Choate Rosemary Hall

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Choate Rosemary Hall
Choate Rosemary Hall Crest.png
Fidelitas et Integritas
Fidelity and Integrity
333 Christian Street
Wallingford, Connecticut, 06492
School typePrivate, boarding
Religious affiliation(s)None
Founded1890 (Rosemary Hall)
1896 (Choate School)
Opened1971 (merger)
FounderMary Atwater Choate, William Gardner Choate
Head of schoolAlex Curtis
Grades9–12 (3rd form–6th form)
Student to teacher ratio6:1
CampusSuburban, 458 acres
121 buildings
Color(s)Choate Blue and Gold, and Rosemary Blue
Athletics conferenceFounders League
Eight Schools Association
MascotWild boar
RivalDeerfield Academy
NewspaperThe News
YearbookThe Brief
Endowment$318 million
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Choate Rosemary Hall
Choate Rosemary Hall Crest.png
Fidelitas et Integritas
Fidelity and Integrity
333 Christian Street
Wallingford, Connecticut, 06492
School typePrivate, boarding
Religious affiliation(s)None
Founded1890 (Rosemary Hall)
1896 (Choate School)
Opened1971 (merger)
FounderMary Atwater Choate, William Gardner Choate
Head of schoolAlex Curtis
Grades9–12 (3rd form–6th form)
Student to teacher ratio6:1
CampusSuburban, 458 acres
121 buildings
Color(s)Choate Blue and Gold, and Rosemary Blue
Athletics conferenceFounders League
Eight Schools Association
MascotWild boar
RivalDeerfield Academy
NewspaperThe News
YearbookThe Brief
Endowment$318 million

Choate Rosemary Hall (often known as Choate; /t/) is a highly selective, private college-preparatory boarding school located in Wallingford, Connecticut. Its history, academic influence, and reputation make it one of the leading schools in the United States.[1]

It took its present name and coeducational system with the merger in 1971 of two single-sex establishments, The Choate School (founded in 1896 in Wallingford) and Rosemary Hall (founded in 1890 in Wallingford, moved later to Greenwich, Connecticut). At the merger, the Wallingford campus was enlarged with a complex of modernist buildings on its eastern edge to accommodate the girls from Rosemary Hall.

Choate is a member of the Eight Schools Association, begun informally in 1973–74 and formalized in 2006, when former Choate headmaster Edward Shanahan was appointed its first president. The member schools are Choate, Andover, Exeter, Deerfield, St. Paul's, Hotchkiss, Lawrenceville, and Northfield Mount Hermon.[2]

Choate is also a member of the Ten Schools Admissions Organization, established in 1966 and comprising Choate, Andover, Exeter, Deerfield, St. Paul's, Hotchkiss, Lawrenceville, Taft, Loomis Chaffee, and The Hill School.

Among Choate's alumni are President John F. Kennedy, two-time presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson, playwright Edward Albee, novelist John Dos Passos, philanthropist Paul Mellon, and actors Glenn Close, Michael Douglas, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Paul Giamatti.


Choate's curriculum includes elective and interdisciplinary courses, from astronomy and architecture to printmaking and post-modernism to digital video and development economics.[3] There are more than 300 courses in the curriculum, which has requirements in community service and in contemporary global studies. All disciplines have honors courses. There is Advanced Placement (AP) preparation in 27 areas.

A two-year intensive Science Research Program includes mentored laboratory work during the summer at universities in the United States and abroad. The Capstone Program allows sixth form (senior) students to explore an area of the curriculum in depth. Working under a faculty adviser, students take at least five courses that focus on a curricular theme, culminating in a substantial final project. During the college application process, Choate's College Counseling Office highlights Capstone Project participation in letters of recommendation.

The performing and visual arts are supported by the resources of the Paul Mellon Arts Center. Among extracurricular arts clubs are six a cappella groups; step dance, slam poetry, hip hop, and rap groups; improv, musical theater, and instrumental ensembles of all sizes; photography and film-making clubs; and supporting publications for the arts, fashion, and culture. The Arts Concentration Program provides students with individually tailored instruction and class scheduling.

The Senior Project Program provides on- or off-campus internships in academic research, visual art, and the performing arts. Other specialized programs include American Studies, creative writing, economics, FBLA, mathematics, philosophy, psychology, religion, debate, and the Fed Challenge. The 2011–12 academic year saw the introduction of an Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies Program (AMES).[4] Choate's Office of Global Studies supports study-abroad and other international initiatives. One-third of Choate students participate in programs in China, France, Japan, Spain, and Jordan.[5]

Paul Mellon Humanities Center, built 1938, designed by Charles Fuller

The Kohler Environmental Center, designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, opened in 2012 and is located on a 268-acre site in the northeast quadrant of the campus. It has been described as "the first teaching, research and residential environmental center in U.S. secondary education."[6] It can house up to 20 students and two faculty members and supports the curricular Environmental Immersion Program.

