Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

Buckingham Browne & Nichols School, often referred to as BB&N, is an independent co-educational day school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, educating students from pre-kindergarten (called Beginners) through twelfth grade. BB&N is regularly ranked among the top independent schools in the United States. The School has produced three of the 27 Presidential Scholars from Massachusetts since the inception of the program in 1964 and is a member of the G20 Schools group and the Round Square global education association.[3] BB&N includes six Rhodes Scholars among its graduates.

Buckingham Browne & Nichols School
80 Gerry's Landing Road


United States
TypePrivate, Independent
MottoHonestas, Litterae, Comitas
(Honor, Scholarship, and Kindness)
Religious affiliation(s)None
Founded1883 – Browne & Nichols
1889 – Buckingham School
CEEB code220475
DeanRory Morton
Head of schoolDr. Jennifer Price
Student to teacher ratio6:1[1]
Color(s)Blue & Gold
Athletics conferenceIndependent School League
RivalBelmont Hill School
NewspaperThe Vanguard, The Mouthguard
YearbookThe Perspective
Annual tuition$47,600 (grades 9-12)

The School occupies four campuses, a Lower School on Buckingham Street, a Middle School on Sparks Street, an Upper School on Gerry's Landing Road, and an office building on Belmont Street. In 2017 the school consisted of 1017 students, 146 faculty, and 148 administrators and staff.

BB&N was founded in 1974 from the merger of two schools, Browne & Nichols School and the Buckingham School. Prior to the merger, Browne & Nichols was a boys school consisting of grades 7-12; Buckingham School enrolled students in grades K-12: boys and girls in grades K-6 and girls only in grades 7-12.

Federal Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton is the former Chair of the school's Board of Trustees.

Motto and community values

The school's motto is: Honor, Scholarship, and Kindness. Amplifying on the motto is a set of Community Values, which include engagement, diversity and inclusiveness, balance between high expectations and student well-being, the student-faculty connection, high ethical expectations, promotion of risk-taking and lifelong learning, service, and a well-rounded education in academic, artistic, athletic, and other areas.


Browne & Nichols School (B&N) was founded in 1883 by George Henry Browne, a 25-year-old Harvard graduate who, having embarked on a career as a teacher of Latin and English literature, attracted the attention of his former professors Francis J. Child and Charles Eliot Norton. Seeking an alternative to the Cambridge public schools, Child and Norton recruited Browne to teach their three sons and two other boys. At the end of that year, Browne enlisted his Harvard classmate Edgar H. Nichols to join him as the co-head of a new college preparatory school, which opened in the fall with an enrollment of 17, a number that quickly expanded.

The Buckingham School was named and incorporated in 1902, but the first schoolhouse was opened in 1892, known as Miss Markham's School after its founding headmistress. Because Jeanette Markham had been conducting classes for small children in a private school since at least 1889, that is the year from which Buckingham dates its beginning.

Markham came to Cambridge from Atchison, Kansas to pursue an education at the recently founded women's college later named Radcliffe. Upon arriving in Cambridge, she found a home with Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson on Buckingham Street, to whom she is said to have become “virtually an elder daughter” (59). After she began teaching in a neighbor's home, another neighbor, Mrs. Richard H. Dana, offered to build a schoolhouse and living quarters nearby, where the school began with 12 students. That schoolhouse continues to be part of BB&N's Lower School campus to this day.

School buildings and campuses

During the year 1882-1883, before Browne & Nichols came into formal existence, founder George H. Browne taught his small group of students in two rooms in Harvard's Felton Hall. With the formation of the school in 1883, instruction took place at 11 Appian Way, with the addition of another building at 8 Garden Street. Radcliffe College, which now occupies this land, wished to expand here, and so it made an exchange with B&N, which relocated in 1897 to a new brick building at 20 Garden Street. That building was designed by Edgar Nichols's sister-in-law, Minerva Parker Nichols, and is said to be “the first important building by a woman architect.”[4] None of these buildings remains today, except for the 11 Appian Way building, relocated around the corner to 3 Garden Street and now serving as an Episcopal Church rectory.

In 1911-1913 the school was incorporated and acquired several acres of farmland near Gerry's Landing, a property dedicated as the “Nichols Athletic Field,” a name by which it is still known. In 1924 the school acquired the contiguous three acres with a gift from Mrs. Kuno Francke in memory of her son Hugo, after whom the field is still named. Francke Field was expanded to its present dimensions through an exchange of property with the Shady Hill School, which by this time had moved to its current location directly next to B&N's two athletic fields.

