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200 Years of Transformation

200 Years Of Transformation

Founded in 1824, Kents Hill School is one of the oldest co-educational independent schools in the United States. From its opening, when it was known as the Maine Wesleyan Seminary, the school admitted both boys and girls and set aside funds to enroll children from disadvantaged families. The Maine abolitionist movement had its start at the school, making the Seminary a center of ethical leadership in the state.

With its historic buildings and views of the mountains, our campus is a reflection of the spirit of Kents Hill, a school adopting innovations in the classroom and in campus life while honoring the guiding principles that have made us strong for close to two hundred years. Kents Hill’s history shaped the character of the school and continues to define it today. Our commitment to our core values makes Kents Hill a welcoming, exciting, and life-changing place where students learn and grow.

1799-1824

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. 

1825-1849

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. 

1850-1870

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, parlors, 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. They are soldiers in 29 of Maine’s 32 infantry regiments. 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.

1868: Frances A. Davis graduates from the women’s college and goes to Alabama to teach at a “Freedman’s School” called Talladega College. After a few years she returns to Kents Hill where she teaches modern languages for forty years, until her death. Davis Hall is named after her.

1871-1911

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.

1912-1945

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.

1946-1972

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 Jacobs 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.

1973-2000

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 Center opens.

2001-2011

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 Morning Meeting.

2012-present

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.
1614 Main Street, Kents Hill, Maine 04349
207-685-4914   info@kentshill.org
Since 1824, Kents Hill School has been dedicated to providing transformative experiences rooted in the power of community, character, and core values.