100 years of Beaver

Photo of the Beaver campus from Hammond StreetSenior ExperienceOur CampusOutside of campus Beaver

Beaver’s Centennial spanned two years from 2020-2022. This milestone provided a springboard for Beaver to collect and reflect on the many chapters that comprise a century-long story of our school. Below is a timeline of school milestones from 1920 to today, interspersed with philanthropic milestones.



Beaver Founded & Incorporated

Beaver was incorporated as an elementary school and an all-girls’ high school in 1920 by a group of parents who were interested in progressive education and the Country Day School movement.

Eugene Smith, the “man of ideas,” had the great good fortune to be able to build a school literally from the ground up. An optimist and a realist, Smith was able to knit together the elements of his own vision of “progressive education” and to surround himself with a faculty and supportive trustees who could help him catapult the Beaver philosophy into the educational limelight of his day. He retired in 1943.


Mabel Warren Bradley becomes first Board President

Mabel Warren Bradley was one of Beaver’s founders. She drew parents together out of their shared interest in “the betterment of educational methods and conditions,” especially the educational ideals of John Dewey and the progressive movement.

Mrs. Bradley was a major player in the history of Beaver and served as the founding Board President, from 1920-1945. Bradley Hall bears her name.  


First Beaver Graduating Class

The East Wing of the building was completed and the first class graduated with five members.


Additions to the Beaver Campus

The central section of the building is completed, including Bradley Hall and the McElwain Art Studio. 


Impact of WWII

British children are evacuated from their homes because of WWII to countries all over the world. Several children lived with host families and attended Beaver.


Crosby Hodgman Becomes Head of School

A canny administrator noted for his insight into individual students, Crosby Hodgman led Beaver through decades of growth.

He enthusiastically led a faculty whose caliber and expectations of students were the highest, and Beaver’s enrollment grew significantly under his leadership.

“Let the teaching be inspired!” he proclaimed. “We have the staff and the program to make Beaver the finest example of independent school education.”

He served until 1967.


Beaver Summer Camp launches

The first session is held in June 1946.



The Green Gym

Beaver’s original “Green” Gymnasium sufficed until 1953, when a new one was constructed. The new gym was named for the Sawtell family in gratitude for the loyalty, generosity, and wisdom of Margaret and Frank Sawtell, whose dedication and service to Beaver as parents, Trustees, and Incorporators spanned 25 years.

When the new gym opened, it was adjoined by a professionally-appointed dance studio. Shortly thereafter the School acquired what became the Head’s house on Woodland Road.


Beaver Goes Global

Beaver students studied the world view, and were offered such opportunities as a day-long conference in 1953 on “Unifying the Free Nations.” The keynote speaker for this event was Eleanor Roosevelt.


A Letter from the Senior Class President

An excerpt from the 1962 yearbook:

We, the Seniors, are saying good-bye to a happiness and a growth which are ever present at Beaver. This growth has been partially directed and partially self-determined. This happiness reflects the joy of our achievements and the light of our friendships. 

—Nancy Tucker Barnes ’62, Senior Class President


Model United Nations at Beaver

Model United Nations had become a major extracurricular activity at Beaver, and sister-school & exchange relationships had been formed with schools in Kobe, Japan and Strasbourg, France. Teachers as well as students came from abroad via such programs as the American Field Service to share and learn in the Beaver community.


Donald Nickerson Becomes Head of School

The 60s were a troubled period on any school campus, and Donald Nickerson, taking the School’s reins in 1963, must have felt like the engineer on a roller coaster as students and faculty alike demanded a greater voice in school governance and curriculum. In addition, the adventure of co-education was begun in 1970. To Nickerson, controversy was a sign of vitality and integrity of mission. The School’s history, he asserted, revealed “its essential humaneness and willingness to try new ideas. Its ideals have not been static; and it’s mixed past is evidence of its willingness to adventure beyond the past’s safeties.”

Nickerson served until 1972.


Beaver Goes Co-ed

Beaver embraces co-education and male students are admitted.


