Lawrence Academy (Groton, Massachusetts)

Coordinates: 42°36′14″N 71°33′58″W / 42.60389°N 71.56611°W / 42.60389; -71.56611
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Lawrence Academy
26 Powderhouse Road


Coordinates42°36′14″N 71°33′58″W / 42.60389°N 71.56611°W / 42.60389; -71.56611
MottoOmnibus lucet
(Let light shine upon all)
Established1793; 231 years ago (1793)
Head of SchoolDan Scheibe
Campus typeExurban
Color(s)Red and Blue
RivalsTabor Academy, Groton School (Unofficial)

Lawrence Academy at Groton is a private, nonsectarian, co-educational college-preparatory boarding school located in Groton, Massachusetts. Founded in 1792 as Groton Academy and chartered in 1793 by Governor John Hancock, Lawrence is the tenth-oldest boarding school in the United States and the third-oldest in Massachusetts, following The Governor's Academy (1763) and Phillips Academy at Andover (1778).

Notable alumni include Harvard University president James Walker, America Online CEO Tim Armstrong, federal judge Robert H. Terrell, and the founders of the University of Kansas, Gallaudet University, and Lawrence University.


Early center of learning[edit]

On April 27, 1792, fifty residents of the towns of Groton and Pepperell formed an association to raise funds for a "Publick School ... in Groton, for the education of youth, of both sexes—in which School are taught the English, Latin and Greek Languages, Writing, Arithmetic, Geography, the Art of Speaking and Writing, with Practical Geometry, and Logic."[1][2] The founders of the new Groton Academy included prominent citizens Oliver Prescott, Zabdiel Adams, Samuel Dana, and Timothy Bigelow.[3] Samuel Lawrence also contributed funds, thus beginning the school's longstanding relationship with the Lawrence family.[4]

The academy is the third-oldest boarding school in the United States.[5] It received its corporate charter in 1793[3] and a state-funded endowment (11,520 acres of land in Maine) in 1797.[6] Its primary purpose was to educate students from the surrounding region; at the time, Groton was the second-largest town in Middlesex County and the center of the local economy.[7] Although some students came from as far away as North Carolina,[8] the school remained committed to its local base. From 1793 to 1848, thirteen families supplied one out of every six students.[9]

In the days before compulsory education, enrollment was unstable[10] and only a small portion of students attended college.[11] Schoolmasters rarely stayed for longer than two years; the first (Samuel Holyoke) stayed for less than a year.[12] Even so, Groton Academy developed a strong reputation. Between 1801 and 1870, it sent approximately fifty students to Harvard College, making it one of Harvard's top twelve feeder schools.[13] Turnover at the top meant that several notable individuals taught at Groton Academy after graduating from college, including Asahel Stearns, the co-founder of Harvard Law School,[14] and William Merchant Richardson, the future chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.[15]

Alumni in the early years included James Walker, president of Harvard University; John Prescott Bigelow, mayor of Boston; James Gordon Carter, a pioneer in tax-funded public schools; and Nehemiah Cutter, a co-founder of the American Psychiatric Association.[16] In addition, in 1879, when the academy was already a mature institution, Lawrence Academy admitted its first black graduate, Robert H. Terrell. Terrell would later become the third black graduate of Harvard, the first black honors graduate of Harvard, and the first black federal judge.[17]

Lawrence family patronage[edit]

On February 28, 1846, the Massachusetts legislature granted the Groton Academy board's request to rename the institution to Lawrence Academy at Groton in recognition of the generosity of the children of Samuel Lawrence,[18] all eight of whom had attended the academy.[19]

In 1838, brothers Amos and William Lawrence—by now wealthy Boston merchants and investors—began their lengthy patronage of the academy, when Amos contributed a gift of "books and philosophical apparatus," followed in 1839 by "a telescope and Bowditch's translation of Mécanique Céleste by Laplace," and $2,000 for enlarging the schoolhouse in 1842.[20] In 1844, William donated $10,000 to the endowment "for the advancement of education for all coming time."[20] By 1850, Amos had donated an entire library's worth of books to the academy (2,400 of its 2,650 books).[21] Over the course of their lives, Amos and William Lawrence donated nearly $65,000 in cash, scholarships, and property to the school (around $2.6 million in 2024 dollars).[20] In addition, their brothers Luther and Samuel (the younger) both served as president of the board of trustees.[22]

