The Williston Northampton School
The spirit of Williston is one of collaboration.
It is the foundational principle that helps each of us--students, faculty, and staff--make decisions that encourage students to consider others, whether it is intellectually, philosophically, or emotionally. Our educational excellence makes us exceptional. Our collaboration with the world around us makes us Williston.
History & Origins
The Williston Northampton School was founded through the vision of three exceptional leaders: Samuel Williston, Sarah Whitaker, and Dorothy Bement.
| Williston Seminary, 1865
Samuel Williston (1795-1874), one of New England's most successful industrialists, was passionate about education. After contributing to both Amherst and Mount Holyoke Colleges, he founded Williston Seminary in the thriving mill town of Easthampton.
Williston Seminary was incorporated on February 22, 1841. The cornerstone of the first building, "White Sem" was laid down on July 17, 1841 (Williston's 46th birthday). The White Sem was dedicated December 1 and opened its doors to students December 2.
In its earliest incarnation, the seminary was coeducational and featured two curricula: a classical division that would prepare students to go to university to study in law, the ministry, and similar fields; and an innovative scientific division to train students as engineers and surveyors.
Williston Seminary remained coeducational until 1864, when Williston built Easthampton's first public high school. The seminary would remain an all-male institution for more than a century. The school was renamed Williston Academy in 1924.
That same year, Sarah Whitaker and Dorothy Bement co-founded the Northampton School for Girls. The school, built on Pomeroy Terrace in Northampton, emphasized a program of academic excellence and social simplicity for young women.
| Sarah Whitaker and Dorothy Bement
By the 1930s, Williston Academy and Northampton School for Girls were holding joint dances, theater, and music events. In 1967 girls appeared in Williston classrooms for the first time in 103 years, as the schools began to share a few academic programs.
Williston Academy closed its Old Campus in 1951 and, following the construction of Memorial Dormitory and the renovation of a former textile mill (the Schoolhouse), consolidated on the former Samuel and Emily Williston estate. This is the school's present campus.
Negotiations for combining operations between Williston Academy and the Northampton School for Girls began in the late 1960s.
The merger agreement between Williston Academy and Northampton School for Girls was signed April 17, 1971. By September 1971, The Williston Northampton School opened as a fully coeducational institiution. In the ensuing decades, Williston Northampton has continued to seek excellence in its academic, athletic, and extracurricular programs.
Williston Northampton Today
The Williston Northampton School is home to 80 Middle School students (all day) and 450 Upper School students (65 percent boarding and 35 percent day). The student body represents 22 states and 24 countries and a full 16 percent of the student body identify as of color.
The beautiful 125-acre campus is located in the heart of the Five College area--home to Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The school offers a diverse and challenging curriculum, with 37 honors and Advanced Placement classes.
With a dedicated faculty of 68 full-time teachers--almost 75 percent of whom have advanced degrees in their fields--Williston provides an extraordinary range of opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom.
Williston Northampton is mindful of its dual legacy from Williston Academy and the Northampton School for Girls to educate students to pursue their passions with purpose and integrity.
For more information on school history, please visit the Archives page or contact Archivist Richard Teller '70 at (413) 529-3288.