In October 2013 the school began construction of a $17 million, 35,000-square foot center for computer science, robotics, and applied mathematics. The center, designed by architect César Pelli's firm Pelli Clarke Pelli, will contain laboratories, classrooms, a lecture hall, and common spaces. It will form a courtyard and be linked by a footbridge spanning Science Center Pond to the I.M. Pei-designed Icahn Center for Science. The facility will be completed in March 2015.[7]

Choate regularly produces semifinalists and finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search and in the Siemens Competition in science. In economics Choate's Fed Challenge team was the 2009 national champion and has won the New England District Championship in 12 of the past 13 years. In the 2012 American Mathematics Competitions (AMC 12), Choate's team finished first in the nation, with the highest combined score of all 2600 participating schools.[8]

The Choate chamber orchestra performed at the White House in December 2009 and the school's symphony orchestra toured Europe in 2010 and 2011, concertizing in ten countries. The festival and chamber choruses performed at St. Patrick's Day mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome in 2011.[9] The Maiyeros, an a cappella group, performed at Westminster Abbey in 2008. Choate orchestras and choral groups toured East Asia in 2000, 2005, 2007, and 2014. The June 2014 tour comprised concerts in Seoul, Hong Kong, and Macau, at the Great Wall at Ju Yong Guan, and in ensemble with the Concert Band of Beijing Children's Palace. Choate orchestras have also performed at Lincoln Center in New York, Carnegie Hall, and the Guggenheim Museum. The school's student-operated radio station, WWEB, is FCC-licensed and has been broadcasting since 1969.[10]

In 2012 Choate became the first among its peer preparatory schools to require that all faculty and students own an iPad. The fall term that year saw the beginning of full integration of the tablet's capabilities into the syllabus. Choate's director of academic technology, Joel Backon, discussed Choate's iPad program in an August 2012 article in US News.[11]

Statistical profile[edit]

Seymour St. John Chapel, built 1924, designed by Ralph Adams Cram

Choate enrolls 650 boarding and 215 day students representing 40 states and 44 countries. 15 percent of students are international and 33 percent identify themselves as persons of color. For the 2012–2013 year there were 2,018 applicants of whom 19 percent were accepted. The Choate admissions office hosted or sponsored events in 29 states and 14 countries.[12] The 2014–2015 tuition and fees are $52,840 for boarders and $40,840 for day students.

Financial aid totaling more than $10 million was awarded to 32 percent of the student body, the average award being $38,000 for boarders and $26,000 for day students.[13] A variety of named scholarship endowments support students of various profiles, including the Paul Mellon scholarships (science and math), the Gakio-Walton (Africa, the Middle East, India), the Glendorn (southwestern U.S. states), the Wallingford (local residence), and many others.[14]

The teaching faculty numbers 131 of whom 67 percent hold advanced degrees. Approximately 90 percent of teaching faculty live on campus. In addition, there are 51 administrative faculty members. The average class size is 12 and student-faculty ratio is 6:1.

In fiscal year 2013 Choate's endowment was $318 million.[15] In November 2006 the school inaugurated a capital campaign with a target of $200 million and by the campaign's close in 2011 gifts and pledges of $220 million had been secured.[16]

Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim chaplains serve Choate's campus ministry. Services include Christian fellowship, Protestant evening services, Roman Catholic Mass, Buddhist meditation, Hillel, Spiritual Alternatives, Reflections Program, and other student worship groups.[13]

The school fields 81 interscholastic athletic teams in 32 sports. Choate's historical archrival in athletic competition is Deerfield Academy. The final weekend of the fall season is Deerfield Day (at Deerfield it's called Choate Day), when the two schools compete in every sport.

On July 1, 2011, Dr. Alex Curtis succeeded Edward Shanahan as headmaster of Choate. Shanahan had served as head for twenty years from 1991, when he arrived from Dartmouth College. Curtis was selected by unanimous vote of the Choate board on November 4, 2010. Before Choate, Curtis was headmaster of Morristown-Beard School in New Jersey for seven years.

Buildings and facilities[edit]

Georgian ensemble on the west campus: Andrew Mellon Library, George Steele Hall, Paul Mellon Humanities Center, and Memorial House

The 458-acre (1.85 km2) campus contains 121 buildings in a variety of architectural styles. Georgian Revival predominates (examples by famed traditionalist architect Ralph Adams Cram and by Polhemus & Coffin), but there are also eighteenth- and nineteenth-century houses and dramatic modernist structures (examples by I.M. Pei and by James Polshek). All dormitory rooms have Internet2 high-speed access, and there is wireless access in all academic buildings, the Student Activities Center, and Johnson Athletic Center. Choate Information Place (CHIP) is the electronic information resource for the campus.

Principal buildings are in Georgian red brick, often with classical porticoes that were, by design, the unifying architectural feature of the early building phase.[17] Of this type are, in chronological order:

Paul Mellon Arts Center, designed by I.M. Pei
Carl C. Icahn Center for Science, designed by I.M. Pei

The I. M. Pei-designed buildings on campus are:

Other large-scale buildings and athletic facilities include:


Andrew Mellon Library, built 1925

Choate competes in sports against schools from all over New England and adjacent states. Teams are fielded at the levels of varsity, junior varsity, and thirds sections. There are 32 different sports and 81 teams in interscholastic competition.[23] Intramural programs include aerobics, dance, senior weight training, yoga, winter running, rock climbing, fitness and conditioning, and senior volleyball.

From 2007 to 2013 Choate has won New England championships in boys' and girls' ice hockey, girls' soccer, boys' golf, boys' crew, and in girls' swimming, volleyball, and water polo. In that same period, Choate has won Founders League championships in boys' and girls' squash, in boys' cross country, golf, softball, and tennis, and in girls' volleyball. Choate has also had spectacular recruitment, with basketball recruits such as Oliver Brown and Trevor Dow.[24]

The athletic directors of Choate and the other members of the Eight Schools Association compose the Eight Schools Athletic Council, which organizes sports events and tournaments among ESA schools.[25] Choate is also a member of the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) and the Founders League, which comprises private schools located mainly in Connecticut.

