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Groton School

Groton School
Cui servire est regnare
"To serve is to rule"
282 Farmers Row
Groton, Massachusetts, 01450
United States
Type Private, Day & Boarding school
Religious affiliation(s) Episcopal
Established 1884
Headmaster Temba Maqubela
Grades 8–12
Gender Coeducational
Enrollment 372 (2013–14)
Campus Suburban / Rural
Athletics conference Independent School League
Nickname Zebras
Accreditation NEASC
Endowment $305 million

Groton School is a private Episcopal college preparatory boarding school located in Groton, Massachusetts, United States. It enrolls about 370 boys and girls, from the eighth through twelfth grades. Tuition, room and board and required fees in 2014-15 amounted to $56,700 (with books extra); 38% of the students receive financial aid.[1]

The school is a member of the Independent School League and is widely recognized as one of the most selective, elite, exclusive boarding schools in New England[2] and one of the world's top high schools for preparing students to enter elite American universities.[3] There are many famous alumni in business, government and the professions, including president Franklin D. Roosevelt.


  • History 1
  • Campus 2
  • Students 3
  • Traditions 4
  • Sports 5
  • Abuse allegation 6
  • Notable alumni 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10


Groton School was founded in 1884 by the Rev. [4] Groton School received early support from the Roosevelt family, including future President Theodore Roosevelt, and filled quickly.[5]

Peabody served as headmaster of the school for over fifty years, until his retirement in 1940. He instituted a Spartan educational system that included cold showers and cubicles, subscribing to the model of "muscular Christianity" which he himself experienced at Cheltenham College in England as a boy. Peabody hoped to graduate men who would serve the public good, rather than enter professional life. The school's motto is "Cui Servire Est Regnare."

Peabody was succeeded at the end of the 1940 school year by the Rev. John Crocker, who had been for 10 years the chaplain for Episcopal students at Princeton University. He himself was a 1918 graduate of Groton School; 15 members of his family were alumni. Crocker's tenure included the advances of African American civil rights. In September 1951, three years before the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawing segregation in public schools, Groton School accepted its first African-American student.[6] In April 1965 Crocker and his wife, accompanied by 75 Groton School students, marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., during a civil rights demonstration in Boston. After 25 years as headmaster at Groton School, he retired in June 1965. After Crocker, the Rev. Bertrand Honea, Jr., led the School from 1965-1969; Paul Wright from 1969-1974; the Rev. Rowland Cox from 1974-1977; William Polk from 1978-2003; and Richard Commons from 2003-2013. Temba Maqubela became the headmaster in July 2013.

Biographer McGeorge Bundy, a highly influential alumnus who attended in the mid-1930s:

He attended Groton, the greatest "Prep" school in the nation, where the American upper class sends its sons to instill the classic values: discipline, honor, a belief in the existing values and the rightness of them. Coincidentally, it’s at Groton that one starts to meet the right people, and were connections which will serve well later on – be it at Wall Street or Washington – are first forged; one learns, at Groton, above all, the rules of the Game and even a special language: what washes and does not wash.[7]

Groton School has changed significantly since 1884. Originally, it admitted only boys; the school became coeducational in 1975. Although most students in the early years were from New England and New York, its students now come from across the country and around the world. However, some traditions remain, such as the school's commitment to public service, its small community, and its attachment to the Episcopal Church.

The school has been used as a setting for several novels including Louis Auchincloss' Rector of Justin (1964). Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep (2005) has prompted speculation that the fictitious Ault School, the main setting of the novel, is in fact Groton School, as they bear striking resemblances and Sittenfeld herself attended Groton. Media coverage of the school came in the spring of 1999, when three Groton seniors alleged they and other students had been sexually abused by students in dormitories in 1996 and 1997.

Currently, Groton is one of three secondary boarding schools in the country to offer free education to qualified students from families with household incomes below $75,000 a year.[8]


Groton School, as viewed from the top of the chapel.

