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Academy School: Home

Written by Heather Dent

The Academy School


In 1883 a series of reforms for courses adjusting for various needs and student levels was created within Berea. These reforms resulted in an emergence of five schools supported by the college, expanding the work that had previously been mere departments. These schools – the College, Normal, Academy, Vocational, and Foundation were each set up as separate institutions each with their own dean, faculty, and buildings.

The Academy was born during President Frost’s first year of administration at Berea, during 1892. It stemmed from the Preparatory Department. Under Frost’s supervision the Preparatory Department was divided into two administrative sections; the elementary Model Schools, and the secondary Academy. The Academy maintained the high-school level courses of the old Preparatory Department. It benefited greatly from being associated with the college. Academy students had full access to the college library, and were able to take advantage of the activities provided by college including lectures, entertainment, and musical performances. Girls at the Academy were expected to wear uniforms, blue skirts and white blouses, and men were encouraged to wear modest simple clothes.

In 1905 short courses, most of them never lasting over a year, were added to the Academy as well as to the other Berea departments. President Frost believed they provided the sufficient scholarly preparation for mountain students. He felt it was enough to offer many forms of education that taught mountaineers, “How to get a living and how to live.” However, not everyone agreed with Frost. President Hutchins in particular saw the flaws in this system. Normal School graduates were having difficulties meeting certification requirements, and Berea Graduates were finding that more academic preparation was necessary for careers in agriculture, teaching, nursing, and business, as well as admissions into professional programs and graduate schools.

President Frost was the champion of Berea’s elementary and secondary school programs. The enrollment of the secondary schools was larger than that of the College throughout Frost’s administration which ended in 1920. In 1924, under the Hutchins administration, the Vocational Department was closed down, soon to be followed by the Normal Department in 1931. The Academy continued to run until 1938.


The Academy effectively served the young men and women on the mountains for many years. In 1931, Dean of the Academy, C.N. Shutt wrote a beautiful article commending the triumphs of the Academy through its years of service. In this he said,

The Academy is more than the score of classrooms and laboratories which make up this plant, and the four hundred and fifty young men and women and the twenty-three members of the faculty who use them. It is the lives of the men and women who have served it. […] It is the memories that cling to the little old buildings, which have been the abodes of knowledge and the vestibules to opportunity for thousands. It is the longing and self-sacrifice concealed behind casual words of farewell from burdened mothers and stoic fathers in countless homes. It is the spirit of fun which has leavened hours of labor and study and lightened the desperate task of making financial ends meet. It is the treasured recollection of old days, and the refreshment and joy of meeting school-day comrades in distant places. It is that thing called “Academy Spirit,” the willingness to work hard, to strive to win, to keep on striving when adverse odds are great, whether in an athletic contest, a literary society project, a difficult subject of study, or a personal struggle. These factors, and others which each student and teacher will add for himself, are the Academy.

Academy Song

You ask the Best Berea has,
What promises most she makes;
We answer, “Tis Academy
And he who Academy takes.”

Then let it ring form hall to hall
Nor let our ardor fail
To sing Academy’s praises, all,
And shout Academy’s hail.

The Academy is a beacon light,
Firm founded, full of strength;
Wherever we go here glorious light,
Guides to our journey’s length.

The Academy has the best of all,
Here dean and teachers too,
Her students – well you understand –
Because of this are true.

Then when from her we shall depart,
Our words to her shall be,
“We’ve done our best, you’ve done the rest,
Dear old Academy.”

Upper and Lower Divisions

In 1938 the Academy was completely reorganized. The tenth grade was placed in the Foundation Junior High School and the eleventh and twelfth grades were added to the College with the freshman and sophomore years creating the Lower Division of the College. The junior and senior years united to create an Upper Division. This plan for a “sub-freshman class” was put into action with the hopes that it would allow entering students, with deficiencies in language or mathematics, but otherwise ready for College, an opportunity to enter the campus community and take courses for which they were already qualified. In previous years such students would have been held back in the Academy with no chance for enrolling in the college. The Lower Division combined general education courses with cultural and vocational content while the Upper Division focused more on working within the students’ majors. The separate divisions each organized committees to examine the effects of this reorganization.

Although in theory the Upper and Lower Divisions seemed to be a good idea allowing more flexibility within the curriculum, the results were found to be unsatisfactory. Hutchins received a stream of complaints regarding the new system. This new plan had broken the four-year college stride through weighing down the social and academic relations of student and faculty life. The divisions created confining barriers between students. The four-year Lower Division in particular lacked unison and a sense of community. The eleventh and twelfth grade section consisted of high school students missing out on their high school graduation and failing to connect with their college classmates. The college freshmen and sophomores, on the other hand were ready to be immersed in the whole college experience, and were deprived the company of the juniors and seniors as well as the Upper Division faculty.

These inefficiencies remained unresolved until after World War II when the stresses and strains brought on by the war pushed Berea into making the necessary changes to the college. The college made new reforms to the curriculum and administration in 1947. Among these changes was the termination of the Upper and Lower Divisions. The secondary grades were united with the Foundation School and the four-year college program was reunited in administration, faculty, and student life.

Additional Resources

  • Peck, Elisabeth Sinclair. Berea's First Century, 1855-1955. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1955. 

  • Walters, Roy N. Historical Summary of the Foundation School, Berea College, Berea, Kentucky. Berea, Ky.: Berea College, 1974 

  • Wilson, Shannon H. Berea College: an Illustrated History. Lexington, Ky.: University of Kentucky, 2006. 

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