Mission & History
“Today our history and the values espoused by the Founders both distinguish us as a school and guide the education we provide.”
Sheila CulbertHead of School
The mission of The Loomis Chaffee School is to advance the development of students in mind, body, and spirit through rigorous academic programs, an inclusive community, and an emphasis on engaged citizenship. The school, as its Founders intended, seeks to inspire in its students a commitment to the best self and the common good.
The Loomis Institute was chartered in 1874 by five siblings who had lost all their children and selflessly determined to found a school as a gift to the children of others. Since its opening in 1914, the school has offered educational opportunities for students regardless of gender, religious or political beliefs, national origin, or financial resources. Our students welcome the challenges of Loomis Chaffee's academic program, embrace opportunities to explore and pursue individual academic, athletics, artistic, and personal interests, and thrive in a community where their peers and faculty share a commitment to the best self and the common good.
The founding of The Loomis Institute is a story of vision, generosity, and purpose springing from tragedy. Colonel James Loomis and Abigail Sherwood Chaffee, both of Windsor, married in 1805. By the early 1870s, their five remaining children — Osbert, James, John, Hezekiah, and Abigail — had experienced both the successes and the sadness of life. They had made their fortunes in the world, traveled, married, and had children, but all of the children in all five families had died before reaching the age of 21. Their grief found expression through an extraordinary act of trust and selfless generosity in the founding of a school for “all persons of the age of twelve years and upwards to twenty.” In July of 1874, freshly scribed Connecticut charter in hand, the direct descendants of Mr. Joseph Loomis could pursue in earnest their quest to commemorate and fulfill the promise of their deceased children by educating future generations. Forty years later in 1914, the school opened its doors to 39 boys and 13 girls.
Since its inception, the school has adhered to and honored its Founders’ wishes: to foster a lifelong zeal for learning through a rigorous and diverse curriculum and to instill an abiding respect for others predicated on the egalitarian notion that neither religion, sex, geographical origin, nor financial standing will preclude a student from enrolling in the school.
Our First Century
Through its first twelve years, the school educated both boys and girls, but in 1926 the girls moved to the historic Windsor center and the new campus of The Chaffee School to enable the faculty to focus on girls’ educational issues. For more than four decades, both schools enjoyed considerable success, even adhering to the Founders’ aspiration to remain tuition-free as long as the seed endowment allowed them to do so. In 1970, social and pedagogical opportunities reunited the two schools on the Island campus and a few years later to the formation of The Loomis Chaffee School. Capitalizing on the larger and coeducational student body, the school initiated significant curricular revisions by augmenting its already demanding core requirements with a broad range of electives in art, music, philosophy, religion, and physical education.
Weathering the societal tumult and economic stagnancy of the 1970s, the school realized significant growth from the mid-1980s to today, enjoying a seven-fold growth in its endowment; a similarly exponential growth in the amount of financial aid awarded each year; an expansion of the faculty, now approximately 180 in number; and a doubling of the physical plant through the addition of several new dormitories, a visual arts center, a music center, a center for theater and dance, an admission building, and an athletics center.
In the fall of 2014, Loomis Chaffee entered its second century. Today the 736-member student body, 32 percent of whom receive need-based financial aid, comprises 70 percent boarding students and 30 percent day students representing through citizenship and residency 48 countries and 33 states. To maintain its fiscal stability, the school relies upon the largess of its alumni, current parents, and other constituencies who this past year contributed more than $4.8 million to the unrestricted Annual Fund in support of the operating budget. The dedicated full-time faculty continue their forebears' legacy of setting exacting standards for students, fostering in them a willingness to prize excellence in both the processes and the products of the learning community. Our rich and challenging liberal arts curriculum, enhanced by our signature programs and centers — the Alvord Center for Global & Environmental Studies, the Norton Family Center for the Common Good, the Henry R. Kravis ’63 Center for Excellence in Teaching, the Pearse Hub for Innovation (PHI), and the Center for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion —provides unmatched opportunities for students to put learning into action and create lasting change.
Facts and figures, though, fail to capture the real spirit of this special secondary school. Like the two rivers at whose confluence the school is perched, Loomis has a dual mission: to inspire in its students a commitment to both the best self and the common good. Its excellent academic, athletics, artistic, and co-curricular programs combine to cultivate the spirit, mind, and body of each individual, firm in its attachment to the Founders' guiding principles that social equality trumps social standing, fairness conquers favoritism, academic and physical rigor invigorate and inspire, and a caring and trusting community breeds in the individual an abiding appreciation of the importance — and the means — of contributing to the needs of the community. In the wake of their personal tragedy, the Loomis Family members inspired and compelled future generations in the very best of directions. Their story continues to resonate in a remarkably contemporary, even timeless, way.
The school acknowledges that it has derived benefits from the intertwined histories of anti-Black racism and slavery. Two of the school’s Founders and several other members of the Loomis and Chaffee families enslaved at least nineteen people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Loomis Chaffee continues to undertake efforts to understand and to research the lives of these nineteen individuals beyond their status of enslavement and to provide redress for this legacy. More information can be found at Slavery and Loomis Chaffee: An Ethical History Project, a website dedicated to this ongoing work.