A 1928 plan to move B&N to the Gerry's Landing property foundered in the wake of the Great Depression, but enough money was raised to relocate the Lower School there. Finally, in 1948, a large donation allowed the rest of the school to follow, and the Garden Street campus was sold. Major additions to the new campus's structure followed: a gymnasium and locker room in 1952; the Almy Building in 1956, initially constructed to house grades 7-9; an expansion of the 1928 boathouse in 1959; the Pratt Building in 1960 for the lower school; the Bradford Building in 1962, which included an auditorium and the school's first library; and the enclosed Bright Hockey-Tennis facility in 1966, all of them now part of the Upper School campus. Multiple additional renovations and expansions have occurred over the past 50 years, most notably the Nicholas Athletic Center and Renaissance Hall.

The Buckingham School started in a wooden two-story building constructed on the site of a pear orchard at the corner of Buckingham Street and Buckingham Place and opened in 1892. That building, today known as Markham House, still stands. In 1921 the school expanded three additional grades to include college preparation and needing additional space acquired the contiguous property along Parker Street, where it built the large brick building that still occupies the site. In 1924 the school purchased four acres of land on Larch Road, near Fresh Pond, for use in physical education, which continues to serve BB&N's athletic program despite the City of Cambridge House Authority's narrowly averted attempt in 1968 to seize the land by eminent domain to build housing for the aged. In 1929 the school acquired another private home known then and ever since as Kelsey House.

Just one year after B&N made its most important expansion, the Buckingham School did the same, with the purchase of a large residence, constructed in 1859, on nearby Sparks Street. This became Buckingham's Upper School. In 1954 it was expanded with a new wing, named after former headmistress Marian Vaillant when the wing was again expanded in 1969. That same year the acquisition of property along Craigie Street provided space for the kindergarten and grades one and two in the newly constructed Morse Building.


When Peter K. Gunness, Director of Financial Aid at Harvard, was appointed to succeed Edwin Pratt, who retired after twenty years as B&N's headmaster in 1969, Buckingham headmistress Elizabeth Stowe suggested that the two schools should begin exploring cooperative opportunities beyond the joint musical and dramatic ventures that had begun during the Pratt years. For the next two years the schools collaborated on several classes on the two campuses, and the drama clubs formally merged.

During the 1971-1972 school year, fifteen classes included students from both schools, and the following year all sixty eleventh and twelfth graders at Buckingham took their classes on the B&N campus with their male counterparts. Discussions about a formal merger began early in 1973, resulting in the creation of the new coeducational school Buckingham Browne & Nichols, effective January 1, 1974. Elizabeth Stowe's retirement resulted in Peter Gunness's appointment as the first head of the new school.

The Gerry's Landing Road campus became BB&N's Upper School, the Sparks Street campus the Middle School, and the Buckingham and Craigie Streets campus the Lower School. They have remained in these locations.

A fourth campus occupies a former parochial school at 46 Belmont Street in Watertown, where BB&N's support staff, including business, human resources, alumni/ae affairs, archives, and other departments are located. In addition, a cooperative day care center, founded by faculty for their children (but also open to others), uses the bottom floor.


A distinctive feature of BB&N's Upper School is the Bivouac program, which B&N inaugurated in 1951 on privately owned land in Temple, Maine. The program's goals, as expressed from the beginning, are to “help students develop a sense of confidence in their own ability to cope with unexpected and challenging situations and to cultivate in the students an awareness of all members of a community.”

Initially reserved for eighth graders, since 1957 the program has included all ninth graders. In 1975 it moved to school property at the former Camp Marienfeld, in Harrisville, New Hampshire.

After the two schools merged, boys and girls participated in separate Bivouacs, until 1980 when they were combined. For eleven days the ninth grade, under the supervision of faculty and eleventh and twelfth grade “junior guides,” lives outdoors, organized in squads of seven or eight students, and participates in courses, team- and trust-building exercises, and elective activities such as going on an overnight solo. Students entering BB&N after ninth grade participate in a shortened version of the program.

Academic program

The Upper School's academic program includes approximately 150 courses offered each year within six departments. The World Language Department offers courses on at least four levels in six different languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, Latin, Russian, and Spanish. In 2016 seventeen different Advanced Placement courses were offered. Offerings in the Mathematics and Computer Sciences Department run from Algebra I to Linear Algebra and Multivariable Calculus. The History Department includes a global history requirement and multiple elective offerings.