Interscholastic sports[edit]

Deerfield Day[edit]

Choate Rosemary Hall and Deerfield Academy have had a long-standing rivalry. The final weekend of the fall sports season is Deerfield Day (at Deerfield it's called Choate Day), when the two schools compete in every sport at varsity and sub-varsity levels. The tradition began in 1922 with an exchange of letters between Deerfield head Frank Boyden and Choate head George St. John. Since then, busloads (in the early years, trainloads) of students have made the 80-mile journey along the Connecticut River valley to cheer their teams on the rival's campus.

In the days leading up to the event, rallies and activities are held, led by Choate's Boar Pen cheering section and Deerfield's Captain Deerfield. At Choate there's the igniting of a fire-breathing dragon of sophisticated construction. At Deerfield there's a bonfire topped by a burning C, and ritual encircling of the school seal so that Choate teams won't tread on it. In recent years, alumni clubs of the two schools have met at venues around the world, from London to Los Angeles, to watch live-streaming of the varsity football game.[26]

Historic cricket match[edit]

The cricket match that Rosemary Hall hosted in Wallingford in 1893 against Mrs. Hazen's School of Pelham Manor, N.Y., has been described as "the first interscholastic girls sporting event in American history."[27] (Girls intramural sports had, of course, existed, but the Rosemary cricket match is the earliest discoverable extramural item.) The dating to 1893 occurs in the official history of Choate, published in 1997. Other discussions of the event give an inferential date of 1895 or earlier, referencing newspaper articles in 1896 that imply a well-established rivalry. An 1898 wire story titled "Women and Cricket" said that the Rosemary–Hazen series was four years old. Whatever the date of the first match, journalistic treatment of the novelty was "over-publicized and mildly sensationalized," according to a standard history of American cricket published in 1998. "Bareheaded and wearing sweaters and short skirts," reported The New York Times, "daughters of some of the most prominent men in the country defied the cold, wintry wind." The Baltimore Morning Herald under the headline "Girls Play Cricket" noted that "the Pelham girls' skirts were some two or three inches longer than those of their opponents." In November 1896 the Yale Medical Journal carried a notice that Yale Med student Frederick Hulseberg had been "engaged to coach the Rosemary Hall cricket team this fall," thereby becoming the first coach of women's cricket in America.[28]

Stengel and the Braves[edit]

During World War II, baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, under orders from the Office of Defense Transportation, told major league team owners to find spring training venues close to home. In Boston, the Red Sox chose Tufts University and the Braves at first considered Phillips Academy (Andover). But a sports editor at The Boston Globe was a Choate alumnus, and he persuaded the Braves to look at Choate's Winter Exercise Building (now the Johnson Athletic Center), one of the largest glass-roofed, cage-netted rooms in the country, and easily able to accommodate a baseball infield. The Braves moved into Choate dormitories on March 21, 1943 and again in March 1944.

Their roster included Warren Spahn, Johnny Sain ("Spahn and Sain and pray for rain"), and manager Casey Stengel. The journalistic opportunity afforded by Stengel in a prep school setting was not lost, and a famous wire-service photo shows him dressed in mortarboard and gown "lecturing" his players. His nickname "The Perfessor" first appears at this time, as does a fine example of Stengelese: asked to comment on Choate's facilities, he said, "Excellent workouts in that there cage you just saw, which is a honey in all my years to the present time, if I may be permitted to drop into the vernacular."[29]


Choate Rosemary Hall is rich in traditional events:

Archbold, built 1928, designed by Ralph Adams Cram


Nichols House, built 1948, designed by Polhemus & Coffin. In 1971 it was the inaugural girls' dormitory on the original boys' campus

Gertrude Stein and The Lit[edit]

In 1935 Gertrude Stein gave a series of talks in the United States that included, on January 12 and 13, a visit to Choate. Fortunately for literary posterity, her audience included both a stenographer and Dudley Fitts, critic, translator, and longtime teacher of Greek and Latin at Choate. Stein's public speaking style was extemporary, and Fitts recognized the permanent value of a stenographic transcript. After an exchange of letters, Stein authorized Fitts to oversee publication of her talk in The Choate Literary Magazine. On February 5, he sent her the page proofs, saying, "I had to restore a great deal of the lecture from memory. I hope I didn't spoil anything. Sorry to have missed entirely what you said about the noun." (Fitts's typescript and the Fitts-Stein correspondence are now at Yale.)[32]

Stein's essay appeared in the February 1935 issue of The Lit with the title "How Writing Is Written." It has many times since been anthologized and given academic treatment, with the Choate text unaltered. It "occupies a unique place in Stein's corpus as a social text that carries the marks of its particular occasion ... direct address to her audience (around sixty boys, as well as faculty and some former students)."[33] Stein's two-day stay at Choate was her first exposure to a private school, if we can believe her statement in Everybody's Autobiography (published 1937). She wrote, "It was the first time I had ever seen such a school. When I was brought up in East Oakland we all went to public school ... The boys from twelve to sixteen listened really listened [sic] to everything I had to say ... I had been much struck by the Choate school literary magazine which did have extraordinary good writing in it."[34]

