Friday, September 13, 2013

A Tribute to our Longest Tenured Teacher

Dick Leavitt, 1965 Milestone 

Prior to this year, the Governor’s Academy has never had an employee remain for 50 years.  That is about to change.  When young Dick Leavitt arrived on campus in the fall of 1964, he planned to teach here for only a year, and then move on to do graduate work at Harvard.  Despite these intentions, Leavitt is now the longest tenured faculty member in the over 250 year history of the academy.  In honor of that very special milestone, the Academy Archives will be dedicating a series of displays and blogs to looking at these past 50 years, and how both Mr. Leavitt and the school have changed over time.   Today’s first entry focuses on Leavitt’s first school year, 1964-1965.
The year 1964 was filled with memorable events for the US as a whole.  The Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law, the Gulf of Tonkin resolution was passed by Congress, paving the way for significant military involvement in Vietnam, and Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  Some of the new popular TV shows that year included Bewitched, Gilligan’s Island, Jeopardy, and The Addams Family.
Governor Dummer Academy was in the middle of a building boom.  The Mosely Chapel, which had been under construction throughout the previous year, had its dedication ceremony in the spring of 1964 and was now open for business for its first complete school year.  The final touches were put on the Thompson Arts Center that fall and construction of the new Eames Dormitory began.  The addition of these new buildings was only the beginning of many changes that were to come during the next decade.
1964 Pony Football Team (Mr. Leavitt on far right)
In the middle of this growth was a new young faculty member.  Coming from Amherst College with a degree in physics, Mr. Leavitt was assigned not only mathematics sections, but also the position of assistant coach to the “Pony Football” (what would be called third’s football today) team.  In fact, pony football went on to have its only undefeated season in memory during that year!  Perhaps riding on that initial athletic success, Mr. Leavitt sought to expand the athletic program by offering to coach a new rugby team in the spring of his first year, which apparently attracted about thirty boys! Likely his success was what led the academy to ask him to continue on past his initial one year commitment.  We are happy to see he far exceeded this initial short range plan and has taught more Governor Dummer alumni that any other teacher! 
As we seek to honor Mr. Leavitt during this important year, I would love to hear your stories about him. I invite anyone who has materials or stories that they would like to share to please contact me at the archives so that your memories of Dick Leavitt might be incorporated into my work.  Thanks in advance for your help.


  1. Mr. Leavitt has been the source of so many stories for several generations of students. I hope that all of you decide to share some of those stories with us.

  2. Of all the important experiences I had at the Academy it was encountering Mr. Leavitt as a very frightened new student that really transformed my life. I had always loved Math but as an incoming Junior I was assigned to his pre-Calculus course. Coming from a poor quality public high school I realized after the first couple of days that I was ill prepared for the class. I summoned my courage and went to Mr. Leavitt to say I felt I should drop back a level but told me he thought I could do it and offered to tutor me in the areas I had never studied. This set me on the career path that I still follow today. I will always remember not only his tremendous intellect and great analytical mind but the kindness he showed a shy, frightened student. Congratulations on 50 years of really making a difference in so many students lives!


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