When a young Latin teacher named Frederick Fessenden and his wife, Emma Hart Fessenden, made plans to start a small, pre-preparatory “feeder” school for Phillips Exeter Academy in 1903, they had no way of knowing that their idea would impact the lives of thousands of young men during the century that followed. With encouragement from Dr. Harlan P. Amen, the headmaster of Exeter, they purchased a large, columned home on a hill in West Newton, Massachusetts, and, on September 23rd, opened their doors to 11 boys -- eight boarders and three day students -- becoming one of the only schools of its kind in the United States.

The Fessendens not only provided their young charges with academic instruction and athletic training, they also taught boys the basics of personal hygiene, good manners, and life skills. Their approach was innovative -- an early version of “whole child education” that proved extremely successful, and, in short order, the school added dormitories, classrooms, and playing fields to accommodate the growing numbers of students. Frederick led the school to prominence in the independent school world for 33 years, turning the reins over to his son, Hart, in 1935. The school continued to thrive under Hart Fessenden, attracting students from around the world while developing an international reputation as a top junior boarding school.

For the first 64 years of its existence, The Fessenden School was guided by these two dedicated leaders. Independent secondary schools throughout New England and the United States came to see Fessenden graduates as highly desirable candidates, well prepared for the rigorous challenges of the finest schools in the country.

The second 60 years of the school’s history have seen the continued growth of Fessenden’s reputation as a leader in the private school world. Under the stewardship of the dedicated and dynamic headmasters who followed, the school has successfully blended valued traditions with innovative programs and creative initiatives that continue to set Fessenden apart from its competitors. Graduates include statesmen, business leaders, and philanthropists such as Howard Hughes, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Governor William Scranton, and Secretary of State John Kerry. Notable alumni such as actors Christopher Lloyd and James Franciscus, writers Christopher Tilghman and George Colt, television and film writer Alec Sulkin, musician Matt Nathanson, and NBA player Alex Oriakhi have all walked the halls of Fessenden, book bags in hand, on their way to illustrious careers in their fields.

Over time, the original school in which Frederick and Emma conducted daily lessons, ate with the students, read stories before bedtime, and raised boys “along right lines” (as Frederick was known to say), has expanded to include classroom buildings, three gymnasiums, a hockey rink, administrative offices, dormitories, art studios, and a performing arts center spread across a rolling campus of 41 acres.

During its more than 100-year history, Fessenden’s success has been tethered to the conviction that boys who feel cared for will thrive and succeed. The legacy of our founders’ venture -- to educate boys in every aspect of their lives  resonates in the work of our dedicated teachers and staff, who continue to create strong personal connections with their students.

Archives Corner

Archival Photos
Enjoy these collections of photographs from the archives of teachers with twenty-five years of service to the school, class graduations back to 1904, sports teams, and more.

Celebrating Our Teachers
Enjoy these photographs of our dedicated faculty and staff through the years, including Joe Basinet, Barbara Brown, Patsy Caruso, Steve Cincotta, Peggy Colvin, Howard Cook, Robert Gibson, Bill Maynard, Anastasia McAvoy, Edward Moore, Ced Paine, and many more. 40% of our current faculty and staff have given twenty or more years of service to the school! 

Graduation Class Photos
From recent classes to the first graduating Class of 1904, here are commencement photos of our Fessenden graduates.

Along Right Lines: The Fessenden School 1903-2003
This book is the story of The Fessenden School, its first 100 years, its founding family and the foundation—the ideals, principles, traditions and adult role models—upon which the school was built and upon which more than 10,000 boys have built their lives. This is the story of the founder, Frederick James Fessenden, and all those who have made Fessenden part of their life’s work. This is the story of community, friendship, the zest for teaching and the joy of learning, the Running Boy, Labor Omnia Vincit, Honesty, Compassion and Respect, Hart House, the Schoolroom, Memorial Hall, the Fessy Bear, The Albemarle, the Red and Gray, good manners, sportsmanship, service, imagination and a celebration of community, childhood, boys growing up and all those who work, teach and inspire. This is the voice of The Fessenden School.

Enjoy these selections from Along Right Lines. If you would like to purchase the book, here is the order form.

The Fessenden School Train Club
"For almost 40 years, model trains were an important hobby for the boys at The Fessenden School," begins Chris Plumley '47 in this wonderful collection of photos and stories. Check out The Fessenden School Train Club!  

The Merit Badge
Remember the Merit Badge? A forerunner of today's Fessy Bear award, it was the brain-child of Mr. Moore "to foster good citizenship and morale within the School." Here is the 1947 Albemarle story of the Merit Badge and its first recipients.
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250 Waltham Street
West Newton, MA 02465
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