The West Nottingham Academy is the oldest boarding school in the United States. It was founded in 1744 by the Presbyterian preacher Samuel Finley, who later become President of Princeton College. Today, the independent co-ed school serves both boarding and day students in grades 9-12. The tree-lined campus is located in Colora, Cecil County, Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay - an hour from both Philadelphia and Baltimore.
More recent, notable alumni include world-renowned painter, Eric Fischl and basketball player Josh Boone, a player on the University of Connecticut's 2004 Men's National Championship Team and current member of the NBA's New Jersey Nets.
Traditions of note at WNA include the Olympic Weekend and the school's Spartans vs. Athenians competition.
West Nottingham offers a college preparatory program that emphasizes critical thinking. Classes are offered in the arts, humanities, foreign languages, mathematics and sciences. The academic program also offers an English as Second-Language (ESL)program for international students (25% of WNA's students come from outside the US, including Japan, Germany, Korea, Russia and China).
West Nottingham’s early graduates include many of the most prominent colonial Americans. In 1744, an Irish Presbyterian preacher Samuel Finley was called to take charge of the newly formed congregation on the lower branch of the Octoraro Creek, a short distance south of what was soon to become the Mason-Dixon line. The congregation lived on the broad, rolling land known as the Nottingham Lots.
Finley, in later years became president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton University), was a teacher as well as a preacher. Finley held that to be an intelligent Christian one needed to use the mind God provided, and that one’s mind could reach full effectiveness only through training. The task of the church, for Finley, was to administer the sacraments and comfort the sick, to baptize the infants and consecrate marriage, to bury the dead and preach the Word of God. But the task of the church also was to teach men and women to think by exposing them to the great thoughts of the ages in order to produce rational beings capable of creative action in a new and swiftly changing world.
Finley opened the school in 1744. It was a crude log structure at the rear of his own home, located near the present site of the Rising Sun Middle School. The log building on the present campus was built as a replica of the original school building from descriptions in old records and students’ memoirs.
Within a few years, church and Academy were moved to their present location. A two-story building was erected to house the school activities at the site of what is now the sunken garden at Gayley. When it burned, a single-story building replaced it, only to be destroyed some years later by storm. In 1865 the red brick J. Paul Slaybaugh Old Academy was erected and stands to this day.
The Academy was the first of the Presbyterian preparatory boarding schools and the forerunner of some 1,600 similar academies in the country. As public education became the norm, the Presbyterian Church allowed most of its secondary schools to close or converted them to colleges. Nottingham dropped its formal ties to the church in 1972. In the last twenty years, the Chesapeake Learning Center was founded, and the school’s decades-long commitment to the education of international students was formalized with the creation of the English as a Second Language curriculum. In addition, enrollment doubled and a middle school was started.
Many new facilities were constructed, including the C. Herbert Foutz Student Center (1989), the East and West Dormitories (1998), and the Patricia A. Bathon Science Center (2003), or renovated including Magraw Hall (2000), and Finley Hall (2002). Summer 2007 saw the complete renovation of Rush Dormitory, renamed Rush House, and the construction of Durigg Plaza, an outdoor ampphitheater/meeting space for the campus community. Renovation of Rowland dormitory is scheduled for Summer, 2008.
Under the leadership of Dr. D. John Watson, Ph.D., West Nottingham focuses on the growth and definition of its programs through a process called CASCLE, an acronym for Constructing a Student Centered Learning Environment. Through CASCLE, work groups in the areas of academic curriculum, athletic and activities curriculum, and campus curriculum set goals for program improvement and develop the best pathway for their achievement.
West Nottingham Academy has not always been known for its athletic programs, due to the small student population of the school. Though the school community is small, the academy does field a variety of teams including, football, soccer, basketball, wrestling, golf, lacrosse, baseball, and others. The school's policy requires students to engage in an extracurricular activity, whether that be an athletic team or a club. A recent highlight of West Nottingham's athletic program was the men's prep basketball program. The prep basketball program enjoyed great success during its existence. Under coach Ralphael Chillious, the team was ranked nationally and had many standout players on the roster. Current NBA player, Josh Boone of the New Jersey Nets, Current George Washington University players Cheyenne Moore and Keri Gonsalves, and former Radford University player Dan Ross all played together under coach Chillious. Following the 2002-2003 school year, Chillious left West Nottingham and the prep basketball program was disbanded. In 2002, the Boys' Tennis team won the Susquehanna Independent Athletic Association Conference regular season and the Boys' Varsity Soccer team finished 3rd at the Maryland Independent Schools State Tournament losing in the semi-finals to The Heights School, a team that featured Freddy Adu. Recent athletic successes include the boy's varsity soccer team, which has won its league championship three times in the last four years. Also, the boy's varsity basketball team continues WNA's strong basketball tradition, winning the Mid-Atlantic Independent League championship twice in the past four years.