WHO (AND WHERE) WE ARE
Williston is a school shaped by its location in the Pioneer Valley, a remarkable area of education, culture, history, and nature in Western Massachusetts. From the summit of Mt. Tom to the restored buildings of Mr. Williston's mills, the environment and the school are inextricably connected.
Our location has led us to form a distinctive academic collaboration with the five colleges in our valley to enrich the educational experience of our students. We like to think that the pioneer heritage and open attitudes of this region have contributed to our student-centered ethos and diverse, down-to-earth culture. Williston offers a holistic education that integrates academics, athletics, and community life with uncommon opportunities to promote high achievement for all our students according to their individual strengths, interests, and goals.
The 125-acre Williston campus is home to a community of 80 day students in the Middle School and 450 Upper School boarding and day students from 25 states and 27 countries, together with 90 faculty members who also act as dorm parents, advisors, and coaches. The teaching faculty numbers 75, with 49 advanced degrees among them.
History & Origins
The Williston Northampton School was founded through the vision of three exceptional leaders: Samuel Williston, Sarah Whitaker, and Dorothy Bement.
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. 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 institution. In the ensuing decades, Williston Northampton has continued to seek excellence in its academic, athletic, and extracurricular programs.
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.