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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Teacher for the generations
From 1902 to 1968, Frank Boyden was the Headmaster of Deerfield, a private boy's school in the countryside of Massachusetts. When Boyden arrived, the school had 14 students, transportation was by foot or horse drawn wagon, and he intended to stay only long enough to get enough money. 66 years later, Deerfield was one of the leading prep schools in America, the equal to...
Published on January 8, 2002 by Sven Allenbach-Schmidt

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Insightful into Deerfield's school culture
McPhee has written a highly readable account of the impact of a single individual on one of New England's important boarding schools. This work is particularly interesting when juxtaposed against similar works on the history of Groton School, St. Paul's School, or Exeter/Andover when viewing how one person can cause an entire school culture to take root. Found most...
Published on January 19, 2003 by Courtney L. Lewis


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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Teacher for the generations, January 8, 2002
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This review is from: The Headmaster: Frank L. Boyden of Deerfield (Paperback)
From 1902 to 1968, Frank Boyden was the Headmaster of Deerfield, a private boy's school in the countryside of Massachusetts. When Boyden arrived, the school had 14 students, transportation was by foot or horse drawn wagon, and he intended to stay only long enough to get enough money. 66 years later, Deerfield was one of the leading prep schools in America, the equal to Exeter and Andover. Best of all, the school wasn't an imitation of British schools, as so many prep schools of the first half of the 20th century were. Boyden had turned Deerfield into an outstanding educational institution while keeping it uniquely American. Demanding, even a bit of a despot, Boyden shaped the school and its students into something special, a school where the students come first, then the faculty.
Only John McPhee could tell the story as it deserves. Boyden and all the other residents of Deerfield come alive under McPhee's pen. The little touches, like the Headmaster's rejuvenating midday naps, followed by letter writing and inspections tours, make it seem as if the reader is there.
I doubt you'll be able to read this book, and not wish you could have been a student under Boyden. For several generations, Deerfield under his leadership was what a school should be.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Special Person...a Special Place, July 1, 2005
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This review is from: The Headmaster: Frank L. Boyden of Deerfield (Paperback)
I read this book when it was first published in 1966. Not long afterward, I had the privilege as well as pleasure of visiting Deerfield Academy and was given a tour of it by its headmaster, Frank Boyden. At that time, I was a Master of English at Kent School (Kent, CT). I recently re-read this book and another of John McPhee's, A Sense of Where You Are. The title of the latter work correctly describes Boyden's total understanding of his relationship with a once tiny school (founded in 1797) located in what remains a rustic village. Throughout his years as headmaster (1902-1968), he knew exactly where he was as well as where exactly he wanted Deerfield to be (and remain) under his leadership. Just as Mr. Boyden gave me a tour of Deerfield Academy during my visit so many years ago, McPhee enables his reader to take a comprehensive "tour" of the unique and compelling relationship between a remarkable educator and the school community he headed for 66 years.

Of special interest to me is what McPhee reveals about Boyden's style of leadership (autocratic but compassionate) and his obsession with maintaining "proper" appearances (e.g. manicured grounds, only the very best athletic equipment, the most impressive-looking athletes first off the bus). With regard to his relationships with faculty members, "The more you cooperate with the headmaster, the more he imposes on you," according to a teacher who had been at Deerfield for 25 years. "He expects a fantastic commitment. If you give it, he expects more. If you don't give it, he carries you, but you don't exist."