Philip McCurdy (PEM) becomes Head of School

Philip McCurdy, whose nickname “PEM” often appeared under barbed cartoons in the School newspaper, joined Beaver in 1972. The tumultuous times had confused Beaver’s image in the community, where conservatives feared that “progressive” really meant “permissive.” Fortunately, Beaver was a “liberal” school; 74% of the student body felt Nixon should resign in November ’73. In all events, the School’s reputation for honoring individuality resulted in an enrollment increase under McCurdy. He was also an able financial manager and an administrator who empowered the faculty and its strong leaders to develop and oversee the academic program.

McCurdy served until 1984.


The Black Student Union Founded



Jerry Martin Becomes Head of School

Martin proclaimed Beaver a “world school.” Outreach programs drew students to Beaver from South Africa, the Navajo Nation, and, after a decade’s hiatus, Japan. Formal and informal arrangements brought students from Korea, Hong Kong, Germany, Spain, and Mexico, and in 1989 English-as-a-Second Language instruction began. The School became more aggressive in developing both its athletic program and its commitment to diversity.


Peter Hutton Becomes Head of School

Hutton charged the faculty to undertake a major curriculum review, and worked tirelessly to establish a culture of teaching and learning in a real world context, leveraging technology as a tool and establishing an entrepreneurial mindset into the fabric of the school’s culture. 

Hutton served until 2020.

Peter Hutton


Athletics at Beaver

By 1994 Beaver teams had added New England titles in Girls’ Basketball (’90) and Boys’ Basketball (’92, ’93, and ’94). Beaver athletes have graced All-Star rosters at every level, including All-American, and have represented the United States in international play in soccer, field hockey, and basketball.


Taking Performing Arts to the Next Level

Visual and Performing Arts Center opened, including a state-of-the-art Black Box theater, allowing for students to pursue technical theater and acting.


The Hiatt Center Founded

The Hiatt Center is established through a generous $1M gift. Hiatt programming connects Beaver students to the global society through mutually beneficial partnerships that deepen learning and inspire individuals to rethink their place in the world. Each summer, more than 100 students participate in summer fellowships.


NuVu Founded

Beaver becomes a founding partner with NuVu Studio in Cambridge.

In addition, in 2009, Beaver embraces a 1:1 laptop program.

NuVu Studio
Students working at NuVu Studio in Cambridge

2010s to Today


The Beaver Brand

Beaver goes through a visual rebrand, committing to sharing the school’s philosophy, vision, and programming at the national and international level, garnering a reputation beyond New England and positioning the school as a prominent voice in the educational sector.

Beaver Crest with Beaver Country Day School
Beaver Wordmark


Science Wing is Renovated

When it was opened, students were tasked with creating a 30 to 60 second promotional video that introduced the new facility and presented a new vision for science education.

See it here.


The New Basics

Beaver names the New Basics— creative problem-solving, collaboration, iteration, visual communication, empathy, tech & media literacy, and presentation skills.


An introduction to New Basics


The Future is Here Campaign Launch

From 2016-2019, Beaver conducted The Future Is Here campaign, a $25M effort that created the Research + Design Center, a centerpiece of the campus and a space that defines Beaver’s mindset.


R+D Center Opens

The three-story Research + Design Center opens its doors.

In addition, the Middle School embraces a music program where all students learn to play an instrument.

R+D Center at BVR
R+D Center Work


Kim Samson Becomes Head of School

Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, Kim Samson becomes the first female Head of School. Kim brings 35 years of experience as a science teacher, leader, and innovator in education to Beaver. As a creative thinker and strategic leader who can develop ideas and put them into action, Kim is dedicated to making school relevant and impactful for students and teachers. She is devoted to championing justice, equity, and inclusion, and serving the needs of a diverse student body. We are excited to have her at Beaver leading us into the next 100 years.


Kim Samson, Future Head of School


Happy 100th Birthday Beaver!

Beaver celebrates its 100th birthday by collecting over 100 stories from our alumni of all decades. From 2020 to 2022, the BVR100 endowment campaign secured more than $5.7M of new endowment for Tuition Assistance, Partnerships, and the Hutton Explore Fund.