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Hotchkiss School

The Hotchkiss School is an independent, American college preparatory boarding school located in Lakeville, Connecticut. Founded in 1891, the school enrolls students in grades 9 through 12 and a small number of postgraduates. Students at Hotchkiss come from across the United States and 31 foreign countries. The current head of school is Malcolm McKenzie, former principal at Atlantic College in Wales. McKenzie is a former Rhodes Scholar, and holds a degree in linguistics from University of Oxford. Hotchkiss is part of an organization known as the Ten Schools Admissions Organization. This organization was founded in 1966 on the basis of a number of common goals and traditions. The School is a member of the G20 Schools group. Hotchkiss has one of the lowest admissions rates in the country with only 21% of students that applied being accepted—in comparison the Phillips Exeter Academy has recently admitted 25% of its applicants. In previous years the acceptance rate has dipped as low as 18%. At times, Hotchkiss is the most selective school in the country.

As of the 2005-06 school year, the school had an enrollment of 567 students and 113.8 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student-teacher ratio of 5.0.


Maria Bissell Hotchkiss founded the school in 1891 to prepare young men for Yale University. Maria originally had aspirations for the school to serve underprivileged students, and the original charter provided some scholarship for local farm-boys. Maria Hotchkiss was the widow of Benjamin B. Hotchkiss, who founded the French arms company Hotchkiss et Cie, made famous by the use of its machine guns in World War I This led to a nickname for the school, "son of a gun".

Campus and facilities

Arts facilities

2005 saw the completion of Hotchkiss' Esther Eastman Music Center. Elfers Hall seats 700 and has excellent acoustics. The school has equipped the hall with a handmade Fazioli piano. There are also many practice rooms, three class teaching rooms, and a music technology studio.

The spacious, glass-walled, 640-seat music pavilion will command panoramic views of nearby Litchfield hills and lakes. The pavilion seating—configured in the round with parterre and upper-level balconies surrounding a flat-floor orchestra—takes its design cues from Boston Symphony Hall. The pavilion’s one-inch-thick glass walls open to an outdoor terrace for community concerts during the summer. The pavilion itself will have adjustable acoustics to support a wide range of musical performances as well as a variety of other school functions. When in “routine mode,” the pavilion will be furnished with lounge chairs and serve as a unique music listening room for students.

Athletic facilities

Indoor Facilities

  • Field House - multi-purpose playing surfaces with an elevated indoor exercise track
  • Ice Hockey Rinks (two) - Dwyer Rink (Olympic), Schmidt Rink (NHL)
  • Natatorium - 10-lane pool with a separate diving well
  • Fowle Gymnasium (hardwood basketball court)
  • Wrestling/Multi-Purpose Room
  • Squash Courts (eight)
  • Ford Indoor Tennis Courts (three)
  • Chandler Fitness Center
  • Boat House (sailing)
  • Training Rooms
  • Locker Rooms and Shower FacilitiesOutdoor Facilities
  • Nine-hole golf course (designed by Seth Raynor)
  • All-weather track
  • Outdoor tennis courts (twenty)
  • Paddle tennis courts (two)
  • Field hockey, soccer, lacrosse, and softball fields
  • Climbing walls
  • Football stadium
  • Baseball stadium
  • Lake Wononscopomuc (sailing)
  • Three ponds and extensive hiking trails on a wooded campus

The athletic complex contains an Olympic-size, ten-lane pool, indoor jogging track, eight squash courts, two ice hockey rinks, a fitness center/weight room, two basketball courts, a wrestling room, three indoor tennis courts, and two paddle tennis courts.

Boarding and general facilities

Hotchkiss has twelve dormitories on campus, six for boys (Tinker, Edelman, Coy, Dana, Watson, and Van Santvoord) and six for girls (Bissell, Buehler, Flinn, Memorial, Garland, and Wieler). Rooms vary in size, from singles to the occasional triple.

The dining hall and snack bar provide food. Three meals a day are served buffet-style in the dining hall. A salad bar, deli bar, pasta bar, cereal bar, soup bar and dessert bar are provided in addition to hot entrees. Meals at the dining hall are included in the tuition. Usually the snack bar is open when the dining hall is not.


Hotchkiss currently fields 17 interscholastic sports teams and the school is a member of the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council and the Interscholastic Sailing Association. Historically strong athletic programs include the Girls Field Hockey team, the Girls Volleyball team, the Boys Hockey team, and the Boys Track and Field team.Hotchkiss Field Hockey has won 9 New England championships, including six consecutive from 2002-2007. Hotchkiss Volleyball has won 7 New England Championships including the 2007 New England Volleyball Championships. The Hotchkiss Boy's Track and Field team has been undefeated in regular season meets since at least 2005. They place in the top three at Founder's and NEPSTA Championships annually and won both titles in 2007.


Hotchkiss students run a number of clubs, including The Record, the student run newspaper; the Human Rights Initiative; WKIS Radio Station; BaHSA, the Black and Hispanic Student Alliance; the Gay/Straight Alliance; HotchkissTV; Hotchkiss Under God; The Whipping Post (Hotchkiss' satire publication); the Writing Block (a creative writing publication); the Chinese Club; Hotchkiss Republicans; Hotchkiss Democrats; the Hotchkiss Political Union; and SEA (Students for Environment Awareness). The Hotchkiss Speech and Debate Team competes at the national and international level. During Spring Break 2006, Hotchkiss hosted the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championship. The Record, Hotchkiss' school newspaper, is published on a bi-monthly basis, and the Hotchkiss Dramatic Association celebrates its centennial year this winter(2007). Clubs are student-run, though most have faculty advisors, and many of them receive a budget from the school to provide for their various needs.

