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.

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 350 boys and girls.

More Historical Information

List of 4 items.

  • School Hymn

  • School Motto, Shield and Seal

    In 1931 the desire for a school shield first manifested itself, and Mr. Ashburn invited both amateurs and professionals to submit designs for one. These ranged from elaborate symbols of brooks and bridges to ones so stark as to be described by The Bishop as “spots of ink.” By February 1932 the motto had been proposed and accepted by C. Lyman ’32 and later that year the official Brooks shield, which had been suggested by faculty member Russell S. Morse, appeared on the cover of The Bishop for the first time.

    The design of the shield consists of a black cross superimposed on a white cross and centered on a field of green. The bearing is one of great antiquity, and the motto with its play on words also has an ancient lineage. “Victuri te salutamus” is a Latin translation of the line in the School Hymn, “We greet thee, we, about to live;” but since “victuri” can also be rendered “about to conquer,” the motto takes on a double meaning. On the official seal of the school the motto is omitted and the shield is set on a background of four quatrefoils suggestive of ecclesiastic decoration and ringed with the words, “Sigillum Scholiae Brooksianae Andov. Septent. in Repub. Mass.”

    Adapted from J. Tower Thompson’s Thirty Years at Brooks
  • List of Headmaster and Master Emeriti

    School Headmasters
    Frank Davis Ashburn, Founding Headmaster, 1927–1973
    H. Peter Aitken, 1973–1986
    Lawrence W. Becker, 1986–2008
    John R. Packard, Head of School, present

    Headmaster Emeritus
    Frank D. Ashburn 1927–1973*

    Assistant Headmaster Emeritus
    Richard F. Holmes 1948-1991*

    Chaplain Emeritus
    Timothy B. Cogan 1985-2002

    Masters Emeriti
    J. Tower Thompson*
    1928–1958, 1971–1975

    Howard T. Kingsbury*
    1929–1941, 1952–1969

    G. Chychele Waterston*
    1932–1959, 1962–1971

    F. Fessenden Wilder*

    Edward W. Flint*

    Rogers V. Scudder*

    Aliça A. Waterston*
    1935–1959, 1963–1971

    George T. Barr*

    Ray A. Eusden Jr.

    Eric C. Baade*
    1949–1951, 1964–1990

    Stoddard G. Spader*

    Nicholas J. Evangelos*

    Lawrence E. Tuttle ’43
    1954–1959, 1965–1983

    John M. McVey

    Isaac N. Northup*

    William W. Dunnell III

    Michael B. King

    E. Graham Ward

    Leonard S. Perkins ’56*

    William K Poirot*

    Jacob Dunnell

    Thomas K. Burgess

    Raymond S. Broadhead

    Michael M. McCahill

    Maria C. Ward

    Daniel A. Rorke, Jr.

    Grace Z. Becker

    John P.H. Morris

  • More about Phillips Brooks

    The Measure of Greatness
    A sermon preached by the Rev. Bob Flanagan, School Minister, at the Frank D. Ashburn Chapel,
    North Andover, Massachusetts, on the 16th Sunday of School, Year A, Luke 9:46-48, February 4, 2009.

    How do you measure greatness? 

    Do you measure it in the number of houses or cars someone has?  Do you measure it in Superbowl or World Series victories?  Do you measure it in Emmy, Tony or Oscar awards won?  Do you measure it in the GPA earned?  Do you measure it in number of matches won or goals scored?  If we look at the number of statues of bronze or named schools or books written about someone, then Phillips Brooks must be measured as a great person.

    And why was Phillips great?  Simply he moved the hearts of men and women across the globe.  His words spoke to the souls of millions in a way that drew people out of the despair of the mundane to higher vistas where they could see the land of goodness that they longed for.  Phillips stirred souls.  He quickened heart beats.  He inspired thoughts of possibility.

    Physically: Phillips stood at 6’4”, weighed over 300 pounds and spoke from the pulpit at Trinity Church, Boston at a mesmerizing 200 words a minute.  His sermons were like a freight train rolling downhill or a freighter plowing downriver with an ebbing tide.  He was completely captivating and utterly spellbinding.

