History of MacDuffie

aerialFounded in 1890 by John and Abby MacDuffie, The MacDuffie School has fostered intellectual habits of mind, high ethical standards, and respect for diversity in students for more than 125 years.

The MacDuffie School is a co-educational college preparatory school for grades 6 – 12 offering a challenging academic curriculum as well as leadership opportunities and a wide range of extracurricular programs in the arts, athletics, and community service.

MacDuffie students hail from as far away as Thailand and Mainland China and as near as Amherst and Belchertown in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts. Our graduates attend some of the country’s most selective colleges and universities and continue on to successful, rewarding careers.

We invite you to learn more about A Day in the Life of the MacDuffie School.

History of The MacDuffie School

From 1890 until 1977, The MacDuffie School had two families at the helm: The MacDuffies and the Rutenbers. John and Abby MacDuffie founded The MacDuffie School in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1890 and led it until 1936, when their son Malcolm and his wife Margaret took over as Heads.

Fashioned after their respective alma maters, the School provided young women the same access to excellence in education the MacDuffies experienced at Harvard and Radcliffe by providing a rigorous college preparatory curriculum. A suffragist and believer in civil rights, Abby MacDuffie instilled a sense of curiosity about the world, equality for all, and progressive thinking in her students that remains at the School’s core today.

In 1941, at the beginning of World War II, Ralph and Cleminette Rutenber accepted leadership of the School. The Rutenbers (1941 – 1972) extended both the reputation of the School and the campus itself, acquiring the athletic field and several large homes on the south side of Central Street and Ames Hill Drive and constructing Rutenber Hall and Downing Gymnasium in 1963. Under the Rutenbers’ leadership, the School enjoyed its largest enrollments in the 1960s and 70s, reaching 360 boarding and day students from all over the U.S. and abroad, including the School’s first students of color.

Collectively, the MacDuffie and Rutenber families provided 85 years of leadership. Their legacy lies chiefly in the intellectual ideals they instilled through their exceptional vision and the faculty they nurtured. The School’s liberal arts curriculum, with its focus on writing and clear thinking as well as character development through the School’s CIRCLE values, continues to enrich students in the 21st century.

In 1990, the year of the MacDuffie Centennial, the School became coeducational. The traditional girls’ boarding program became the Ames Hill family-style program, primarily for international students who resided with house parents in the historic homes on Ames Hill. Under the tenure of Head Michael L. Cornog (1988 – 1999), the School also added a sixth grade to create a fully integrated Middle School curriculum. This curriculum remains exceptionally meaningful and appropriate to the cognitive and developmental needs of Middle School children.

In 2011, MacDuffie moved to an expansive new location in Granby, Massachusetts, offering students a much larger campus with enhanced classroom space, outstanding boarding facilities, state-of-the-art technology, and athletic fields. Read our Around the Circle blog to get a sense of life at MacDuffie and our goals and achievements as a community.

Today the School upholds the MacDuffies’ original college preparatory vision by making intellectual habits, ethics, and diversity integral to the educational experience of each student.