The Lawrences' funds also helped the academy establish close ties with prominent liberal arts schools, including Williams College, which historically catered to New England's "older provincial elite."[23] The gifts of the Lawrence brothers established twelve scholarships for Lawrence Academy graduates to attend Williams, Bowdoin College in Maine, and Wabash College in Indiana (four each).[20] Franklin Carter, president of Williams College, was the guest speaker at the academy's 90th anniversary celebration in 1883.[1]


The First Parish Church stands at the northern end of Lawrence Academy's campus, but it is not associated with the school. In 1826, its congregation split between trinitarians and Unitarians. The trinitarians kept control of Lawrence Academy and the Unitarians kept control of the church.[24]

In the middle of the nineteenth century, Lawrence Academy's future was jeopardized by religious disputes. Groton's population was divided between trinitarian Congregationalists (often Evangelicals) and Unitarians, and the Unitarians outnumbered the trinitarians.[24] At the time, Lawrence Academy's board of trustees was heavily Evangelical,[25] and board members suspected that Unitarians in town were trying to deter local students from attending the academy.[26] (Despite the academy's reliance on local students, its charter required "a majority of trustees [to] be non-residents of Groton."[27]) In the 1850s and 1880s, the town of Groton sought to make Lawrence Academy a public high school under town control, but the trustees rejected both proposals.[28] In 1860, the town opened Groton High School, providing the first secular alternative to Lawrence Academy.[29] In addition, in 1884, the now-Episcopalian Lawrence family helped establish Groton School, an Episcopal boarding school,[30] which periodically attempted to convert its neighbor to Anglicanism.[31] Enrollment bottomed out at 26 students in 1889.[32]

In 1899, Lawrence Academy reinvented itself as a traditional college-preparatory boarding school. It raised tuition to $430 (it was $200 fifteen years earlier[33]) and revised the curriculum to focus on college entrance examinations. It stopped admitting girls, and it prioritized boarding students over day students.[34] The school remained formally nonsectarian, but the new principal was the son of an Episcopal priest.[35] Anglicisms such as "Third Form" (freshmen) and "headmaster" (principal) were briefly imported, though later discarded.[36]

During this period, the academy endured a long stretch of financial difficulties and shut down twice. The academy first closed from 1869 to 1871 after its schoolhouse burned down during a Fourth of July celebration; it cost $24,000 to replace (nearly $600,000 in 2024).[37][20] It closed again from 1898 to 1899 while it converted into an all-male high school, at the expense of its first female principal, Kate Mann, hired just one year earlier.[38] Although the academy returned to financial health in the 1940s,[39] the campus burned down again in 1956.[40]

The academy resumed co-education in 1971.[41] Improved fundraising in the 1980s and 1990s, including an $8 million capital campaign,[42] significantly improved the academy's financial health.

Today, Lawrence Academy's student body is both heavily local and heavily international. 58% of students are day students.[43] A quarter of the boarding students (12%) come from abroad.[44] The academy enrolled 424 students in the 2021-22 school year, of whom 306 (72.2%) were white, 49 (11.6%) were Asian, 26 (6.1%) were black, 16 (3.8%) were Hispanic, 1 (0.2%) was Native American, 1 (0.2%) was Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and 25 (6.0%) were multiracial; the national survey in question required each student to choose only one category.[45]


Lawrence Academy's athletic teams compete in the Independent School League. The academy has educated many notable athletes.