Groton's 385-acre (156-hectare) campus encompasses rolling forests, expansive meadows, a portion of the Nashua river, and various athletic fields, as well as academic buildings and dormitories. Most of the buildings on campus are situated around the Circle, which is the School's circular common green with a circumference of 13-mile (0.54-kilometre). Tradition prohibits students from crossing the Circle to reach the opposite side of the campus. The School's buildings include St. John's Chapel, the Schoolhouse, Brooks House and Hundred House Dormitories, the McCormick Library (approximately 60,000 volumes and over 100 periodicals), the Campbell Performing Arts Center, the Dining Hall, the Dillon Art Center and De Menil Gallery. Other facilities include the Athletic and Recreation Center, Pratt and O'Brien Rinks and Tennis Center, the Bingham Boathouse, outdoor tennis clay courts and hardcourts, and many faculty homes. The landscape was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who is noted for his design of Central Park in New York City and various other academic institutions.


The students are divided into Forms ranging from Second Form to Sixth Form (8th to 12th grade). Second and Third Formers live in Brooks House, part of Lower School, with their prefects (Sixth Formers); Fourth, Fifth, and the remaining Sixth Formers live in Hundred House, also known as Upper School, and in two dorms in Brooks House. Each dorm has 2–8 prefects, and is headed and named after the faculty member who has an apartment that is connected to the dorm.

For the 2013-2014 school year, Groton admitted approximately 12 percent of the applicants.[9] Eighty-eight new students enrolled from 15 states and Washington, DC, and from China, Hong Kong, Korea, Mexico and Switzerland. Twenty-four students entered the school as part of the new Second Form, 52 joined the Third Form, 11 the Fourth Form, and one the Fifth Form.[10] There are a total of 371 students enrolled, representing approximately 30 states and 15 countries, including 24 students in the Second Form, 82 in the Third Form, 91 in the Fourth Form, 90 in the Fifth Form and 84 in the Sixth Form.

The Form of 2013 median Harvard University, Trinity College, Yale University, Tufts University, Stanford University, Brown University, Dartmouth College, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania.[11]


Groton is an intimate community as 90% of students are boarders and most teachers live on campus in dorms or faculty housing. Classes are small, ranging from 12 to 14 students. There are regularly scheduled sit-down dinners during fall term and during spring term; at sit-down dinner, faculty and students dress up formally and sit down for a proper 45 minute dinner and are served by students assigned as waiters. On the School's birthday in the fall, sit-down dinner features a rendition of "Blue Bottles" (the tune is similar to "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall"). At the request of the VIth form, the members of which yell "We want blue bottles!", the Vth form gathers at the entrance to the dining hall and, under the conductorship of the youngest faculty alumnus, who sets the tempo of the song by swinging a large carving knife back and forth, counts down the age of the School. Following Monday evening sit-down dinners, many students and faculty gather in the Webb–Marshall Room below the dining hall for an intramural debate featuring members of the School's Debating Society — Groton's oldest extracurricular organization. These debates also feature the Triple Speak, a fun and lighthearted extemporaneous speech during which the speaker must address at first only a single random word, but then incorporate a second and, finally, a third random word, which are announced during the speech.

On weekdays except Wednesdays and Saturdays, the Groton community begins the day with Chapel, which is followed by Roll Call. Originally intended for taking attendance, Roll Call is now a general assembly where daily announcements are made. Led by one of the School's two Senior Prefects, or one of the School's two House Prefects (all of whom are members of the VIth Form and are elected by their peers), Roll Call usually features both clever and entertaining skits and serious announcements. Once a term, the Headmaster calls off class and announces a Surprise Holiday. Surprise Holiday is announced at Roll Call by the appearance of a bright green jacket, usually integrated into a skit. A particularly memorable announcement was when, one fall, a helicopter landed in the middle of the circle, from which three triumphant VIth formers marched out (one wearing the Green Jacket). On a day near the end of the year, the VIth form collectively will conduct a filibuster during Roll Call, causing the meeting to run well into (and sometimes right through) first period. The class of 2009 revived this tradition by holding an hour and forty-five minute long filibuster through second period on Monday, May 18, 2009. On May 23, 2011 the senior class followed suit and conducted an outdoor filibuster at both the boathouse and on the Triangle running trails; the filibuster lasted through all of 3rd period (11:30 AM). The current headmaster and administration have been less lenient and have strongly discouraged filibusters.

One of the most notable of the School's traditions is hand-shaking. Each day at Groton concludes with students shaking hands with their dorm heads and prefects. As part of the School's Prize Day (commencement) proceedings, every member of the VIth form shakes hands with both the entire faculty and all underclassmen. After examinations, a similar ritual takes place as all underclassmen shake hands with the faculty before leaving for summer vacation. Groton announces itself as a diverse and intimate community and they are in fact very diverse. They have over 30% students of color and 10% international students.

