Mercersburg Academy

Mercersburg Academy
Mercersburg academy logo.png

motto = "Intergritas, Virilitas, Fidelitas (Integrity, Virility, Fidelity)" type = Private, Boarding

Mercersburg, PA, USA
Headmaster Douglas Hale
Faculty 101, 71% with Advanced Degrees
Enrollment 432 total
85% boarding
15% day
Average class size 12 students
Student to teacher ratio 5:1
Campus Rural, 300 acres (2 km²)
Color(s) Blue and White
Athletics 26 sports; 24 varsity teams, 20 junior varsity, thirds, and club teams
Mascot Blue Storm
Mercersburg Academy
Mercersburg Academy is located in Pennsylvania
Location: PA 16, Mercersburg, Pennsylvania
Coordinates: 39°49′34″N 77°53′54″W / 39.82611°N 77.89833°W / 39.82611; -77.89833Coordinates: 39°49′34″N 77°53′54″W / 39.82611°N 77.89833°W / 39.82611; -77.89833
Area: 15 acres (6.1 ha)
Built: 1836
Architect: Multiple
Architectural style: Classical Revival, Late Gothic Revival
Governing body: Private
NRHP Reference#:


Added to NRHP: June 21, 1984

Mercersburg Academy is an independent, coeducational boarding school for grades 9-12 located in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, United States. The school's mission is: "[to] prepare young men and women from diverse backgrounds for college and for life in a global community."[2]"



On March 31, 1836, the Pennsylvania General Assembly granted a charter to Marshall College to be located in Mercersburg. Dr. Frederick Augustus Rauch came from Switzerland to be the first president of the college under the sponsorship of the Reformed Church in America. Dr. Rauch served as president from 1836 until 1841. His successor in the position was John Williamson Nevin who served until 1853, when Marshall College joined with Franklin College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to become Franklin & Marshall College. At this time, the preparatory department of Marshall College became known as Marshall Academy which later changed to Marshall Collegiate Institute. In 1865, the name was again changed to Mercersburg College, under whose charter the school continues to operate. The historic tie to the church continues through Mercersburg's membership in the Council for Higher Education of the United Church of Christ.

On April 27, 1893, the Board of Regents elected Dr. William Mann Irvine, who had joined Franklin and Marshall College as an instructor after receiving his Ph.D. in Political Science from Princeton University in 1892, to become the Headmaster at the age of twenty-eight. In July, Dr. Irvine changed the name of the institution to Mercersburg Academy and began his work as the founder of the present-day preparatory school. In the fall of 1893, he opened the school with an enrollment of 40 boys, four instructors and 4 acres (16,000 m2) of ground. During Dr. Irvine's tenure, three dormitories, a dining hall, gymnasium, infirmary, administration building and the Chapel were built. A new Main Hall and Annex were built after a fire gutted Old Main in 1927.

After Dr. Irvine's death on June 11, 1928, Dr. Boyd Edwards was elected headmaster, where he remained until he retired in 1941. After his retirement, Dr. Charles S. Tippetts '12 resigned from a deanship at the University of Pittsburgh to become Headmaster, where he remained for twenty years. During this time, Irvine Hall was completed and the James Buchanan cabin was moved onto the campus. His successor was William C. Fowle who came from the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. Headmaster Fowle's tenure saw Tippetts Hall competed, Boone Hall constructed and Ford Dining Hall constructed. In 1969, Mercersburg again became a co-educational school and racial integration became a reality.

In 1972, Walter H. Burgin Jr. '53 was appointed the Academy's fifth headmaster. Mr. Burgin had been a member and the Chairman of the mathematics department from 1959–1964 and was teaching at Phillips Exeter Academy at the time of his appointment. Mr. Burgin oversaw a comprehensive reshaping of the Academy's academic facilities, the building of Lenfest Hall library and the integration of technology into community and classroom life.

Douglas Hale was appointed head of school in 1997, coming from Baylor School where he had been a teacher, assistant headmaster and headmaster since 1973. Under Mr. Hale, all dormitories have been renovated with new faculty apartments added, the entire campus has been connected electronically, and the Smoyer Tennis Center and the Davenport Squash Center were constructed. In 2005, Boone Hall was razed to begin the construction of the new Burgin Center for the Arts, which opened in the fall of 2006. The ceremony was an all-day event and a few of the important guests that attended were Benicio del Toro and Timothy P. Hartung, FAIA, Partner of Polshek Partnership Architects. The opening concert that night featured performances from world-class violinist Itzhak Perlman and the New York City Ballet.

Mercersburg Academy today

Now set on 300 acres (1.2 km2), Mercersburg is home to 432 students: 215 boys (50%), 217 girls (50%). The school has 65 9th graders; 118 10th graders; 121 11th graders; 128 12th graders. Students come from around the world, representing 34 countries and 30 states, including the District of Columbia. Mercersburg's endowment now holds more than $194 million, making it one of the highest endowment-per-student independent schools in the country. Mercersburg's endowment-per-student of $446,759 ranked it tenth among the 50 Schools Reporting the Most Voluntary Support and Endowments Per Student, 2004.[3] The school annually receives about 600 applicants for no more than 150 spots.[4]

Honor Code

Mercersburg Academy holds its students to a strict Honor Code.

