Mission & History
GUIDED BY OUR MISSION
Rooted in an inspiring natural setting, Berkshire School instills the highest standards of character and citizenship and a commitment to academic, artistic, and athletic excellence. Our community fosters diversity, a dedication to environmental stewardship, and an enduring love for learning.
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, and his wife Anne Allen Buck. During the 35 years that Mr. Buck was headmaster, Berkshire evolved into a substantial and vibrant institution. Mr. Buck’s goal was to weave together an 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.
Headmaster John F. Godman 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 first female students graduated in 1971.
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. 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.
Berkshire celebrated its centennial anniversary throughout the 2007-08 school year. In honor of the milestone, the School relaunched its Pro Vita winter session week, a symposium comprising courses beyond the regular curriculum taught by faculty, alumni, parents and friends that expose students to additional hands-on learning and real-world experiences. Pro Vita has grown to include several off-campus excursions, guest speakers and evening events.
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 were programs that focused on sustainability, writing and critical thinking, philanthropy and service learning, and an Advanced Math/Science Research program. Also that year, the School resurrected its Education with Wings program from the 1940s, offering students an aviation science course with flying lessons at the nearby Great Barrington airport.
The School's eight-acre solar field, featuring over 8,000 photovoltaic solar panels, came online in January of 2012 and produces approximately 40% of the School's energy needs. The Bellas/Dixon Math and Science Center overlooking Buck Valley opened in the fall of 2012 and in 2013, Berkshire's new Visual Arts Center opened, featuring the Warren Family Gallery in which we showcase a range of exhibits, including art from students, alumni and local artists.
In November 2013, Pieter Mulder was named Berkshire's sixteenth Head of School. The following January, the School appointed its first-ever female Chair of the Board of Trustees, Alice Ehreclou Cole '76. In the fall of 2015, Berkshire celebrated the close of its highly successful $224 million Hail Berkshire Campaign and the reopening of the newly renovated Geier Library which quickly became a gathering place for study and relaxation.
2015 also saw the unveiling of the School’s Strategic Plan (URL), a roadmap that “charts a course that reflects both our character and our ambition—all in service of the transformational experience that we envision for our students,” as described by Head of School Pieter Mulder. The Strategic Plan outlined the School’s Core Values: Integrity, Curiosity, Perseverance, Inclusion, Respect, Resilience.
The fall of 2016 saw the dedication of the renovated Soffer Athletic Center which includes 10 new squash courts, a fully renovated gymnasium and dance studio, and a 60-foot climbing wall.
words by Horace Irving Johnson
Class of 1913
All hail to Berkshire set among the hills,
Bright and good and fair thy spirit in us thrills;
In later lessons and in larger strife,
May thy fair standards be ours through life.
Backward we're turning as the end draws near,
To the years of gladness and the friendships dear;
To work and play, to conflicts lost and won,
With fond regret for school days now done.
Glory to Berkshire let her praises ring,
Far across the world her students tribute bring;
Still true to Berkshire parted though we be,
We fight life's battles with strength from thee.