Pinkerton Academy of Derry begins celebrating 200th anniversary
DERRY — Students returning to Pinkerton Academy Monday from Christmas Break were stepping into a part of history as the school begins celebrating its 200th anniversary this month.
Plans for the celebration began back in 2012 when a call went out asking for volunteers. A proclamation signing by Pinkerton trustees happened on Dec. 19, longtime English teacher Ann West said Monday. She is co-chairing the official anniversary committee with Headmaster Mary Anderson.
A variety of events are planned throughout the year to honor the school’s pursuit of excellence over the past 200 years, said West, who first joined the Pinkerton community in the fall of 1959.
“The whole goal of this is to highlight the excellence that we believe is the basis of Pinkerton Academy,” West said. “We really want to promote the excellence, whether it’s on the stage or on the playing field or the classroom or wherever. And we want the world to realize that we think we’ve been doing it for 200 years.”
One of the biggest events will be the formal anniversary gala, scheduled for Sept. 27. A number of other events are planned throughout the year, including a 1950s tribute, a Fisher Cats game, a road race, and even some Pinkerton trivia at the start of the school day.
“Our goal from the beginning has been to involve just as many trustees, students, faculty and staff as we possibly could,” West said.
Even the patch worn by athletes has been changed to commemorate the 200th anniversary. The special patch, which has “200 years of Excellence” inscribed on it, is already being worn by winter athletes, West said.
And every student athlete will wear it this year.
“It’s not just a varsity thing,” West said. “If you sit on the bench, that’s just as important.”
Pinkerton Academy became a reality on June 15, 1814 when Gov. John T. Gilman signed documents that officially incorporated the school.
Thousands of students have since streamed through its halls, and some famous people have been part of the Pinkerton community.
Poet Robert Frost taught English at the high school for about six years in the early 1900s, West said.
“The memorable thing about Frost’s tenure at Pinkerton is that it was during that period he wrote many of his most memorable poems,” she said.
West said she was at school and remembers the day when astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr., a Pinkerton graduate, became the first American in space on May 5, 1961.
West said school was interrupted that day as the historic event was broadcast on a tiny television in a building on campus, which served as a student study hall.
“Everyone just held their breath because at that point it was the very first time, and no one knew,” West said. “When it was over, everyone very orderly just went back to their classrooms.”
The headmaster then announced school was closed for the day and a worker began ringing the school bells.
“It was just a very special moment,” she said.
Pinkerton ranks as one of the oldest high schools in the nation, said Anne Parker, director of alumni relations for the school.
West said she and Anderson have been impressed by the outpouring of support for the big anniversary.
“Ms. Anderson and I both are very pleased with the all of the enthusiasm and willingness by members of the Pinkerton community to be a part of this,” West said.