople to take public transportation.

Joan Shaw Herman Award

In 1976, the Alumnae/i Association established the Joan Shaw Herman Award for Distinguished Service. The only award given by Concord Academy, it was established to honor the life of Joan Shaw Herman ’46. Despite being stricken with polio and often confined to an iron lung, Herman dedicated her life to improving the well-being of others with disabilities. Since it was first given to her posthumously, over 40 alumnae/i have received this award in recognition of their service—they have exemplified generosity and have shared with our community their own visions of a better world.


Decemberfest, the precursor to today’s Winterfest, began in 1982 as a means of raising money for A Better Chance, a nonprofit organization that works to recruit and develop leaders among young people of color in the U.S. Since then, students have continued to organize the fundraising event for financial aid at CA, then in most recent years, for an organization of their choosing. In February 2022, students hosted Winterfest to raise money for the Loveland Foundation, which brings opportunity and healing to communities of color, especially to Black women and girls.

Volunteerism Reinvigorated

The 1990s saw a renewed interest in service at CA. A Centipede article from 1989 acknowledged the influence of Jen Quest-Stern ’90 and Catherine Moellering ’90 in revitalizing the Volunteers in Action (VIA) club, whose members served in soup kitchens, visited area nursing homes, and spent time with disabled adults at Minute Man Arc. In 1993, the club took a different name, United for the Community (UFC), organizing weekly trips to after-school programs for elementary school students, among other activities. From the sale of ceramics to benefit Rosie’s Place to the Needle Arts Club’s knitting of hats for premature infants, CA students used their time and talents to benefit their communities.

Environmental Science Reimagined

A new Environmental Science course introduced at CA in 1993 built on teaching that fostered practical,applied, and experimental learning—getting students out into rivers, fields, and forests as well as the laboratory. The spring 1994 issue of CA Magazine says it “began with a few basic intentions: to place students at the heart of scientific inquiry, sharing with them the wonder and excitement of scientific discovery; to engage students in hands-on work, making them active participants and critical thinkers rather than passive learners; and, to encourage advance study in the sciences, preparing students for the enormous challenges ahead in the 21st century.”

Hurricane Katrina Support

After Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005, the CA community channeled empathy into action, raising more than $15,000 for relief efforts through a blues concert, Concord Academy Students in Action (CASA) bake sales, and, most importantly, canceling the annual advisor-advisee dinner and reallocating those funds. CA also welcomed two brothers from Louisiana who had been displaced by the hurricane. In June 2007, a large group of students and faculty headed to the Gulf Coast to help rebuild homes and engage in other relief efforts, and additional groups did the same over the next several summers.

Polar Plunge

In December 2007, several CA students and Academic Dean John Drew braved a frigid Walden Pond in the name of the fight to reduce global warming. The Polar Plunge was part of protests organized worldwide to coincide with the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali. Environmental actions on campus became sustained during this decade. The year before, CA’s Green Club began a composting program in the dining hall that continues to this day.

CA Service Trips

The first of a series of CA-sponsored service trips began in 2007. Within the U.S., students traveled to help local communities in Kiln, Miss., and New Orleans; Washington, D.C.; West Virginia; South Dakota; and Vermont. Environmental and education-focused trips also brought CA students to Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua. Over seven trips between 2009 and 2016, math teacher and former Peace Corps volunteer George Larivee accompanied a total of 89 CA students who built libraries in small Nicaraguan communities and taught in local primary schools.

Environmental Activism

In 2019, young CA alumnae/i such as Audrey Lin ’19 began taking leadership roles in the Sunrise Movement of young people fighting for climate action in the U.S. That spring, CA students succeeded in urging the Town of Concord’s Select Board to approve a resolution supporting a Green New Deal. On September 30, 2019, some 300 members of the CA campus community protested in Boston during a Global Climate Strike. And CA’s Environmental Symposium—begun decades ago as a local consortium—continues today as a fall-semester course that connects students with climate activists and alumnae/i and experts in environmental science.

CA's Sustainability Plan

In 2019, Concord Academy became one of the first independent schools in the Northeast to release a comprehensive sustainability plan. The plan’s goals include dedicating faculty/staff time to sustainability efforts and reducing campus greenhouse emissions and food and energy waste. Learn more.

CA Traditions Over The Years

Chapel Talks

One of CA’s most beloved traditions, chapels give seniors the opportunity to share their stories with the campus community. In their current form, chapels often begin the school day with 15 minutes of anecdotes, reflections, songs, “senior advice,” and thanks to friends and family. As the steeple bell rings to usher everyone into the Chapel, a “hug line” forms down the left aisle and the senior stands on stage to hug community members. Upon entering the Chapel, students, faculty, and staff remain silent to give their undivided attention to the senior speaker.

May Day

Students would practice their dances for May Day beginning in December and would vote for a May Queen—a secret until the very day. Helen Smith Strong ’24 was Concord Academy’s first May Queen. She returned to celebrate CA’s 25th anniversary, when Mary Leigh Morse Houston ’47 was crowned as that year’s May Queen. The final May Day was held in 1961.

Saturday Picnics

These weekly outings for boarding students started in the earliest years of CA. Adventures included paddling on the Sudbury and Concord rivers, treks to Punkatasset Hill for swimming, skiing, or snowshoeing around Hutchins Pond, or excursions to Walden Pond. 

Red and Blue Day – Past

The yearlong intramural competition between the Reds and Blues, culminated with an afternoon of track and field events to determine the final winner of the coveted cup. Throughout the year, the two teams competed for points in field hockey, soccer, and baseball and spent the winter months practicing elaborate and secret synchronized marching routines. This tradition lapsed in the 1970s but was revived after 50 years.

Red and Blue Day – Present

On May 4, 2018, Concord Academy revived this once-beloved school tradition. Now students annually don red and blue and face off for friendly Field Day competition.

Senior Mug Signing

CA’s Chameleon takes a much-needed coffee break during Mug Day in 2015. For years, seniors have signed each other’s mugs as momentos.

Class Rings

In the 1930s and 1940s, each class designed its own CA ring. It’s unclear whether rings featured the chameleon throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, but the class of 1944 claims to have created the chameleon ring still in use today—a plain gold ring with a chameleon image etched in a recess of the rectangular top. Other classes admired the design and decided to make it official. Since at least the 1960s, students have worn the chameleon ring with the tail facing toward themselves until graduation, when they turn it to face the world.

If you look closely, you can see this student’s ring in the picture.

Chandler Bowl

This annual fall athletic challenge between Concord Academy and the Pingree School began in 1990 and is named in honor of John Chandler, a former Pingree head of school. Today the challenge includes a fundraising effort and is officially known as the Chandler Bowl for Changing Lives. Each year, the host school determines the organization that will benefit. In 2021, CA defeated Pingree in a day of tight competition, with funds going toward the Innocence Project.

Share Your Memories

We couldn’t celebrate our Centennial without your CA’s memories—past, present, and future. Throughout our Centennial celebrations, we will highlight CA’s history, illuminating our school’s values and the commitments that have shaped our community. Email us your stories at communications@concordacademy.org.