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School History

Brooks School History
Brooks School was founded in 1926 by the Rev. Endicott Peabody, headmaster of Groton, who served as the first president of the board of trustees. Associated with him were Richard Russell, who gave the land and original buildings and who served for many years as secretary-treasurer of the board; the Reverend Sherrard Billings, senior master at Groton; James Jackson, a Groton graduate and trustee; Roger B. Merriman, also a Groton trustee and parent; and the Right Reverend Charles L. Slattery, a former Groton teacher and trustee. Mr. Peabody believed that there was a need for another small boarding school built on the Groton model. The school was to be named after Phillips Brooks, and the teaching was to be that of the Episcopal Church.

Frank D. Ashburn, a graduate of Groton and Yale (1925), then at Columbia Law School, was appointed the first headmaster. The school opened September 29, 1927, with 14 boys in the first and second forms and two masters, a headmaster and a headmistress. Thereafter, one form was added each year until the school included all six forms. The first class graduated in 1932.

It was intended that Brooks should be a small school with emphasis on individual attention and a close relationship between masters and boys. The main goal was preparation for life, rather than simply for college admission. The school felt an obligation to regard the difficult or less able boy as a challenge rather than an obstacle. Efforts were made to provide a maximum amount of flexibility in the curriculum. Athletics were encouraged but regarded as means to an end rather than an end in itself. There was a conscious effort to expose boys to the best of the human tradition in literature, the arts and sciences, and to do this in a beautiful setting. Aside from dormitories and a kitchen, the first facilities established were a library and a chapel.

After 46 years as headmaster, Frank D. Ashburn retired in 1973 (he died on October 2, 1997). H. Peter Aitken, who served as headmaster from 1973 to 1986, succeeded Mr. Ashburn. Lawrence W. Becker was the school’s third headmaster from 1986 until his retirement in 2008. John R. Packard was appointed head of school in 2008, making him the fourth leader in the school’s history.

The school has changed from a six-year school of just under 200 boys to a four-year school of approximately 375 boys and girls. One of the most significant changes in the history of the school was the move to co-education in 1979. Today, Brooks enrolls approximately 166 girls and 209 boys.
Ashburn Archives
The photos and documents of the Ashburn Archives are also displayed in the Luce Library to serve as a historical resource, as well as preserve the school's institutional memory. Ashburn Online Archives

Featured Links
Palm Sunday Sermon, 4/14/1946
Steve Forbes ’66: Recollections
Video Archives
More Historical Information
School Hymn

School Motto, Shield and Seal

List of Headmaster and Master Emeriti

More about Phillips Brooks
Mission
At Brooks School, we seek to provide the most meaningful educational experience our students will have in their lives.

Statement of Purpose

Within an environment of academic excellence, Brooks strives to promote and focus intellectual growth and curiosity. The school encourages students to develop analytic and creative capacities; to read critically; to think, speak, and write with cogency and precision; to broaden aesthetic sensibility; to make effective use of technology in the learning process; and to be aware of the larger world beyond the school community.

The school emphasizes moral awareness and strives to provide daily lessons in tolerance, integrity and social responsibility. Civility and decency are as important now as ever before.

The chapel program gives expression to the spirit of the community. Since its founding, Brooks has been affiliated with the Episcopal Church. The school seeks to further the teachings of the Judeo-Christian ethic while valuing all religious traditions and honoring the beliefs of the students who hold them.

One of the most important capacities Brooks develops in its students is the ability to make good decisions and to profit from mistakes. It does not presume to make every choice for them, either academically or socially. The school creates a climate where high standards are balanced with reasonable expectations, tolerance and understanding. In this way, Brooks hopes and expects students to grow in wisdom, confidence and maturity.

Core Values
Underpinning and clarifying the mission statement are core values which the school hopes will permeate all programs, and which might serve to direct community members in their experience with the mission. The core values of the school are: empathy, engagement, integrity, passion, confidence and creativity. Of these, empathy and engagement are considered preeminent.