Travelogue: Fifth Day - St. Paul's School, Concord, NH
Rosie, Beeotch, Dancing Queen, Peeps
A couple of the WookieeHutties were looking at schools in the Northeastern US for work and learning. Another couple of the Hutties had connections there, so it seemed logical to visit while we were in the area.
We'd been warned that the place is luxurious, which is an odd way to describe a school. But the assessment was oh so right -- the grounds were impeccably kept, the buildings are designed by famous and competent architects, the faculty to student ratio is about 5 to 1, and everything is accounted for. It's hard to describe how wealthy this school is: they have a working endowment of over $400 million, each dormitory (there are about 20, half for boys, half for girls) was recently renovated for $2 million apiece. And this is a high school!
St. Paul's was created in the mid-1800s to educate boys, roughly modeled on "naturist" ideas of teaching. This is a concept where "play" and "work" are balanced and intertwined, so lessons in the classics, for instance, might be given while sitting on the banks of a millpond.
It's one of the US's premier "prep schools" where the lofty and powerful send their children. It's firmly entrenched in the so-called "Old Boys' Network" and it's no surprise that names of captains of industry, finance and politics are listed on the dining hall walls (graduates' names are carved into panels). Sons of sons, and later daughters of sons, are apparent, the same surnames and middle names being repeated from generation to generation. It's an elite school with a hefty price tag.
But from what we saw, it's worth it. The facilities are superb, with labs and library better than many colleges, and sports and dance programs and equipment better than most universities. And with only 500 students in attendance at any given time, you know if you don't get the attention you need, it's because you're hiding from it! Faculty not only teach, but also coach sports, advise students, and even live in apartments connected to the dormitories. Many students feel that SPS, as it is commonly called, is their "home away from home"; some even prefer it to home!
The coursework is rigorous, and classes offered are very impressive, including arts, anthropological studies, higher math, travel courses, music, independent studies ... The library is Internet-accessible and furnished like the most beautiful showrooms. It rings with older money; it was designed by famous renovationist Robert Stern (now dean of architecture at Yale), and is simply the most beautiful thing you've ever seen.
Sports are likewise taken seriously: an international and nationally-rated crew team, ice hockey (St. Paul's is the place where ice hocky was first played in the US -- it had been imported from Montreal), track and field, skiing (downhill and cross-country), and a dance program that created two major performances a year, including a Christmas production of The Nutcracker. (Yes, dance is considered a sport here.)
There are two beautiful chapels -- the larger is used for "morning assembly." It's an Episcopalian school, but it's not like any such school in other regions of the country. It's more like Eton, we think. The dining hall has three dining rooms; the "upper" dining room and the big chapel are modeled on church buildings in England. We walked in and exclaimed, "Hogwart's!" It really was. One could almost picture Sir Nicholas deMimsy Porpington appearing right out of a plate of roast chicken. And very impressive to our Student Huttite, was the fact that even special requests like individually prepared omelettes for breakfast were available.
There is also a 5-observatory astronomy center equipped with photographing and CCD-equipped telescopes, located on an abandoned golf course. And a skeet range and an indoor rifle range. Yes, it boggles the mind!
We were all green with envy, wondering why our parents hadn't sent us here??? Well, like we said, it's expensive ($30K a year as of this report) ... and the application process is daunting. But like we said, definitely worth trying!
In any case, the tour is free. If you find yourself in the area, consider calling the admissions office and asking if a tour can be arranged, or just pop in and walk around. Of the 2000 acres the school owns, the core of the school is in a 1 square mile area. Respect the residents and tread lightly, and you'll see a lot!
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