By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — It’s a place where prominent people walked the halls. It’s steeped in tradition and history as it moves toward a major milestone.
Pinkerton Academy turns 200 this year and planning is underway to make the year ahead full of special events, traditions, history and school spirit.
Pinkerton trustees officially signed a proclamation on Dec. 19 at the Alumni Building before students, alumni and administration.
Longtime English teacher Ann West and Headmaster Mary Anderson lead the official anniversary committee.
West has spent 55 years as part of the Pinkerton family, 53 of those teaching in the classroom and most recently continuing her work with Pinkerton Players theater students.
She said taking on the 200th birthday project is hard work, but a labor of love.
The process began in 2012.
“We had to decide what 2014 would look like,” West said.
That included getting as many administrators, staff, students, trustees and alumni involved as possible.
A full schedule of events through 2014 includes galas, special sports activities, student-run events, historical programs, and many other opportunities for the school and greater community to celebrate.
Several students attended the signing of the proclamation. Anderson told them they were witnessing history being made.
For West, having Anderson as her co-chairman is important.
“It’s because of her breadth of knowledge,” she said.
Notables who once called Pinkerton home include Robert Frost, who taught English during his time living in Derry, and Alan B. Shepard Jr., a member of the Class of 1940 and the first American in space. They are part of Pinkerton’s long list of traditions and history, West said.
Following Shepard’s famed flight in 1961, Pinkerton athletic teams became known as the Astros. A classroom where Frost once taught English still remains.
Athletic teams will wear special patches during 2014 to commemorate the anniversary. More than 5,000 patches have been created.
Alumni say attending Pinkerton was more than just going to class.
“It isn’t just a place where you go to high school,” said Class of 1973 alumnus Vickie Buckley Chase, “you grow up there.”
Chase said many of her high school friends remain close to this day. That’s also how Bob Morrison views his Academy experience.
Morrison is one of a trio of friends from the Class of 1953 still close to this day and known as Pinkerton’s “Three Amigos.”
“I hooked up with them in the third grade,” he said. “We’ve been buddies ever since.”
That relationship keeps the trio a tight unit. Morrison, Telly Wells and Wally Ramsdell don’t miss a fall football game and always sit together.
The men are all past presidents of Pinkerton’s Alumni Association and members of the school’s Hall of Fame.
Harry Burnham, president of the Board of Trustees, said he hopes Pinkerton’s future is as rich as its past.
“Let the next 200 years be as fruitful as the past 200 years,” Burnham said.
West said Pinkerton’s hope through the years has been to offer students the promise of excellence.
“On the stages, on the fields and in the classrooms, that is a common goal,” she said. “Teachers want it, students want it and trustees want it.”
West will write a book on Pinkerton to honor its 200th year. The book will include a lot of photos and will focus on the school’s last 50 years. It is due out in 2015.
For Chase, Pinkerton will always be a home.
“Pinkerton is a community,” she said. “Some people go to high school, but we went to the Academy, where we were encouraged to challenge our minds, question our beliefs and to simply grow as a family.”
A complete list of 2014 anniversary events is available at pinkertonacademy.net.