"As a member of the Mercersburg Academy community, I hereby agree to honor its standards of integrity, truth, and courage. On my honor, I pledge that I will not lie, cheat, or steal. In all my endeavors, I will work toward building trust by upholding, in spirit and in letter, these community standards." [5]

Also, any paper or test submitted or handed in by a student is required to have the honor code written on it: "Upon my honor, I have neither given nor received aid with this work."

Any form of violation of the honor code may result in dismissal from the institution.

Tuition, Scholarships, Endowment, and Financial Aid

Base tuition for the 2011–2012 school year is $46,950 for boarding students and $35,150 for day students. Forty-nine percent of Academy students receive financial aid (need-based/merit). Merit scholarships are offered, including the Regents Merit Scholarship, a selective “full-ride” scholarship decided by a student’s academic promise,[6] the Legacy Scholarship, established by H. F. Lenfest, awarded to a student whose parents or grandparents are alumni of the school [7] and The Mercersburg Scholarship, awarded to a day student entering the ninth or tenth grade. The school’s current financial endowment is $185 million.[8]


Mercersburg Academy's facilities include nine student residences and three main academic buildings. In the mid-to-late 1990s, all dormitories were remodeled and outfitted with air conditioning as well as phone lines and Internet access. There are 47 classrooms and labs on campus, as well as the Class of 1938 Observatory, Irvine Memorial Chapel, McFadden Model Railroad Museum, and James Buchanan's cabin. The Nolde Gymnasium, built in 1912, has seen numerous expansions over the years and completed a renovation in 2010. The Davenport Squash Center opened in 2005. The Burgin Center for the Arts opened in 2006. Designed by the Polshek Partnership, the facility includes a 600-seat main theater as well as a 120-seat studio theatre. The entire building is 65,500 square feet (6,090 m2) and consists of three floors. Theatre Projects [9] served as the theatre consultant.


Boys Dormitories-

  • Keil Hall, boys' dormitory located above the historic Edwards Room and Rutledge Hall (home of the English Department).
  • Main Hall, boys' dormitory. The original dorm; first building as part of the school.
  • Tippetts Hall, boys' dormitory with three floors on one wing reserved for ninth graders.

Girls Dormitories -

  • Culbertson House, girls' dormitory housing 10 students.
  • Fowle Hall, girls' dormitory; home to all entering ninth-grade boarding girls and some 10th, 11th and 12th graders.
  • South Cottage, girls' dormitory and historic former Civil War-era hospital.
  • Swank Hall, girls' dormitory. Formerly a boys dorm known as the Main Annex.

(South Cottage and Culbertson House are the only dorms without elevators.)

All dormitories are air-conditioned and have voice and data ports in each room.

Other campus facilities

  • The Burgin Center for the Arts, named for former headmaster Walter Burgin, is the new fine arts building. Standing on the former site of Boone Hall, the Burgin Center provides areas for Stony Batter(the school's theatre club), Musical performance groups (concert and jazz bands, orchestra, and student bands), Visual Arts, and other activities. The yearbook (Karux) and newspaper staff also call the Burgin Center for the Arts their home.
  • The Nolde Gymnasium, which contains a large gymnasium, brand-new squash courts, and fully equipped fitness center, and a soon to be Olympic-size swimming pool, among other equpiment.
  • The Chapel, built under the supervision and planning of Dr. William Mann Irvine by the renowned architect Ralph Adams Cram of the firm Cram and Ferguson, a gothic-style church which houses a pipe organ and a traditional carillon.
  • The Lenfest Library, named for H. F. Lenfest, who also provided funding for the Burgin Center, is designed to almost mirror the Chapel. It may be noted that the front doors to both the library and the chapel line up perfectly.
  • Traylor Hall, a strictly administrative building housing admissions personnel, the Dean of Students, and the Headmaster's office.
  • Ford Hall is the dining hall for the school. Students sit down daily to enjoy a family-style meal. Downstairs in Ford is the student lounge and cafe, game room, newly renovated School Store, and the Summer Programs offices. The school will break ground for a new student center, the Simon Student Center at Ford Hall, in 2012.


Since 2000, Mercersburg has been a member of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL), which includes Blair Academy, The Hill School, Hun School of Princeton, Lawrenceville School and Peddie School. Mercersburg has produced 41 Olympians, 18 of whom were swimmers. The boys' swimming team won the 2010 Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming Championships (its fifth Easterns championship since 1989), and the baseball team has captured several PAISAA state championships (most recently in 2008). Some of the Division I colleges where Mercersburg graduates compete in varsity athletics include Air Force, Army, Bucknell, College of Charleston, Cornell, Duke, Florida State, Harvard, Lehigh, Navy, Oklahoma, Penn, Southern Cal, Syracuse, Texas A&M, West Virginia, and Yale.

