Deerfield has come a long way since its founding in 1797, as changes to the student body have shifted the Academy’s social culture significantly.
English teacher Frank Henry ’69, who has taught at Deerfield for over 30 years, explained that Deerfield has become increasingly diverse, especially regarding gender. He said that the last year before coeducation (in 1989), “There was a lot of violence; it was not a kind place. The notion of mutual respect was not practiced.” He added that all of the changes on campus that have stemmed from coeducation have been “beneficial.”
However, Karinne Heise, who has taught at DA for 25 years, notes a shift in the relationship between genders on campus since those early days of integration. “There were better causal relationships between girls and boys, more stronger and platonic with that first wave of girls. It is not as prominent now, and I don’t know quite why that is,” she explained.
At most high schools, various groups of friends are categorized into groups such as “the academics,” “the athletes” and “the artsy kids.” However, Mr. Henry explained that when he attended DA, “That division was political. It was the ‘jocks’ and the ‘hippies’, and jocks tended to support President Nixon and the war, whereas the hippies tended to oppose the war and President Nixon.” He explained that the source of the political tension came from the time period: “We were young, healthy boys. By the time graduation was around the corner, everyone was talking either [about] going to college or getting drafted.”
Recently, students have been talking a lot about a supposed “decrease” in school spirit. Dean of Students Amie Creagh said, “Someone [has always been] saying that for 16 years. There’s nostalgia for true school spirit, but I’d say that manifestations of school spirit are [simply] different.”
Nina McGowan ’16 thinks that years ago “people were more present on campus, but now people are so stressed that they are always doing homework or catching up on sleep, and they would rather hang out in the dorms with a couple of their friends. It feels like people are being pulled in a million different directions, and they don’t have the energy at the end of the week to be present at the dances or show school pride at games.”
Marc Dancer ’79 described one difference: dances used to be a huge deal. He said, “on most weekends we would [go to] away dances or home games.” Because the school was all boys, students would eagerly look forward to the dances with neighboring girl schools such as Stoneleigh-Burnham.”
Mr. Dancer went on to explain that in the 70s, “everybody played backgammon and there was a school-wide tournament.” He even recalls running back to the dorm before sit-down to play.
One of the most notable differences Mr. Dancer noted was the fact that “in order to enjoy your time you had to contribute to the community. Students had to make it happen.” However, now, Mr. Dancer noted, “students expect school to generate entertainment.”