BYFIELD — Students, faculty, alumni, parents and friends of The Governor’s Academy got a startling wake-up call, literally, yesterday at 8:11 a.m. when a detachment of Colonial reenacters let loose with a noisy three-salvo musket barrage to mark the beginning of Founder’s Day.
The Governor’s Academy is celebrating its 250th anniversary this weekend and for an institution that is considered the oldest boarding school in the country, nothing but a throwback to its 18th century beginnings would seem appropriate for the start of the festivities.
“The story of the academy’s beginnings is also a story of public education in Massachusetts,” Headmaster Peter Quimby said in his opening remarks before more than 500.
Quimby said there were only about 18 public schools in Massachusetts in 1763 when the academy started.
“Our school went through an era of difficult times (including the Revolutionary War), but prevailed to provide valuable educational opportunities that today prepare students for their college years and in their lives thereafter,” he said.
The colorful historical presentation in front of the historic Little Red Schoolhouse in which the academy got its start kicked off a full program of student-focused events, including historical discussions, alumni retrospectives, exhibits and a post-dinner concert that featured several graduates
Numerous references were made to the school’s relationship with the town of Newbury. As part of this recognition, welcoming remarks were made by Joe Story, a member of the class of 1967 who now serves as chairman of the Newbury Board of Selectmen.
“Things have changed greatly over the years, but the school remains an important resource for students and for the community,” Story said.
Many secondary schools take pride in their pasts, but few can point to the heritage that the academy can.
On March 1, 1763, at the bequest of Gov. William Dummer, the Dummer Charity School opened to educate young men in the Byfield area. Its first class numbered 28 local boys. Today, student enrollment stands at 405, school officials say.