The sports offered are as follows:

  • Football
  • Soccer
  • Cross Country
  • Swimming
  • Golf


  • Field Hockey
  • Volleyball
  • Soccer
  • Tennis
  • Cross Country
  • Swimming


  • Wrestling
  • Swimming
  • Squash
  • Winter Track & Field
  • Skiing
  • Basketball


  • Swimming
  • Squash
  • Winter Track & Field
  • Skiing
  • Basketball


  • Baseball
  • Lacrosse
  • Track & Field
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Swimming


  • Softball
  • Lacrosse
  • Track & Field
  • Golf
  • Swimming

Summer Programs

Mercersburg Summer is all about enrichment, encouraging personal growth, and fun. Each summer, participants ages 7–17 take part in an array of programs, ranging from the Adventure Camp series to various Enrichment, Arts, and Sports Camps. Additionally, Mercersburg Summer Programs offers a College Prep program designed specifically for walking rising 10th and 11th graders through the college process.

Adventure Camp

Adventure Camp is a co-ed and residential camp for kids ages 8–16. Adventure camp embraces variety and encourages participants to try new activities. Two weeks of camp include Enrichments, excursions in the great outdoors and adventures afar! Camp adventures include trips to Hersheypark, white water rafting and a professional sports game.

College Prep

The college search is an educational process: a journey of self-discovery full of challenges, rewards, and responsibilities. At Mercersburg, counseling works hand in hand with students and families to decide which college or university is the best match. Mercersburg College Prep is no different. It is a program designed for rising 10th and 11th graders as a way to offer that same support, same focus and the same benefits over the course of an intense week of college admission preparation.

Each student in the Mercersburg College Prep Program obtains tools to help them navigate the college admission process. From interviewing and essay writing skills to college visits and resume building, every program participant gains experience walking through and evaluating critical steps in college admission.

Enrichment and the Arts

Work with inspiring writing instructors at Young Writers Camp, stride to the stage at the school that produced Academy Award winners Jimmy Stewart ‘28 and Benicio Del Toro ‘85 in our Mercersburg Summer Theatre Workshop, and explore fundamental robotics in our robotics program.

Sports Camps

Mercersburg’s long and storied athletic tradition includes 54 Olympians, as well as many team and individual championships, and other successes. Mercersburg summer sports camps feature coaches and collegiate athletes who have achieved at the highest levels.

Athletes are grouped according to age and ability levels. Featured clinicians, coaches, and counselors rotate between groups so that every athlete has access to superior training instruction. Time after regular sessions is devoted to individual instruction for those athletes who seek the extra edge.

Summer Sport Camps offered at Mercersburg include Blue Storm Wrestling and Boys and Girls Basketball School. United Swim Clinics and Champion's Edge Field Hockey also use Mercersburg Academy as the site of their perennial summer camps.

English as a Second Language

English development and cultural immersion experiences entice students who are committed to rigorous academic effort.

This intensive and creative program is open to international students who possess a working knowledge of the English language and are able to communicate on at least basic verbal and written levels. It features comprehensive and stimulating curriculum that improve communication skills in English speaking, listening, writing and reading.

Essentials for Excellence

Essentials for Excellence(E4E) camp focuses on getting students prepared for life at Mercersburg Academy and allows for a smooth transition once class starts. E4E familiarizes students with new people and surroundings as well as hallowed school traditions and policies.

Notable alumni

Mercersburg has produced many outstanding individuals, including 48 Olympians (and nine gold medalists), seven Rhodes Scholars, several Fulbright Scholars, a Nobel Prize winner, two Academy Award winners, two Emmy Award winners, and a Golden Globe winner.

Medal of Honor recipients

Nobel Prize recipient

Olympic gold medalists

Academy Award winners

Rhodes Scholars

  • Robert N. Cunningham Jr. 1921
  • Edward F. D'Arms 1921
  • Laurence A.L. Scott 1924
  • Dudley L. Harley 1927
  • James M. Tunnell 1928
  • Robert H. Michelet 1930
  • Cresson H. Kearny 1933



  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 
  2. ^ Mission Statement, accessed June 28, 2006
  3. ^ Voluntary Support of Education (Updated), accessed September 26, 2006
  4. ^ FAQs, accessed August 10, 2007
  5. ^ Honor Code, accessed August 10, 2007
  6. ^ Regents Merit Scholarships, accessed August 10, 2007
  7. ^ Legacy Scholarships, accessed August 10, 2007
  8. ^ Mercersburg Academy - Boarding School Profile, accessed August 10, 2007
  9. ^ Theatre Projects
  10. ^ Richter, Burton, UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. Accessed July 11, 2007. "Richter's early education was at Far Rockaway High School in Queens, New York, and the Mercersburg Academy in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania."
  11. ^ Stewart Hoffman Appleby biography, United States Congress. Accessed July 11, 2007.
  12. ^ Mr. Coolidge's Week, Time (magazine), June 30, 1924
  13. ^ List of Boston Red Sox broadcasters#1940s

External links

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