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200 Years of Excellence

Founded in 1824, Kents Hill School is one of the oldest co-educational independent schools in the United States. As we embark on our third century, we are anchored in the pioneering spirit, reputation for innovation, and core values that are woven in our DNA, while at the same time looking boldly ahead.


1799: Revolutionary War veteran Luther Sampson comes to Kents Hill from Massachusetts looking to use the wealth he has acquired for the benefit of society and glory of God. 

1821: Sampson builds the "New House" for one of his daughters near his own, which will become the home of Elihu and Susanna Robinson and the first school building a few years later. Today the house is known as the 1821 House.

1824: Sampson and the Robinsons join forces to start a school. They want to better society through education and to prepare educated, literate, skilled preachers for the ministry. The school formally opens with the title Maine Wesleyan Seminary in the spring of 1824; several of the first students are girls, making Kents Hill one of the oldest co-educational private schools in the country. 

Revolutionary War veteran Luther Sampson

The "New House," known today as the 1821 House.

The original building is pictured here with the 1836 addition.

The Adelphian Society for women.

Dr. Henry P. Torsey, Head of School. 

In 1849, the Androscoggin and Kennebec Railroad runs its first train to the Readfield Depot, only miles from the school.


1829: The Calliopean Society, a men’s literary and debate organization, is founded, followed by the Adelphian Society for women; they are widely popular, and students later found the Literati and Eromathean societies as well. These societies include rituals, secret passwords and other elements of social clubs, but their primary focus is debate, speaking, writing and parliamentary process. 

1844: Dr. Henry P. Torsey becomes Head of School, having studied at the Maine Wesleyan Seminary from 1837 to 1840. In 1844 the school opens with 48 boys and 34 girls; at the end of one term and after paying all the bills, Torsey has twenty dollars left for his salary. 


1858: Construction of Sampson Hall begins, though it will not be given the name of the school’s founder for a number of years. It includes a chapel, music rooms, a dining room, dissertation rooms, and room for up to 140 students. The building’s heat comes from small stoves in students’ rooms, and it takes more than 500 cords of wood to heat the campus buildings. For the cost of a few pennies per week, boarding students can buy the convenience of having wood delivered to their rooms to save them a trip to the woodpile. 

1861-1865: Over 170 Kents Hill students and alumni fight in the Civil War and at least 23 lose their lives. Thirteen of these fight in the celebrated 20th Maine Infantry, under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain. The courageous and risky maneuvers of these soldiers at Little Round Top help to change the course of the Battle of Gettysburg, a crucial turning point in the Civil War.

Sampson Hall (right).

A female collegiate institute opens, offering degrees to women until 1909.

In 1861, baseball was introduced to the school.

The first music department begins under the leadership of Dr. and Mrs. Morse. 29 pianos are housed on the fourth floor of Sampson Hall.

The Bearce Hall Bell, donated by the honorable James G. Blaine. 

Blethen House, named after Alden Blethen who would go on to co-found "The Seattle Times."


1873: Bearce Hall is completed. The Honorable James G. Blaine, a member of Congress and former representative in the Maine legislature who will later serve as Secretary of State under President Harrison, gives the school a bell for the new tower. The striking brick building and its bell tower will become a symbol of Kents Hill School.

1883: Blethen House is built to provide a house for the Head of School. The building is named after Alden J. Blethen, a Kansas City newspaperman and an 1868 graduate of Kents Hill. He was an advocate of the idea and a major donor towards the project in gratitude for the fine education he received at Kents Hill School.


1924: Kents Hill’s 100th anniversary. A chapter of the Cum Laude academic society is established on campus. Students stage a pageant dramatizing the school’s beginnings in the maple grove behind Bearce Hall, illuminated by the headlights of a circle of automobiles.

1942-1945: Headmaster Bill Dunn decides to build a ski program. A small group of students who are not involved in daily sports, armed with a couple of axes, a two-man saw, a crowbar and poles, cut down the trees and burn the brush on the slope leading to Torsey Pond. By 1947, Kents Hill has competitive men’s and women’s ski teams.

1939: The football team, which has been competing with other schools since 1893, has an undefeated season, a feat that they will repeat in 1962.

Students clearing brush for the ski hill.

Jim Hansen, who taught mathematics at Kents Hill School.

Donald M. Jacobs with the 1984 Winter Carnival King and Queen.