Ice hockey[edit]



Notable alumni[edit]

Notable faculty[edit]


  1. ^ a b Sanderson, George, ed. (1893). A General Catalogue of the Trustees, Teachers, and Students of Lawrence Academy, Groton, Massachusetts, From the Time of Its Incorporation, 1793-1893. Ayer, MA: Huntley S. Turner. p. 162.
  2. ^ The Jubilee of Lawrence Academy at Groton, Standard Steam Presses, 1855.
  3. ^ a b Acts Relating to Lawrence Academy, Groton, Massachusetts. Cambridge, MA: University Press. 1894. pp. 3–5.
  4. ^ Financial History of Lawrence Academy at Groton, Massachusetts. Cambridge, MA: University Press. 1895. pp. 8, 12–20.
  5. ^ "Boarding Schools with the Oldest Founding Date (2024)". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  6. ^ "Financial History," p. 10.
  7. ^ Conklin, Edwin P. (1927). Middlesex County and Its People: A History. Lewis Historical Publishing Company. p. 512.
  8. ^ Sanderson, p. 15.
  9. ^ Frank, Douglas Alan (1992). The History of Lawrence Academy at Groton: 1792 to 1992. Groton, MA: Lawrence Academy. p. 59.
  10. ^ The student body numbered 115 in 1794, 37 in 1795, 13 in 1826, 208 in 1837, 88 in 1848, 120 in 1849, 248 in 1854, and 161 in 1858. See Frank, pp. 14, 16-17, 38, 49, 91, 99, 113.
  11. ^ Frank, p. 15.
  12. ^ Butler, Caleb (1848). History of the town of Groton, including Pepperell and Shirley, from the first grant of Groton plantation in 1655. The Library of Congress. Boston, Press of T.R. Marvin. pp. 12–13.
  13. ^ Story, Ronald (1975). "Harvard Students, the Boston Elite, and the New England Preparatory System, 1800-1876". History of Education Quarterly. 15 (3): 291–92. doi:10.2307/367846. ISSN 0018-2680.
  14. ^ Grant, Linda. "Two professors, six students, three rooms". Harvard Law School. Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  15. ^ Frank, pp. 17-18.
  16. ^ Frank, pp. 55-57, 80, 106.
  17. ^ Frank, pp. 151-54.
  18. ^ "Acts Relating to Lawrence Academy," p. 6.
  19. ^ Frank, pp. 59-60.
  20. ^ a b c d e Financial History of Lawrence Academy, John Wilson & Son, Cambridge, Mass., 1895.
  21. ^ Catalogue of the Library of Lawrence Academy, Groton, Mass. 1850, S.J. Varney, Lowell, Mass., 1850
  22. ^ Frank, pp. 401-02.
  23. ^ Story, p. 294.
  24. ^ a b Frank, pp. 37, 43-44, 89.
  25. ^ Frank, p. 144.
  26. ^ Frank, p. 128.
  27. ^ Jarvis, F. Washington (1995). Schola Illustris: The Roxbury Latin School, 1645-1995. Boston, MA: David R. Godine. p. 140.
  28. ^ Frank, pp. 89, 173-74.
  29. ^ Frank, p. 85.
  30. ^ Ashburn, Frank D. (1967). Peabody of Groton (2nd ed.). Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press. pp. 65–66.
  31. ^ Frank, pp. 198-200.
  32. ^ Frank, p. 172.
  33. ^ Frank, p. 169.
  34. ^ Frank, pp. 203-05, 208; see also id. at 222 (only two day students remained by 1913).
  35. ^ Frank, p. 201.
  36. ^ Frank, p. 212.
  37. ^ Frank, pp. 135-36.
  38. ^ Frank, pp. 197-200.
  39. ^ Frank, pp. 279-81.
  40. ^ Frank, p. 314.
  41. ^ Frank, p. 361.
  42. ^ "Our History - Lawrence Academy". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  43. ^ "Lawrence Academy (2024 Profile) - Groton, MA". Boarding School Review. March 21, 2024. Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  44. ^ "International Student Life - Lawrence Academy". Retrieved March 28, 2024.
  45. ^ "Search for Private Schools - School Detail for LAWRENCE ACADEMY". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved March 28, 2024.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]