Celebrating the 200th anniversary of Old Derby, Derby Academy students and faculty spent October 15-17 visiting the former school building in downtown Hingham to learn more about the founding of their school, the building, and to hear stories shared by Derby alumni.
Old Derby, which is now home to the Hingham Historical Society, originally opened its doors in 1818 as the successor to the original Derby Academy, founded in 1784 by Sarah Langley Hersey Derby as one of the very early coeducational schools in the country.
Upon arrival, students in all grade levels posed for a photo on the front steps, a nod to the tradition of prior classes at Old Derby who gathered under the school’s marque for a group photo. Classes then toured the building and spoke with alumni who shared memories of their favorite teachers, the joys of sledding down the hill in winter, and the woes of the cold, wooden floors during nap time.
Derby Academy alumna and Trustee Emeritus Jane Cheever Carr ’50, P’75,’77,’79,’82, GP’03,’05, as well as alumni Tom Bright '67, P'91, '95, Debbie Callahan '59, P'83,'85,'88 and Marion Brewer’ 67 shared stories about their time as students while attending Old Derby.
Bright recalled his time in third grade, practicing his cursive on the lined blackboard on the third floor. “There were 12 of us in the class, 6 boys and 6 girls, and all of our activities happened in this space,” he remembers. “I’ve lived in Hingham pretty much my whole life, and I’ve seen what’s happened to the building and I’ve seen its evolution. It’s important to preserve the memory of it as a schoolhouse – think of all the generations of kids from Hingham and surroundings towns who got their start in life here.”
While aspects of the School have evolved, Bright senses the spirit of the School has remained. “The setting is different, the tools the faculty have are different, but the impulses of the parents to get the very best education they can for their kids, and the School’s desire to inculcate in their student a sense of goodness – that has carried forward as a constant.”
“It was such a positive experience for me and I’m really happy to come back and talk with the students to see what they’re doing,” Callahan said, reflecting on her time at Old Derby as a student in Grades 1, 2, and 3. “Everyone knows who you are, and the teachers know you very well,” she said. “The spirit of the School, caring for one another, and building good groundwork for their future education is absolutely fantastic and very strong here.”
A scavenger hunt had students searching high and low throughout the building for items from Derby’s past, including an embroidered picture by Susan "Sukey" Wilder (1780-1857), a student at Derby School in 1796, the “Derby Academy” marque that once hung above the school building's entrance, and a "porringer" engraved with the school’s founder and benefactresses’ maiden initials.
The celebration helped commemorate an impressive milestone in the history of Derby while giving the students of today a new perspective of their school as it enters its third century of academic excellence.