1961: Jim Hansen arrives at Kents Hill School to teach mathematics. Over the next 36 years, "Hanny" becomes a beloved teacher, mentor, colleague and friend to thousands of students. He provided [students] with the quadratic equation and math induction, juxtaposed with mini lectures on Einstein, Hawking, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Holocaust, Bach, current events or a great film, while providing [them] with a classroom of visual and auditory explosion. (Chig Shuster '55, faculty)

1970: Donald M. Jacobs is appointed Head of School. He oversees the construction of Maine Hall, which arrives in 30 to 40 pieces, covering the entire outfield of the baseball field. 

1972: A Celestron 10 telescope is installed in the observatory of the Dunn Science Building, which had been completed in 1966.


1990: Rist Bonnefond becomes Kents Hill School’s 17th Headmaster.

1994: The Varsity Ski team’s 99th season is an exceptional one; the boys win the New England Division II Prep School Championship and the girls are champions of MAISAD. The new cross-country ski trail, designed by Olympic coach John Morton, is inaugurated. Kents Hill’s first competitive snowboarder, John Warren, graduates from the school, having started a trend that will increase in the coming years. 

1998: The Liz Cross Mellen Lodge at the O'Connor Alpine Training Center opens.

Rist Bonnefond, Kents Hill School’s 17th Headmaster.

The Liz Cross Mellen Lodge, which would later become the Joanne and Dick O'Connor Alpine Center.  

The Harold and Ted Alfond Athletics Center.

In 2007, Reed Hall, named for long-time Trustee Helen Reed '70, opened.

When the Ted Alfond and John Huard Turf Fields were dedicated in the Fall of 2008 they represented the largest contiguous athletic turf surface in New England.

The Rist and Joy Bonneford Ice Arena was dedicated in 2011 to the Bonnefords for their dedication to the advancement of Kents Hill School during Mr. Bonneford's tenure as Head of School.


2001: The Harold and Ted Alfond Athletics Center opens. This state-of-the-art athletic facility, which includes an NHL-size ice arena, a gymnasium, and a fitness center, is constructed with a major gift from the Alfond family.

2003: Kents Hill School is one of twelve schools in the nation selected to receive the 2003 Siemens Foundation Award for its Advanced Placement Programs in science, math and technology. It is the first school in Maine ever to win this award.

2008: The Harold Alfond Athletics Fields open. The fields consist of two full size fields for soccer, football, field hockey or lacrosse along with baseball and softball diamonds.

2009: Newton Gymnasium is reopened as the Bodman Performing Arts Center in Newton Hall. The refurbished basketball court was transformed into the Vivian Russell Theater which provides a larger performance space for Kents Hill’s theater and music programs, guest speakers, and school meeting. 


2014: Patrick C. McInerney is appointed as the 19th Head of School. He oversees the development of Kents Hill School's Strategic Plan.

2015: The Girls Varsity Cross Country team wins their second straight New England Class IV Championship title. 

2016: The Bibby and Harold Alfond Dining Commons opens. The $6.5 million dining facility and community space features floor-to-ceiling windows, "scatter-style" serving area, art gallery, and expansive patio with views from Sugarloaf Mountain to Mt. Washington.

2016: Christopher S. Cheney is appointed as the 20th Head of School, effective July 1, 2017.

2017: An innovative Four-Dimensional (4D) Academic Curriculum is introduced that places equal importance on knowledge, skills, character, and reflection. 

The Bibby and Harold Alfond Dining Commons opened in 2016.

The Bibby and Harold Alfond Dining Commons opened in 2016.

In 2016, Christopher S. Cheney is appointed as the 20th Head of School, effective July 1, 2017

In 2016, Christopher S. Cheney is appointed as the 20th Head of School, effective July 1, 2017.

The 2015 Girls Varsity Cross Country team wins their second straight New England Class IV Championship title.

The 2015 Girls Varsity Cross Country team wins their second straight New England Class IV Championship title. 


2020: Kents Hill introduces "KHS 2024," a bicentennial strategic plan with four cornerstones - Prepared for Anything; Built on Belonging; Grounded in Maine, Connected to the World; and In Your Corner, All the Time - to differentiate and transform the Kents Hill experience.

2023: Kents Hill School Board of Trustees President Patricia R. Hatler announces a global search for Kents Hill's 21st Head of School. 

2023-2024: Kents Hill prepare to launch a yearlong celebration of its historic Bicentennial. Goals for the Bicentennial include creating space for everyone in the Kents Hill community - near and far - to celebrate, to reflect on the past and future, to highlight our community’s relevance today, and to welcome and involve as many people as we can.