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Home on the Hilltop: Kimball Union Academy Celebrates 200 Years!

Oct 23, 2012 05:50PM ● By Erin Frisch

Kimball Union Academy

Aside from the United States of America and Harvard University, not many institutions can claim to have thrived for at least two centuries, but very soon, Kimball Union Academy will be added to that exclusive list. Located in Meriden Village, New Hampshire, KUA is a private coed boarding and day school, 316 students strong. As its bicentennial year dawns, the Kimball Union community celebrates its rich history, lively present, and promising future.

“Union Academy,” named for the union of churches, was chartered in 1813 by Daniel Kimball of Meriden. He built many of the first buildings on the Kimball Union campus by his own handiwork. The school was one of the first of its time to be coed, although it later became male-only for economic reasons, and then switched back to coed in 1974. Throughout its long history, KUA has fostered creativity and ingenuity in its students, who went on to become governors, members of congress, CEOs of businesses, and even Olympic athletes.

This year, the Bicentennial Steering Committee is working hard to see that current students understand and appreciate KUA’s past. Kathy Munro, chair of the committee, lauds the virtues of exposing the community to the history that the school is built upon, sharing information about the school at every opportunity. “For the students, we start with the history that surrounds (them),” she says. Every student uses facilities named for important members of the KUA community, facilities like Pope Field, Baxter Hall, the Barrette Campus Center, and Coffin Library. Throughout the year, the Bicentennial Committee will provide the stories behind these names, deepening the gratitude that the members of KUA have for those individuals. But history is not found solely in textbooks; perhaps the most exciting history is that which is being made today on The Hilltop.

Students from all over the world flock to Kimball Union. With a student body that is 25 percent international, the student population represents 21 countries and 20 US states. The stories of future alumni are just as diverse as those of past ones. As Kathy Munro says of current students, “Their stories about why they come and how they come are as interesting as what was happening fifty years and a hundred years ago.” In its 200th year, the celebrations at KUA aim to connect these current students with the history that affects them today.

Although school is just a few weeks in, the celebration has already begun. The year kicked off with Kimball Union’s first-ever convocation ceremony, another tradition that was recently forged for the academy’s posterity. Soon after followed a fascinating presentation by Philip Zea, ’70, president of Historic Deerfield, and Steve Taylor, former NH Commissioner of Agriculture and longtime Meriden resident, outlining Meriden, New Hampshire’s identity as the town that “bore” Kimball Union. On October 5th during KUA’s annual Family Weekend, “On the Hilltop,” a documentary of KUA’s presence in the context of American history, narrated by renowned writer and producer Dayton Duncan, debuted. The year will culminate with the Bicentennial Gala and the annual alumni reunion. But this won’t be just any high school reunion. Where most reunions feature only classes of significant anniversaries, this reunion welcomes all KUA alumni for a grand, weekend-long celebration. Alumni of all ages will return to campus to see old friends and revel in the transformations that the school has undergone in recent years.

So here’s to the Academy, past, present, and future. Happy Birthday, Kimball Union!

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