    However, he was not always this way.  Phillips went to Harvard College when he was 16.  Yes, I said 16.  He was very bright.  When he graduated from Harvard, at 19-years-old, he was delighted to be hired at his former school, the Latin School in Boston.  At the time he wanted to become a college professor.  So to gain some experience he figured he would teach high school for a time.  He thought teaching high school Latin and Greek was a good, safe choice. Well, things didn’t go so well for Phillips.  As a high school teacher, he was a complete failure.

    After teaching some younger boys, he was assigned to teach upperclassmen.  He was given a class of unruly boys and he was overconfident in his students’ desire to learn.  They took complete advantage of him.  The boys locked him in his classroom.  They scatter explosive matches on the floor and even threw buckshot in his face.  It was a class of chaos.  Phillips became depressed and shortly later resigned.  The headmaster of Latin School said to Phillips, within earshot of other faculty, that “he never knew a man who failed in teaching to succeed in anything else” (Woolverton, p. 51-53).

    For a many months, Phillips did nothing.  He spiraled into a funk.  He was depressed and longed for his youth where all things were still possible.  Finally, at the recommendation of his mentor at Harvard, he enrolled at the Protestant Episcopal Seminary of Virginia or as it is known in the south, “The Seminary.”  It is also the seminary that I graduated from. 

    You might think that once Phillips landed at the seminary his life would have taken off.  You might think that the 19th century’s greatest preacher would have immediately shined among his peers.  Well, academically, Phillips did quite well, but as a preacher he needed work.

    If you were to measure Phillips greatness at this moment in his life, you might simply laugh.  I wonder if any of his seminary classmates ever thought he’d amount to much as a preacher.  But Phillips didn’t give up.  In fact, for the rest of his life, he took weekly voice lessons to improve his locution.  And when he eulogized Abraham Lincoln in Philadelphia, just days after the president’s assassination, finally Phillips gained notoriety.  His greatness began to grow.  From there his greatness shot up and rose.  Thousands of people packed into Trinity Church in Copley Square to hear him speak.  And at his funeral some 15,000 people came to mourn the loss of this great man.

    Some of you may feel like young Phillips.  Maybe you have faced some setback recently.  Maybe your life hasn’t gone just the way you’ve wanted.  Look to Phillips as a model for your life. As I have illustrated to you, Phillips had several major failures in his life, but each time he sprang back.  He reflected on what had happened.  He sought advice from others and then found a solution.   He didn’t give up, nor should you.

    Maybe you’re unsure how to be better, how to become great.  Look to Phillips as a mentor for your life.  There are many books written about Phillips’ life and his writings.  Many of these books are in our library down the hill.  If you pull theses books off the shelf, you will discover many important insights and life-wisdom.

    Maybe like Phillips you feel down and hard-pressed.  Maybe you feel frustrated and in a funk.  Look to Phillips as a mirror for your life.  Are you wading in waters of woe?  If so, hold up the life of Phillips to your own.  Look hard at the failures in your own life.  Do they compare to Phillips?  If not, then what are you complaining about.  Get out of that dark cold water onto dry land and get going and get positive.

    Maybe you’re looking for a spark, a reason to push yourself to higher success.  Look to Phillips as a motivator for your life.  Phillips took his skills, his ability to communicate through written words and excelled.  What are your skills? Take hold of your life and strive to do more and be even better.

    For those of you who are faith focused and inspired, whose enthusiasm comes from God.  Phillips writes these words: “To a young [person] just bursting through the open doors of life, radiant with health, eager for work with an infinite sense of vitality [give your life to God who is] “the Strengthener…the Setter of great tasks; the God who holds the crown of victory on the tops of high mountains up which…eager-hearted young heroes may climb to win it; the God who asks great sacrifices and who gives glorious rewards.”

    Greatness is in each and every one of you.  The measure of your greatness knows only the boundaries that you timidly build.  You are held back only by the tiny fences that occupy the negative recesses of your mind.  You stand at the threshold of potential with unbridled opportunity ready to carry you up great heights.  So follow trail of giant footprints left by Phillips Brooks.  With his help, with his overflowing enthusiasm, you too may one day be measured by statues of bronze, schools named after you, and books written describing your great achievements.

    Bibliography: Woolverton, John Frederick, The Education of Phillips Brooks. (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995)


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.
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