The School holds an annual service of Nine Lessons and Carols similar to the famous one held yearly at King's College at Cambridge University in England. Groton's service, which dates to the 1930s, is only a few years younger than the one in Cambridge.

Groton's two most notable publications are The Circle Voice and The Grotonian. The Circle Voice is the student newspaper and publishes three times a term both in print and online. The Grotonian is a literary magazine which publishes once a term.

A world record breaking tiled poster decorates the Chapel.

Groton also has a long tradition of pranks, most notably the unveiling of the world's largest tiled poster on the Chapel[12] and some culture of "roofing". The Schoolhouse building has two secret rooms. One is called the Shoe Room, where it is rumored a young Franklin D. Roosevelt, among others, left a shoe. The other is the Junior Mint Room where empty boxes have been left by generations of students. Both are accessed by roofing the Schoolhouse.

Groton has long upheld an intense rivalry with St. Mark's School, a competitor in its sports league.


  • Fall
    • Boys: Soccer, Football, and Cross Country
    • Girls: Soccer, Cross Country, and Field Hockey
  • Winter
    • Boys: Squash, basketball, swimming, and ice hockey
    • Girls: Squash, basketball, swimming, and ice hockey

Mike Tootill, a World Masters champion,[13] is the squash coach.

  • Spring
    • Boys: Crew, track, tennis, lacrosse, rugby, and baseball
    • Girls: Crew, track, tennis, and lacrosse

All seasons there is also a dance team. Furthermore, students can create FSA's (Faculty Sponsored Activities) that take the place of their afternoon activity requirement. FSA topics range from musical training to Archery.

Groton School is a member of the Independent School League,which has sixteen member schools, but it also competes with schools outside the league. Groton's traditional athletic rival is St. Mark's School. At Groton, the day the two schools meet in athletic competition each term is called St. Mark's Day.

Abuse allegation

In Spring 1999, Middlesex County DA's Office began investigating the claim of three Groton seniors. They alleged they, and other students, had been sexually abused by students in dormitories in 1996 and 1997.[14] During the school's investigation of the matter, another student brought a similar complaint to the school's attention. In 2005, the school pled guilty in criminal court to a misdemeanor charge of failing to report this younger student's sexual abuse complaint to the state and paid a $1,250 fine. The school issued an apology to the victims, and the civil suit stemming from the first student's complaint was settled out of court.[15][16] In the fall of 2006, as part of the settlement, the School published a full apology to the boy who first alleged the abuse in 1999.

Notable alumni


  1. ^ See "Affording Groton"
  2. ^ America's Elite Prep Schools, Abigail Jones, April 6, 2009,
  3. ^ Staff writer (2007-12-28). "How the Schools Stack Up". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ Groton School, The Roosevelt Center at Dickenson State University,
  6. ^  
  7. ^ David Halberstam, "The Very Expensive Education of McGeorge Bundy". Harper's Magazine 239, no. 1430 (July 1969), pp. 21–41, quoted in Peter W. Cookson Jr. and Caroline Hodges Persell, Preparing For Power: America's Elite Boarding Schools (1987), Prologue
  8. ^
  9. ^ Groton School Welcomes New Students, Recent News, March 10, 2013,
  10. ^ The Circle Comes to Life with New and Returning Students, Sep. 8, 2013, (retrieved Sep. 8, 2013).
  11. ^ Groton School 2012-2013 Viewbook,
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Accusations of Sex Abuse at Boarding School". 
  15. ^ "Elite prep school pleads guilty in sex abuse investigation".  
  16. ^ "IN RE: A GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION". Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. 

Further reading

  • Ashburn, Frank D., Peabody of Groton, Coward McCann, Inc., New York, 1944.
  • Cookson Jr., Peter W. and Caroline Hodges Persell. Preparing For Power: America's Elite Boarding Schools (1987)
  • Fenton, John H., "Groton Headmaster Ends 25-Year Tenure", The New York Times, June 13, 1965, p. 80.
  • Hoyt, Edwin P., The Peabody Influence, Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, 1968.
  • McLachlan, James. American Boarding Schools: A Historical Study (1970) pp 242–98

External links

  • School official website
  • Groton School Admissions Video on
  • The Association of Boarding Schools profile
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