Edward Albee and The Lit[edit]

In 1944 Edward Albee transferred from Valley Forge Military Academy to Choate, with admissions director Frank Wheeler making a prescient note, "I have a feeling he will distinguish himself in literature."[35] His brilliance was quickly recognized and mentored by such teachers as John Joseph, Charles Rice, and Sandy Lehmann. He was made managing editor of The Lit and for two years a large part of its content, in all genres, was supplied by him. Incidents from Albee's time at Choate are reworked for his plays, including the famous "bergin and water" speech in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and the "walking crow" speech in Tiny Alice, which reproduces almost verbatim English teacher Lehmann's criticism of a sonnet Albee wrote for The Lit.[36] The May 1946 Commencement issue of The Lit contained Albee's first published play, a long one-acter called Schism. Another play written at Choate, Each In His Own Way, went unpublished and forgotten until 1996, when a classmate preparing for their 50th reunion found it in a scrapbook.[37]

Heads of School and Foundation[edit]

Walkway on the northeast campus

Notable alumni[edit]

President John F. Kennedy '35 proposes the Moon-landing program in a speech to Congress, May 25, 1961
Adlai Stevenson '18 in the Oval Office with President Truman in 1952
Michael Douglas '63, two-time Oscar-winning actor
Glenn Close '65, four-time Tony Award-winning actress
Jamie Lee Curtis '76, BAFTA-winning actress
Paul Giamatti '85, Emmy and SAG-winning actor
Alan Jay Lerner '36, creator of My Fair Lady, Camelot, and Gigi, won three Oscars and three Tonys

In popular culture[edit]

Science Center atrium


Early years[edit]

Squire Stanley House, built 1690–1750 and visited in 1775 by George Washington. The Choate School began here in 1896. It is now a fourth form (second-year) girls dormitory.
See also: Rosemary Hall for its history before the 1971 re-affiliation with Choate.

The schools that would eventually become Choate Rosemary Hall were begun by members of two prominent New England families, the Choates and Atwaters.[56]

Rosemary Hall was founded in 1890 by Mary Atwater Choate at Rosemary Farm in Wallingford, her girlhood home and the summer residence of Mary and her husband, William Gardner Choate. Mary, an alumna of Miss Porter's School, was the great-granddaughter of Caleb Atwater (1741–1832), a Connecticut merchant magnate who supplied the American forces during the Revolutionary War. In 1775 General George Washington visited the Atwater store in Wallingford en route to assuming command of the Continental Army. On that occasion, Washington took tea with judge Oliver Stanley at the "Red House" (built 1690–1750), now Squire Stanley House on the Choate campus.

In 1878 Mary Atwater Choate had co-founded a vocational organization for Civil War widows, the New York Exchange for Women's Work, prototype of many such exchanges across the country (it survived until 2003).[57] In 1889 Mary planned a new institution on the same principle of female self-sufficiency and she advertised in The New York Times for a headmistress to run a school that would train girls in the "domestic arts." The advertisement was answered by Caroline Ruutz-Rees (1865–1954), a 25-year-old Briton teaching in New Jersey.[58]

On October 3, 1890, the New Haven Morning News reported: "The opening of Rosemary Hall took place at Wallingford yesterday ... at the beautiful Rosemary Farms, which have been the property of Mrs. Choate's family for five generations. ... Rev. Edward Everett Hale addressed the school girls in his inimitable way, at once attractive and helpful. 'Never forget,' said he, 'that it is a great art to do what you do well. If you limp, limp well, and if you dance, dance well'."

The eight arriving girls occupied the original school building, "old Atwater House" (built 1758), at the northwest corner of Christian and Elm streets, where new Atwater House now stands. They also had the use of "Atwater homestead" (built 1774, now known as Homestead), which stands at the center of the present day campus, on the northeast corner of Christian and Elm streets.

The Homestead, built 1774. A small door leads to a secret passage behind the chimney that may have been a station on the Underground Railroad.

Caroline Ruutz-Rees (pronounced "R-Treece"), headmistress of Rosemary Hall until 1938, was a figure of extraordinary personality and influence, a militant feminist and suffragist of national prominence. On the Wallingford golf course she wore bloomers, which shocked the locals, and on buggy rides to Wallingford station she carried a pistol.[59] She quickly changed Rosemary Hall's mission from "domestic arts" to that of a contemporary boys school.

The Choate School was founded by William and Mary Choate in 1896. William Gardner Choate (1830–1921), Harvard class of 1852, was U.S. District Judge for the Southern Circuit of New York from 1878 to 1881, and afterward a partner of Shipman, Barlow, Laroque, and Choate. He was a national authority on admiralty, railroad, bankruptcy, and corporation law.[60] Like his younger, more famous brother, he was a prominent clubman (Harvard and The Century). That brother was Joseph Hodges Choate, lawyer, prosecutor of the Tweed Ring, and Ambassador to the Court of St. James's.

William and Mary Choate invited Mark Pitman (1830–1905), their tenant in the aforementioned Red House, to start a boys school under their sponsorship. Pitman, Bowdoin class of 1859, was sixty-six years old, a widower, and had been principal of Woolsey School in New Haven, Connecticut, since 1872.[61] He accepted the Choates' offer, not least perhaps because it would provide employment for his unmarried adult daughters, Leila, Elizabeth, and Helen. Six boys entered the new school in fall term 1896, their average age about ten. Four of the six lived in Red House with the Pitmans, and Red House (now Squire Stanley House) has remained a dormitory to the present day.

