A BRIEF HISTORY OF BERKSHIRE SCHOOL
Berkshire School was founded in 1907 beneath the “dome” of Mt. Everett by Seaver Burton Buck, a Harvard graduate who had taught at Hackley School. During the thirty-five years that Mr. Buck was headmaster, Berkshire evolved into a substantial and vibrant institution. Mr. Buck interwove appreciation for and exploration of the mountain with classical classroom teaching.
Upon Mr. Buck’s retirement in 1943 the school went on a war footing. Depleted by the call to arms, Berkshire nonetheless remained in session throughout the calendar year, with small groups graduating every twelve weeks. Many of the students became seasoned pilots through the school’s Education with Wings program at the nearby Great Barrington Airport.
Another legendary headmaster was John F. Godman, who led the school from 1951 to 1970. During his tenure, enrollment mushroomed to 330 boys and the faculty expanded to 35 teachers—among them the school’s first female faculty members. By 1970, there were sixteen major new structures, six of them dormitories, as well as a laboratory science wing added to Berkshire Hall. But Mr. Godman’s most enduring legacy was his decision in 1969 that Berkshire School become coeducational. In the fall of that year, nine girls—all day students—took part in what Mr. Godman described to them and their families as “an experiment.” The experiment succeeded, and the school graduated its first females in 1972.
The 1970s and 1980s brought radical change to institutions across the country, and Berkshire was no exception. In addition to integrating girls into all aspects of campus life, the school restructured its scholastic mission to welcome new disciplines—computer science, ethics, health and environmental science—and a formal counseling program. A new, 38,000-square-foot athletic center was built and the former gymnasium renovated to house a modern library which today boasts over 40,000 volumes. An even more impressive structure ushered in the 1990s at Berkshire: a new student center and dining hall. Also in that decade, the curriculum broadened further and innovative academic and co-curricular programs were introduced, including the Ritt Kellogg Mountain Program and the Chinese language program.
As a result of the school’s Berkshire 2000 capital campaign, three faculty chairs were established, two new girls’ dormitories were built, dorms and classrooms were fully wired, and the school’s endowment nearly doubled. Other improvements included a computer-controlled observatory, an all-weather track, a new maple syrup house, and a renovated hockey rink.
In 2004, Michael J. Maher became the fifteenth Head of School at Berkshire. Berkshire celebrated its Centennial throughout the 2007-08 school year. In the fall of 2008 Berkshire Hall, the school’s main academic building built in 1930, reopened after a year of restoration. The building features bigger and brighter classrooms, the school’s first language lab, and an addition housing the offices of the Head of School and other administrators. Also opening in 2008 was the Jackman L. Stewart Athletic Center, including two hockey rinks—one of which can be converted to host school functions—the Picotte Family Fitness Center, and new and expanded facilities for athletic trainers.
During the 2009-10 school year Berkshire kicked off several new programs known collectively as The Berkshire Model, initiatives that go beyond the school’s core curriculum. Among them are programs focusing on global learning, sustainability, writing and critical thinking,and philanthropy and service learning. Also that year, the school resurrected its Education with Wings program, offering students an aeronautical science course and flying lessons at a nearby airport.
Meanwhile, the school's Pro Vita program, a week-long symposium comprising courses beyond the regular curriculum, continues to be a popular feature of the school's academic program.
In fall of 2010, Berkshire unveiled a renovated Allen House, a new music complex in the student center, a new dance studio in the gymnasium, and twelve new tennis courts on the southern end of campus.
In the fall of 2011, a restored and refurbished Allen Theater opened - along with new film and theater classrooms, the renovated Kenefick Learning Center and WBSL 91.7, the school's FM radio station. Also, a student gathering place, featuring a large lawn, benches and a barbeque pit, opened on the former site of the Rovensky Field House. The school's eight-acre solar field, featuring over 8,000 photovoltaic solar panels, came online in January of 2012 and produces up to 48% of the school's energy needs. The Bellas/Dixon Math and Science Center overlooking Buck Valley opened in the fall of 2012.
In November 2013, Pieter M. Mulder was named the sixteenth Head of School. Read more about Pieter Mulder here.