The History of Suffield Academy
The history of Suffield Academy is unique and interesting, as the school has constantly evolved since its start in 1833. Initially established as the Connecticut Literary Institute (the school was renamed Suffield School in 1916 and then Suffield Academy in 1937), the mission of this school with Baptist roots was to educate young men for the ministry. As the Connecticut Literary Institute was the only high school in Suffield, the town tax dollars paid for local students to attend. Although town and local Baptists served a major role in getting the school underway, the founders soon moved away from a denominational focus. In fact, the 1835 school charter stated that “no student shall be debarred the literary privilege of said institution on account of his religious opinions or denominational peculiarities.” From its inception, therefore, this school has had a commitment to diversity and inclusion, with women joining the community in 1843, the arrival of international students in the late 1830’s and African-American men and women bringing about integration during the latter part of the nineteenth century.
Interestingly enough, although aspects of the Academy have been in existence for well over 170 years, some would argue that the Suffield Academy that we recognize today—its physical plant, academic, athletic, and arts programs, and its overall position in the independent school world—began anew in 1952. It was in this year that Appleton H. Seaverns, a dynamic young educator from West Hartford, Connecticut, was named Suffield’s Headmaster. As the Academy had been facing several hurdles after the establishment of Suffield’s first public high school in 1939 (such as a dramatically smaller enrollment), Ap Seaverns brought new energy and focus. Under his leadership the physical plant grew, with the addition of several new buildings, and the enrollment strengthened dramatically. In short, Ap Seaverns built a strong and powerful school and established a foundation for Suffield’s ongoing success.
There have been a number of leaders—such as Headmasters Paul Sanderson Ken Lindfors, and David Holmes—who helped oversee events and moments that shaped today’s Suffield. For instance, in 1974, Suffield Academy returned to a co-educational community (it was characterized as a “Military School for Boys” in 1918, offering drill and riflery training). As the first alumnus to lead the school, Dr. David R. Holmes (1991-2003) helped position Suffield as a technologically innovative school with a distinctive program in a supportive environment. During his tenure, Suffield introduced the Laptop Initiative, the Leadership Program, and the outdoor leadership program.
Suffield’s current leader, Charles Cahn III, was appointed as our twenty-fifth Headmaster in 2004. Charlie has held several positions at Suffield, learning about all of the school’s many facets. Under his leadership the school has reached an exceptionally strong position, with a gifted and talented student body and faculty, a meticulously maintained physical plant, and a strong and stable resource base. There is great clarity of purpose and a deep commitment to Suffield’s mission and core values. As we move forward, our unique and important mission will continue to drive what we do at Suffield. The school’s history will only become richer as we blend important school traditions with an open eye to appropriate evolution and change.