Pitman taught Latin, English, history, and science; Elizabeth taught art, Helen piano, and Leila was writing teacher and school nurse. Mary Choate's physician brother, Dr. Huntington Atwater, taught crafts and was school doctor. There was no formal relationship with the Choates' other foundation, Rosemary Hall, a hundred yards to the east on Christian Street, but there were coeducational audiences for plays and recitals and Mary Choate hosted dances at the Homestead.

In 1897 the boys school erected Choate House across the street from Red House, the first purpose-built institutional building (and John F. Kennedy's dormitory in 1931-2). It contained recitation rooms, an infirmary, a dining room, and housing for fifteen boys. In 1899 Choate House was venue for the first "Junior Dance," but a year later the Rosemary girls would depart for a seventy-one year absence.

John Kennedy '35 writes home on school stationery to say his "studies are going pretty hard" and mentioning LeMoyne Billings '35, his roommate and lifelong closest friend

The official history of Choate Rosemary Hall, written by Tom Generous, says that the rift between Caroline Ruutz-Rees and Mary Choate, proponents of two very different sorts of feminism, was public knowledge as early as 1896. In that year the two women did not share the lectern at Prize Day, and local newspapers published "denials" of a rumor that Ruutz-Rees would leave the school.[62] But by 1900 the headmistress and her educational style had acquired influential champions among the students' parents and two of them, residents of Greenwich, Connecticut, joined forces to effect the removal of the school to their town.

Shipping magnate Nathaniel Witherell donated 5 acres (20,000 m2) of land in the Rock Ridge section of Greenwich. Julian Curtiss gathered a group of investors and established a joint stock corporation funded through the sale of six-percent bonds. Ruutz-Rees was the chief shareholder. The Greenwich residence of Rosemary Hall began in fall term 1900, when 57 girl students moved into the Main Building, known as "The School," a U-shaped shingled house on Zaccheus Mead Lane.

In Wallingford, Mark Pitman died on December 3, 1905. Until 1908 Sumner Blakemore was titular headmaster, but the school was effectively the domain of the three Pitman sisters. At the 1908 graduation ceremony the Japanese Consul General watched his countryman Noyobu Masuda give the valedictory address. Then Judge Choate introduced the man who would assume the headmastership in the fall, George St. John, and his wife, Clara Seymour St. John. She was a Bryn Mawr alumna, member of a well-connected Connecticut family, sister of future (1937–1951) Yale president Charles Seymour, and descendant of Yale president (1740–1766) Thomas Clap.

George Clair St. John (1877–1966), Harvard class of 1902, aged 31 in the fall of 1908, had grown up on a farm in Hoskins Station, Connecticut. He was an ordained Episcopal priest. He had taught at Hill School in Pennsylvania and Adirondack-Florida School, and was teaching at Hackley School in Tarrytown, N.Y., when Samuel Dutton of Columbia Teachers College recruited him for the headmastership. St. John "knew, long before I read Mr. Dutton's letter, that I wanted some day to have a school of my own. In my thought about it, Dean Briggs was my first text."[63] This was LeBaron Russell Briggs, dean of men at Harvard when St. John was there and afterward dean of the faculty until 1925. Briggs, St. John wrote, "fathered the whole college," and the St. Johns too would serve in loco parentis.

The dining hall in Hill House west wing

Their first move to secure parental powers was decisive. In September 1909, as the official history tells it, the St. Johns "signed with the Choates an 'Agreement to Lease and Purchase.' Under its terms, the younger couple rented the school, its property and reputation, for five years at a sum equal to 11 percent of The Choate School's net income per year. ... Less than twenty months later, on May 12, 1911, St. John reported to the trustees that he had purchased the title to the school by acquiring mortgages of roughly $41,000. He resold the title in turn to The Choate School, Incorporated, for $23,000 cash and $38,000 in stock ... For all intents and purposes, The Choate School belonged to George St. John."[64]

In his first quarter-century as headmaster, St. John created much of Choate as it is regarded today. Of the Georgian brick and stone campus, he had built by 1932 Hill House, West Wing, the Gymnasium, Memorial House, the Chapel, the Library, the Winter Exercise Building, and Archbold Infirmary, which was the largest school infirmary in the country. He grew the enrollment from 35 to 505 boys and the faculty from 5 to 64 masters. In the decade following the First World War (classes of 1918 to 1928) Choate sent 412 of its 618 graduates to Yale, Princeton, and Harvard, according to a table published in The Choate News in fall term 1928.[65]

George St. John belonged to the generation of legendary, long-serving headmasters who shaped the New England prep school, chief among whom were Endicott Peabody of Groton, Frank Boyden of Deerfield, Horace Dutton Taft of Taft, Frederick Sill of Kent, Samuel Drury of St. Paul's, Alfred Stearns of Andover, Lewis Perry of Exeter, and George Van Santvoord of Hotchkiss.[66]

