The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Fay Magazine: Summer 2023

Celebrating 50 Years of Co-Education at Fay

Daintry Zaterka '88
Fay marks a milestone with a morning of shared reflections and hands-on activities.
The 2022-2023 school year marked the 50th anniversary of the first female students joining Fay School. The six girls admitted to Fay for the fall of 1972 may have been part of a pilot program to evaluate the needs of female students at Fay, but the School was committed to transitioning from over a century of educating only boys to co-education. The press release announcing the decision in the spring of 1972 noted, “Since life itself is coeducational, we feel that learning must take place in a coeducational environment to be truly meaningful.” The pioneering girls who joined Fay in the early years of co-education were ready to take advantage of everything the Fay program offered and even push for greater equity where necessary.
On April 24, Fay hosted a panel of alumni and former faculty members to share their recollections and experiences of the early years of co-education. The panel comprised Sarah Mars ’78; Jill Gibbons ’80; Bobbie Crump Burbank, Fay Athletics Director from 1979 to 1983; Bill Stockwell, Dean of Students from 1971 to 1980; and former Chair of the Board of Trustees Jim Shay ’78. Moderated by Associate Head of School Beth Whitney, the panel fielded questions from students as young as first grade about what Fay was like in the ’70s and ’80s. Current students were fascinated to learn that effort grades used to be publicly posted in the Study Hall for everyone to see and that students used to receive an “allowance” based on their efforts that they could use to buy candy and soda in the afternoons at the Snack Bar. After sharing their experiences with the Upper School, panelists met with smaller groups of students to share reflections on Fay then and now. They traded stand-out Color Competition memories,
favorite Dining Room dishes (how do you describe bubblegum stew?), descriptions of boarding life, thoughts on gender and leadership at Fay, and meaningful moments with faculty members.
The anecdotes and memories shared that morning gave students a new lens through which to view Fay–a place they thought they knew well–and insight into a period of Fay’s history during which the community had to stretch and reinvent itself to accommodate change. While co-education promised no distinction between boys and girls at Fay, there were inevitable growing pains and adjustments to work through in the early years. During the panel, Bill Stockwell recounted how Fay’s early female students took a stand to change the school’s dress code. In the mid-1970s, Fay boys were allowed to wear Levi corduroys with their blazers, but if girls wanted to wear pants, they had to be cotton or wool dress pants. Feeling that this was unjust, Colleen McCaw ’77, Mindy Hohman ’77, and Kathryn Badger ’79 decided to wear Levi’s to school one day in protest. Bill called all three into his office after morning assembly in the School Room to tell them they were out of dress code. After a meeting with Headmaster Brooks Harlow, the girls were suspended for the day and sent home. However, when they returned to Fay the next morning, properly dressed, they learned that the faculty had met the night before and voted to change the dress code so that girls could now wear Levi’s just like the boys.
Similarly, in the early days of co-education, the afternoon activity for the girls was to watch whatever the boys were doing. Sara Stockwell and “Muffin” Carpenter approached the Director of Athletics and demanded a change. In the fall of 1974, they put together Fay’s first girls field hockey team. While faculty members helped advocate for equal treatment, the girls quickly commanded respect with their efforts and achievements in every aspect of community life. By the fall of 1976, Fay field hockey notched a 13-3-1 record. In 1975, Beth Anderson ’78 was the first female student to win the Scull Essay competition, and in their ninth grade year, her classmate Amy Kieger ’78 became the first female color team president. “I think the girls pushed the boys,” wrote Libby Harlow ’78, sharing her reflections on co-education at Fay. “When girls started topping some of the academics, I think it pushed the boys to work harder.”

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