As a father of four and a grandfather of seven, I also found many valuable lessons to be learned from Boyden's relationships with Deerfield's students. For example, his emphasis on courtesy in athletics. "No matter how able a Deerfield player was or how close a game had become, if he showed anger he was benched." For Boyden, athletic competition must demonstrate "a moral force." He played on Deerfield teams until he was about 35, and was head coach of football, basketball, and baseball until he was nearly 80. He loved sports. He often observed that "it's better to lose in a sportsmanlike way than to win and gloat over it." Point made, he would then add, "Now, boys, let's not let up on [the given opponent] for a minute. Let's win this one, if possible, by forty points." Frank Boyden had a sense of where he was as well as of where everyone else associated with Deerfield Academy should always be. The values to which he dedicated his life often require personal sacrifices which -- apparently -- many parents, educators, and young people today are unwilling and/or unable to make.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Insightful into Deerfield's school culture, January 19, 2003
This review is from: The Headmaster: Frank L. Boyden of Deerfield (Paperback)
McPhee has written a highly readable account of the impact of a single individual on one of New England's important boarding schools. This work is particularly interesting when juxtaposed against similar works on the history of Groton School, St. Paul's School, or Exeter/Andover when viewing how one person can cause an entire school culture to take root. Found most often in schools where strong headmasters have either founded the school or contributed a life of service, Deerfield Academy comes across in McPhee's work as the true child of Boyden whose various quirks in no way detracted from his personal mission of making a difference in boys' lives. While by no means a critical work, "Headmaster" is nevertheless an important document in understanding the history of an important boarding school.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars they don't make em like this anymore, September 25, 2001
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This review is from: The Headmaster: Frank L. Boyden of Deerfield (Paperback)
Sure, this may be more of a panegyric more than a biography, but it's inspiring. As someone who has spent years in private schools, it's great to read about a headmaster who really shaped a school -- Boyden defines headmastership: he was head of Deerfield for 64 years! Even more impressive than Mr. Boyden was his wife whom he called the smartest person on the campus. Proves the theory that behind every great man is a great woman. I hope we restructure our school administrations so that we allow for heads like this again -- too much time is spent these days on fundraising and not enough on school. Though Boyden was not an intellectual, he inspired and trained generations of boys and never lost his personal touch.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Headmaster at Deefield: a model for innovative educators, May 10, 2001
By 
Joseph J. Saggio (Peoria, Arizona United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Headmaster: Frank L. Boyden of Deerfield (Paperback)
Like many, I read a great deal but I rarely reread books. However, The Headmaster by John McPhee is one of those rare books that I have read and reread several times. Each time I gain a greater insight into one of the most innovative educators of our time: Frank Boyden. Using both humor and profound insight, McPhee paints the picture of a tenacious headmaster who was undaunted in his attempt to create one of America's finest preparatory schools. Boyden's unfailing optimism in the face of tremendous obstacles will inspire aspiring educational leaders.
As an administrator in a small college I find that much of Boyden's philosophy of education is appropriate for educators in any setting. McPhee has done a masterful job of characterizing one of the greatest and innovative educators of the 20th century. I highly recommend McPhee's book to all who are dedicated to quality education and have a great love for students.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, November 25, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Headmaster: Frank L. Boyden of Deerfield (Paperback)
Being a current Deerfield student, I can say that this book describes the Academy well. The school has changed a little from when Mr. Boyden left, but many of the traditions are still kept alive by the current students and factually. McPhee also tells about a man who brought a small country school to a prestigious prep school. It is a well written book, and is one that should be read by anyone who has interest in Deerfield or in college prep education.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book about a remarkable man!, November 7, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Headmaster: Frank L. Boyden of Deerfield (Paperback)
This book tells the story of a remarkable man and a remarkable career spanning sixty years. This book should be required reading for every current school administrator and for every student who aspires to be a school administrator.Excellent!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must, May 17, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Headmaster: Frank L. Boyden of Deerfield (Paperback)
Reading this book is a must for anyone who wants to know about Deerfield. It includes great history, and really gives a sense of the school, as well as the vision that F.L. Boyden had. As a Deerfield Student ('99) I must say that I am sort of partial to books about Deerfield, but this is a greta book, PERIOD.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Old School" is the best sense, July 2, 2009
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This review is from: The Headmaster: Frank L. Boyden of Deerfield (Paperback)
Next time someone mutters, "He's so old school...", be sure your friend knows the true model of what he speaks: Frank Boyden of Deerfield Academy. Then tell him to go find out more from an unimpeachable source: John McPhee, Deerfield Class of 1949, author of the 1966 classic, The Headmaster.

Boyden arrived in solitary Deerfield in 1902 at age 21. A fresh graduate of Amherst, he came to take over a tiny public school of 14 boys and girls. He thought he would stay a year and then go to law school. Over 60 years later, in 1966, The Headmaster, now aged 86, was still in charge. And Deerfield was thriving. His school has risen from insignificance to the lofty heights of elite boarding school prestige. He built a unique institution.

How unique? In 1924 Deerfield was near financial collapse, despite the Headmaster's all-present efforts. Knowing the intrinsic worth of Deerfield that The Headmaster had created, his colleague headmasters from rivals Exeter, Taft and Andover left their schools and went to New York to raise money from their own alumni to save Deerfield!

McPhee tells the whole story of a uniquely whole Headmaster. No detail was small enough for Boyden. He taught classes, coached sports, even as headmaster played on the sports teams. He recruited local farm boys, riding into the countryside in a horse and buggy to meet them. He worked the telephone switchboard. He kept his desk in the main hallway. He was everywhere in every way, mostly as the quiet if omni-present moral force for his boys. The school had no fancy brochures, no vast policy tomes. He ran the school intuitively. As a mentor, manager and molder of boys, The Headmaster was the master.

Now is a different time and place. Boarding schools now are more like colleges, with their vast endowments, five-star facilities, and overwrought faculties of Ph.D.'s. They are mostly wonderful institutions. But they all wish they could recreate that special essence of the intensely personal touch and soulful embrace of the likes of Frank Boyden, a titan in the pantheon of headmasters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CHARMING, SPECIAL MEN: THE AUTHOR AND THE SUBJECT, March 30, 2010
By 
Anne Salazar "inveterate reader" (Huntington Beach, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: The Headmaster: Frank L. Boyden of Deerfield (Paperback)
I loved this book. It was about a simple but brilliant headmaster and was written by a man who may call himself simple, but who is brilliant as well. Both, in my opinion, are sweet, self-fulfilled men and we should count outselves lucky to read about them.

Not that this book is about John McPhee, because it isn't inasmuch as he wrote it about Frank Boyden. But we get to know John McPhee in the writing and that's one thing that makes this book so special.

I feel like I am going to gush on and on here, so I will just say thank you to John McPhee for reminding us what school USED to be like, which was an all-incompassing and mostly loving learning experience if one happened to go to Deerfield School during the time of Headmaster Boyden. I loved every sentence of this book, most of which made me smile or brought a shock of recognition along with a tear or two. I would like to see this book fleshed out to become a full-fledged biography, especially now that I have read that John McPhee spent a year at Deerfield back when.....
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The Headmaster: Frank L. Boyden of Deerfield
The Headmaster: Frank L. Boyden of Deerfield by John McPhee (Paperback - September 1, 1992)
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