The Rev. George St. John of Choate was succeeded in 1947 by his son, the Rev. Seymour St. John '31 (1912–2006), and the "St. John dynasty" was continued to 1973. Seymour was Yale class of 1935 and was ordained at Episcopal Theological Seminary (now Virginia Theological Seminary) in 1942. During his time as head he built as many buildings as his father had built, greatly broadened the curriculum, raised the national profile of the school, and made it more progressive (Eleanor Roosevelt, Norman Thomas, and William Sloane Coffin were regular speakers) and cosmopolitan (Russian, Near Eastern, and Afro-American studies centers were founded, and Russian, Chinese, and Arabic courses were begun). St. John was a longtime advocate of coeducation and initiated the Choate-Rosemary contacts. At his death, headmaster Edward Shanahan told the New York Times, "The merger demanded an enormous expenditure of resources by Choate because the building of a new campus was to occur within the footprints of its property. Seymour was central to the decision to expand those resources."[67]

JFK, the Muckers, and "Ask not"[edit]

In 1931 John F. Kennedy entered Choate as a third form (9th grade) student, following his older brother Joe Jr, who was a star athlete at the school. Jack Kennedy—sickly, underweight, and nicknamed Rat Face by his schoolfellows—spent his first two years at Choate in his brother's shadow, and compensated for it with rebellious behavior that attracted a coterie. Their most notorious stunt was to explode a toilet with fireworks. In the ensuing chapel assembly, headmaster George St. John brandished the fractured toilet seat and spoke of "muckers" who would "spit in our sea." The defiant Kennedy took the cue and named his group The Muckers Club, which had thirteen members—Kennedy and twelve disciples. (Among these was Kennedy's lifelong inseparable friend Kirk LeMoyne "Lem" Billings, who kept an apartment in the White House during JFK's presidency.)[68]

George St. John's chapel talks included a recurring phrase that was widely remembered by Choate alumni. In 2008, school archivist Judy Donald found the phrase in St. John's notebooks, and in 2011 journalist Chris Matthews published the discovery in his biography of JFK. St. John's phrase (borrowed from Harvard dean LeBaron Briggs) was, "The youth who loves his alma mater will always ask not 'What can she do for me?' but 'What can I do for her?'" Speculation that this was the original of JFK's inaugural address "Ask not" goes back at least as far as a 1966 Time magazine article, and several of JFK's Choate contemporaries noticed the echo in 1961.[69] Kennedy graduated from Choate in 1935. In senior class polling for the yearbook (of which he was business manager), Kennedy was voted Most Likely to Succeed.


Caresse Crosby, class of 1910, poet, publisher, and "literary godmother to the Lost Generation" – Time magazine[70] - with her husband Harry Crosby
John Dos Passos, class of 1911, author of the U.S.A. Trilogy, whom Jean-Paul Sartre in 1938 called "the greatest writer of our time"[71]
Memorial House, named for alumni who died in World War I, was completed in 1921
Paul Mellon '25, philanthropist, art collector, donor of the Yale Center for British Art, the National Gallery of Art East Wing, and several buildings at Choate
"What Caruso was to singing, Alan Lomax ['30] is to musicology. He is a key figure in 20th-century culture." – Studs Terkel[77]
Avery Dulles '36, educator and cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church
James Whitmore '40, Oscar-nominated and Tony- and Emmy-winning actor
Ali MacGraw '56, Oscar- and BAFTA-nominated, and Golden Globe-winning actress
Andrés Duany '67, architect, founder of the New Urbanism movement and winner of the Vincent Scully Prize
Caterina Fake '86, founder of Flickr and Hunch