Round Square

Hotchkiss is one of four U.S. schools in Round Square, a global conference of more than 50 secondary schools. Students have the option to go on an exchange for a semester to another participating school, or they may meet other Round Square students while working together on a project at a more underprivileged school. Hotchkiss has recently hosted students from Germany, South Africa, and India.

Notable alumni

Hotchkiss has a history of captains of industry in attendance, such as:

Within the fields of the arts, science, and technology, Hotchkiss alumni include:

Professional athlete alumni include Matt Herr and Torrey Mitchell, who played in the National Hockey League. Hotchkiss also has a strong literary tradition; alumni authors include Pulitzer Prize winner and Poet Laureate Archibald MacLeish and Pulitzer Prize Winner John Hersey. Hotchkiss has also produced 25 known members of the secretive Skull and Bones society at Yale University.

Hotchkiss in print

  • The school is mentioned several times in F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise and in his short story Six of One.
  • In the book Primary Colors by Joe Klein, later turned into a film, the principal character Henry Burton was educated at Hotchkiss, and is frequently referred to as 'Hotchkiss'.
  • In Jeffrey Archer's novel Sons of Fortune, protagonist Fletcher Davenport is a Hotchkiss alumnus.
  • In Tom Wolfe's novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, the son of a minor character attends the school.
  • There is a passing reference to the school in Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho.
  • The school is mentioned in Natalie Krinsky's book, Chloe Does Yale.
  • The school is mentioned in Richard Rodriguez's memoir "Brown: The Last Discovery of America."
  • In John McPhee's profile of alumnus Thomas Hoving ("A Roomful of Hovings"), Hoving is quoted as saying: "'The thought of being locked up there for weeks and weeks–I used to sweat with the horror of it. If you see your life in terms of weather, Hotchkiss was overcast and threatening. Trees were green there in my last year, because it was my last year.'"
  • In Can't Take It With You: The Art of Making and Giving Money, alumnus and supporter Lewis B. Cullman writes, "Like most New England boarding schools of the time, Hotchkiss was built around the concept of rugged, manly Christianity. Living conditions were Spartan; trips home, rare...There was a Hotchkiss way to do everything." On page 41 he wrote of "the virulent anti-Semitism of Hotchkiss back then" and added, "as with all minorities, our status made us vulnerable."
  • Hotchkiss alumnus Julian Houston, a judge in Massachusetts, wrote the novel New Boy, which recounts the story of Rob Garrett, the first African-American student at the fictional Draper School, which strongly resembles Hotchkiss. (According to a Boston Globe article (March 26, 2006) the author said of his own time at Hotchkiss, "'I was miserable there.'")
  • For the school's centenary, Ernest Kolowrat was commissioned to write Hotchkiss: A Chronicle of an American School (ISBN 1-56131-058-1).
  • Alumnus, former Librarian of Congress, and Poet Laureate Archibald MacLeish said in a 1982 interview "God, how I did not like Hotchkiss!" ("America Was Promises", American Heritage Magazine, vol. 32, issue 5)
  • In Hotchkiss in the Fifties: Myths and Realities (George Mason University's History News Network, 11/29/2004), alumnus and historian Jesse Lemisch writes of the various forms of bigotry he witnessed at Hotchkiss. A disabled student was "stigmatized and physically beaten here." He goes on to write, "...anti-semitism was deep in the history and culture of the place." He quotes alumnus Lewis Lapham (editor of Harper's' Magazine): "'Hotchkiss, like Yale, like Harvard, is about setting wealth to music' [Kolowrat, p. 546]. Basically and in reality [continues Lemisch], it seems to me that Hotchkiss greases the wheels of capitalism." Jean Olsen, the wife of a Hotchkiss headmaster, suspected that the school was "by far the most male-oriented, chauvinistic school in the country" (see Kolowrat, pp. 379-380).
  • The Hotchkiss School: A Portrait was published by the school in 1966 (authors: Wertenbaker and Basserman). The Hotchkiss headmaster George Van Santvoord, known as "The Duke" is quoted as saying "'...we took a religious census and found two Baptists, twenty-seven Jews, eight Quakers, three Mormons, and so on...a peculiar breakdown. We never bothered with any of that. Only question: are these boys going to gain from the experience and not prove too intractable?'" (Wertenbaker & Basserman, p. 113).
  • Hobson Brown, Caroline Says, and Taylor Materne (Hotchkiss graduates in the 1990s) wrote the book "The Upper Class," a novel portraying the lives of two girls at a boarding school which closely resembles Hotchkiss both in appearances and traditions.
  • The Hotchkiss School was mentioned in the episode "If It Should Happen to You" of the Best Years.
  • "The Sixth Form," a 2008 novel written by Hotchkiss graduate Tom Dolby and set at the fictional Berkley Academy in Wilton, MA, is said to be based on Hotchkiss. The novel centers around the relationship between a young man and his older female English teacher.



Information resources independent from the school itself. Links to independent school organizations and accreditation services.

External links

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