Exploring the history behind WA


This is the current location of Westford Academy

Kayla Chavier, Features Editor

Many students and faculty at Westford Academy often encounter the same predicament; they are asked to explain the story behind the “academy” in the school’s name.  However, WA does not only have an interesting story behind the name, but also an intriguing purpose in the community and beyond.

So how did WA grow from twenty-eight boys and nine girls in 1792 into the school with over 1,600 students today?

In 1792, Zaccheus Wright, a prominent farmer, tanner, Revolutionary War colonel, and state legislator, founded Westford Academy. At the time, there weren’t many public high schools.  An academy served to provide instruction beyond basic reading, writing, and math.  WA maintains the “academy” in its name for tradition’s sake and because of the values established with the first Westford Academy. 

Academies were generally private and maintained by a board of trustees.  By the 1800s, WA gained partial support from town funds and the WA Trustees became a support organization that is still in place today.  Currently, there are fifteen active members with Joseph Lisi as the WA Trustee President and Patti Bradley, a WA graduate, as an Honorary Member.

“The mission of the WA Trustees is the management and distribution of the inherited and entrusted funds in its care for the benefit of Westford Academy and its students,” said Lisi.

A bell cast by Paul Revere, whose son attended WA, decorates the front lobby

There is an endowment fund of about $2.5 million dollars that provides about $120,000 a year for student scholarships, school gifts, and legal and business expenses.  Student scholarships range from the Abbott Award in honor of one of the original trustees to the Westford Academy Student Council scholarship.  In addition to the generous opportunities offered by a school with a rich history, there is a familiarity that brings students and faculty back to Westford Academy time and time again.

“It’s a place that is very supportive of its students and faculty. Students that return as faculty members most likely enjoyed this atmosphere and wanted to continue its legacy […] Your principal, Mr. Antonelli, was a WA student when I was principal,” said Lisi.

Along with Principal James Antonelli, many faculty have returned to Westford Academy after being students.

“WA has not changed much since I graduated. I was really eager to join our community again due to the sense of collaboration and dedication both teachers, administration and students bring to our school,” said biology teacher Stefana Albu, whose alma mater is WA.

Students have always seen something special in WA.  As English teacher alumna Rebecca Ingerslev puts it, WA is memorable because of its ability to change for the better.

The change that stands out the most to me is the diversity that we now have in our student body and even in our staff.  […]  The students of WA today also display much more tolerance and familiarity with different groups of people, especially regarding gay and transgendered people.  Big changes occurred in 25 years,” said Ingerslev.

Westford Academy has changed multiple locations over the years and has acquired much diversity, yet there are steadfast aspects that make WA unique.  The name has lasted over 200 years and an important legacy is still in place as it was back in 1792.

“Its legacy should be to continue supporting its students, to prepare them to become successful contributors to our American and world society.  We have never seen a world so complex as it is today and in need of strong leaders that will keep our country safe, strong and prosperous,” said Lisi.