  1. ^ Smith, Stephen G. (5/6/01). "Boarding Schools". U.S. News. Retrieved 12 July 2013.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ Taylor Smith, "History of the Association," The Phillipian (Phillips Academy), February 14, 2008
  3. ^;
  4. ^
  5. ^ Emma Zehner, "Arabic Abroad Program to be Launched in Summer 2012," The News, Oct. 7, 2011
  6. ^ Interview with Dr. Howard R. Ernst, "Ernst Recruits Prospective KEC Participants," The News, Oct. 7, 2011;
  7. ^ Eric Vo, "Construction progresses on new Choate Rosemary Hall building in Wallingford," Record Journal (Meriden, Conn.), Jan. 10, 2014; Luther Turmelle, "Choate plans to build math center," New Haven Register, Feb. 13, 2013;
  8. ^ "Choate Aces American Mathematics Contest (AMC 12)" posted March 27, 2012 on
  9. ^ Choate Rosemary Hall Bulletin, Summer 2010, p. 6, and Summer 2011, p. 6
  10. ^ "Orchestra and Chamber Chorus Tour Asia" posted June 15, 2014 on
  11. ^ Ryan Lytle, "Tablets Trump Laptops in High School Classrooms," US News and World Report, Aug. 3, 2012
  12. ^ "State of the School", Choate Rosemary Hall Bulletin, Winter 2014, p. 14; "Admissions Receives 2,000 Applications for 2013–2014 School Year," The News, Jan. 25, 2013;
  13. ^ a b;
  14. ^
  15. ^ Choate Rosemary Hall Bulletin, Winter 2014, p. 12
  16. ^ a b; Choate Rosemary Hall Bulletin, Spring 2012, p. 8
  17. ^ George St. John, Forty Years at School (New York, 1959), pp 101–31
  18. ^
  19. ^ Edward Connery Latham, ed., Robert Frost: Speaking on Campus: Excerpts from His Talks, 1949-1962 (W.W. Norton & Company, 2009), pp. xi, 47
  20. ^; William Mercer and Benjamin F. Sylvester, Choate Rosemary Hall: A Portrait of the School (Arlington, Mass., 1993)
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ Spencer Stuart, op cit, p. 4; Choate Rosemary Hall Bulletin, Summer 2010, p. 56
  25. ^, dated May 2, 2010;, dated May 3, 2009;, dated April 11, 2007
  26. ^ Grace Alford-Hamburg, "Deerfield Day, A History of Rivalry and Tradition," The News, November 11, 2011; James Chung, "Choate Day," The Deerfield Scroll, November 7, 2012
  27. ^ Tom Melville, The Tented Field: A History of Cricket in America (Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Press, 1998), p. 114
  28. ^ "Girls at the Wickets," The New York Times, Nov. 14, 1896; "Girls Play Cricket," The Morning Herald (Baltimore), Nov. 16, 1896, p. 6; "Women and Cricket," The Evening Telegram (St. John's, Newfoundland), June 27, 1898, p. 3; Melville, loc cit; Tom Generous, Choate Rosemary Hall: A History of the School (Wallingford, Conn., 1997); Venu Palaparthi, "1895 Cricket match between Mrs. Hazen's School and Rosemary Hall – A Historic First for Interscholastic Girls Sports," July 10, 2009,; Yale Medical Journal, vol. III, no. 1 (Nov. 1896), p. 46; Choate Rosemary Hall Bulletin, Spring 1964, p. 12
  29. ^ Marc Myers, "Wartime Baseball: Training at Choate," The New York Times, March 28, 1982; Joel Zoss and John Bowman, Diamonds in the Rough: The Untold History of Baseball (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004), p. 103; "Stengel Pleased With Choate," Daytona Beach Morning Journal, March 18, 1943, p. 4; Jeffrey Kurz, "When Choate was the home of the Braves," Meriden, Conn. Record-Journal, Feb. 21, 2009; Harold Kaese, The Boston Braves, 1871-1953 (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004), pp. 251-2
  30. ^ "Incendium: Senior Stress a Fading Memory," The News, April 15, 2011
  31. ^
  32. ^ Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, shelfmark 106.2109, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
  33. ^ Logan Esdale, "Contexts", in Gertrude Stein, Ida: A Novel (Yale University Press, 2012)
  34. ^ Robert Bartlett Haas, ed., How Writing Is Written (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1974); A. Walton Litz, Louis Menand, and Lawrence Rainey, eds., The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, vol. VII (Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 110-13; Gertrude Stein, Everybody's Autobiography (Random House, 1937), pp. 247-8
  35. ^ "Odd Man In" (cover story), Newsweek, Oct. 10, 1966
  36. ^ Mel Gussow, Edward Albee: A Singular Journey: A Biography (Simon and Schuster, 1999), pp. 56, 158
  37. ^ Gussow, op cit, pp. 54-61
  38. ^ Graduation years of alumni are taken from the Alumni Directory (online login), supplemented by "Notable Alumni" at, and the Choate Rosemary Hall Bulletin
  39. ^ Borges, David (June 20, 2011). "Southington native Chris Denorfia making a name for himself with Padres". New Haven Register. Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  40. ^ Choate reference treated in Peter G. Beidler, A Reader's Companion to J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, 2nd edition (Coffeetown Press, 2011), p. 168
  41. ^ Choate reference treated in Steven C. Weisenburger, A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel, 2nd edition (University of Georgia Press, 2006), p. 128
  42. ^ A Google Books search for "Choate School" registers "23,800 results"
  43. ^ Season 4, episode 13, line 107, Avery's date with Jack; extract: "Choate, then Yale, then two years in Africa with the Peace Corps"; at
  44. ^ Season 1978, episode 8; extract, "Due to my background and breeding, it was inevitable that I attend the finest schools--Choate, Harvard"; at
  45. ^ Season 3, episode 4, teleplay by Aaron Sorkin, broadcast Oct. 24, 2001, repeated Jan. 23, 2002; extract, "My father slaved away at the Fortune 500 company he inherited so that I could go to Choate, Brown, and Harvard"; at
  46. ^ Season 5, episode 7, teleplay by David Chase and Terence Winter, broadcast Apr. 18, 2004; extract, "I was at the Copa with a girlfriend. I'm wearing a new sable and we meet Lem Billings. Now, Lem is a school friend of Jack's at Choate, but of course we had no idea"; at
  47. ^ Season 1, episode 3, teleplay by Rob Thomas, broadcast Feb. 3, 1998; extract, "Where did you go to school? Choate. It's a drag, isn't it? What? Boarding school"; at
  48. ^ Grant Olcott, "Family Guy to Salinger: Choate in Pop Culture," The News, Nov. 15, 2013; season 5, episode 9, teleplay by Patrick Meighan, broadcast Jan. 28, 2007
  49. ^ Season 8, episode 16, teleplay by John Viener, broadcast Apr. 11, 2010
  50. ^ Season 9, episode 8, teleplay by Leif Sandaas, broadcast Nov. 12, 1996; script at
  51. ^ Katherine Stevens, "Rebuilding Yale: Prettier and Skinnier," Yale Daily News, Sept. 12, 2003; season 3, episode 11; extract, "Watch Choate get Joan Didion while we're being read Eloise at the Plaza"; episode script at
  52. ^ Season 1, episode 3; extract with Choate sequence at
  53. ^ Burr Steers,Igby Goes Down: The Shooting Script (Newmarket Press, 2002), p. 14
  54. ^ Robert Getchell,This Boy's Life [Screenplay] (1992), pp. 110-11; script downloadable at; extract with Choate, Deerfield, and Hill at
  55. ^ Season 3, episode 17, teleplay by Shonda Rhimes, broadcast Apr. 10, 2014; extract, "What's with the bumblebee suit? We've got a scrimmage with Choate"; at
  56. ^ Ephraim Orcutt Jameson, The Choates in America, 1643–1896 (Ipswich, Mass., 1896); Charles Henry Stanley Davis, History of Walligford, Conn. (Meriden, Conn., 1870)
  57. ^ "A Genteel Nostalgia, Going Out of Business". The New York Times. Feb 23, 2003. p. 137. 
  58. ^ Tom Generous, Choate Rosemary Hall: A History of the School (Wallingford, Conn., 1997), p. 3. Much of the matter in this section is taken from Generous.
  59. ^ "Rosemary's 50th," Time, Nov. 4, 1940, p. 137
  60. ^ "Memorial of William Gardner Choate," New York County Lawyers' Association Yearbook 1921 (New York, 1921), pp. 199–200
  61. ^ Obituary Record of the Graduates of Bowdoin College and the Medical School of Maine for the Decade Ending 1 June 1909 (Brunswick, Maine, 1911), pp. 350–1
  62. ^ Generous, op cit, p. 17
  63. ^ St. John, op cit, p. 11
  64. ^ Generous, op cit, p. 66
  65. ^ The Choate News, October 13, 1928, reproduced in Generous, op cit, p. 90
  66. ^ James McLachlan, American Boarding Schools: A Historical Study (New York, 1970), passim; Christopher F. Armstrong, "On the Making of Good Men: Character-Building in the New England Boarding Schools," in The High-Status Track: Studies of Elite Schools and Stratification, ed. P.W. Kingston and L.S. Lewis (Albany, N.Y., 1990), pp. 9–10
  67. ^ "Seymour St. John, 94, Leader of Choate School for 26 Years, Dies". New York Times. April 20, 2006. 
  68. ^ Nigel Hamilton, JFK: Reckless Youth (Random House, 1992), pp. 88-101, 119-27; Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 (Little, Brown and Co., 2003), pp. 33-9; David Pitt, Jack and Lem: John F. Kennedy and Lem Billings: The Untold Story of an Extraordinary Friendship (Da Capo Press, 2008), passim
  69. ^ Time magazine, Jan. 28, 1966; Parade magazine, Dec. 15, 1968; Thurston Clarke, Ask Not: The Inauguration of John F. Kennedy and the Speech that Changed America (Henry Holt and Co., 2004), p. 78; Chris Matthews, "The Genesis of JFK's 'Ask Not' Line," The Blog,, Jan. 20, 2011; Chris Matthews, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero (Simon and Schuster, 2011), pp. 23, 325-6, 441-2; "Document may shed light on origins of JFK speech," Associated Press, Nov. 3, 2011
  70. ^ "Milestones," Time, Feb. 9, 1970
  71. ^ Jean-Paul Sartre, "John Dos Passos and 1919," in Literary Essays, transl. Annette Michelson (New York, 1957), p. 90
  72. ^ The name Julius is from Generous, op cit, p. 29; it is Victor in St. John, op cit, p. 297
  73. ^ Much of the detail for Choate 1908–1947 comes from "Chronological Sequence," St. John, op cit, pp. 297–303
  74. ^ 280 donors is from Generous, op cit, p. 70; 435 donors according to St. John, op cit, p. 299
  75. ^ Biographical Dictionary of North American Classicists, ed. W.W. Briggs, Jr. (Westport, Conn., 1994), pp. 182–3
  76. ^ Mel Gussow, Edward Albee: A Singular Journey: A Biography (New York, 1999), pp. 60–1
  77. ^ "Alan Lomax, Who Raised Voice of Folk Music in U.S., Dies at 87". The New York Times. July 20, 2002. 
  78. ^ George St. John, Forty Years at School (New York, 1959)
  79. ^ Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Presidents Creating the Presidency: Deeds Done in Words (Chicago, 2008), p. 359
  80. ^ Choate Rosemary Hall Bulletin, Fall 2007, p. 28
  81. ^ Generous, op cit, p. 177
  82. ^ Peter S. Prescott, A World of Our Own: Notes on Life and Learning in a Boys' Preparatory School (New York, 1970)
  83. ^ Choate Rosemary Hall Bulletin, Summer 2007, page 26
  84. ^ Tom Generous and Charles T. Wilson, Choate Rosemary Hall: A History of the School (Walligford, 1997)
  85. ^ The Lawrence (Lawrenceville School), January 19, 2007, p. 1
  86. ^ "Rove Passes Up Commencement Speech at Choate After the Students Object". The New York Times. Jan 29, 2008. 
  87. ^ The Record-Journal (Meridan, Conn.), July 21 and October 17, 2009; Herbert V. Kohler, Jr., "To the Members of the Choate Rosemary Hall Community," letter dated February 1, 2010
  88. ^ Choate Rosemary Hall Bulletin, Summer 2010, p. 26
  89. ^ The News, Feb. 5, 2010
  90. ^ Edward Shanahan, "State of the School," Choate Rosemary Hall Bulletin, Spring 2010, p. 10
  91. ^ "Annual ESA Meeting Held at Choate," The News, April 29, 2011
  92. ^

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°27′28″N 72°48′35″W / 41.45766°N 72.80973°W / 41.45766; -72.80973