Arts program

Visual Arts courses include Drawing and Painting, Ceramics, Photography, Art Across Boundaries, Film and Video, Design and Architecture, and Woodworking. Performing Art courses include Chamber Music, Chorale, Drama, a Jazz Ensemble, and a full Orchestra.

Athletics program

Athletics are offered across all three seasons in 25 different sports, most with varsity and junior varsity teams, and some with a third team. The majority of teams compete in the 16-school Independent School League, of which BB&N has been a member since the League was founded in 1948.

Spring project

After spring break in March, seniors undertake a Spring Project that they designed during the fall and winter. Most projects consist of some ongoing features, such as AP courses or athletics, along with specially designed classes, internships, community service, and numerous other options. Students may also devote their entire projects to ventures off-campus, sometimes in foreign countries.

Travel and exchange opportunities

Complementing the Upper School's language program, each of the six language offerings sponsor annual or biennial travel opportunities to China, France, Greece or Italy (Latin), the Middle East (Arabic), Russia, and Spain. The Russian trip, one of several student exchanges, began in 1988 as a way of easing Cold War tensions. In addition, AP Art History makes an annual trip to Italy, and most spring varsity sports make a spring training trip. A special financial aid program enables students who cannot afford these trips to participate.

Student publications

The Spectator, BB&N's art and literary magazine, has been in production ever since its foundation in 1906 by two students of Browne and Nichols. In 2017, the magazine was awarded with a gold medal from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.

BB&N's student publications have enjoyed a long history and won many national honors. The official student newspaper, The Vanguard, established at the time of the merger, publishes an issue nearly every month. Its predecessors stretch back to B&N's The Spectator, founded in 1906, which evolved into a literary magazine in 1959 and remains such today. In 1950 B&N students published their first annual yearbook, titled The Torch, a reference to B&N's school seal designed by renowned sculptor Cyrus E. Dallin. A yearbook has been produced every year since and is now called The Perspective. In 2007 a triannual political magazine was founded known as The Point of View. In addition, a humor newspaper called The Mouthguard and a television news program called The Knightly News are produced intermittently. For several years Middle School students have also published a newspaper known as The Spark.


Participation in sports is required at BB&N, though students can obtain waivers for extensive arts commitments or for community service. BB&N is a member of the Independent School League, and the boys' teams have a long-lasting traditional rivalry with the Belmont Hill School.


The varsity baseball team won ISL titles in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010, going undefeated with a perfect 15-0 record, 2015 and 2016 (shared).


The team has won several ISL championships for basketball. Both the girls and boys team have combined to see nine 1,000 point scorers and many players go on to play at the collegiate level.


The BB&N Fencing Team fields Épée, Sabre, and Foil squads for both men and women. Over the years, the team has had numerous individual state champions, a national Division III champion and, in 2013, 2014 and 2017, won the Massachusetts High School State Championship.


The varsity football team won the NEPSAC Class B Super Bowl in 2006, the Class A Super Bowl and ISL Title in 2008, and the 2010 Jack Etter Bowl, named for BB&N's long time athletic director. The 2016 Knights football team completed their 2016 campaign as ISL Champions and capped the season with a win in the Ken O’Keefe NEPSAC Class A Super Bowl, finishing up with a final record of 7-2. The 2018 Knights finished their season with a 8-1 record winning the ISL and the Class A Championship. 2018 marked the 15th straight season without a losing record and was the 5th bowl victory in the last 12 years.


The co-ed Golf team won their first ISL Kingman Tournament title in 2008- and then 2 more times in 2014 and 2015. In 2015 and 2016 they won the Team Stroke Play Championship (The Kingman Tournament) In 2015, for the first time in school history, the team united the ISL Championship Trophy with the Kingsman Trophy.


The name of the school's athletic teams, "the Knights," has its origins in a 1920s Boston Globe article which referred to the rowing team in particular, undefeated against the likes of Harvard, MIT and Kent School, as "the Black Knights of the Charles," itself a reference to the Army Black Knights. In addition to taking the team name, Browne & Nichols also took black and white as its colors after the article. The Buckingham School's colors, blue and gold, were made the combined school's colors after the merger. The school was the first American schoolboy crew to win the Henley Royal Regatta in Henley-on-Thames, England, winning the Thames Challenge Cup in 1929.[5][6] The Washington Post commented:

"The Thames Challenge Cup, prize of England's famous rowing tournament, was captured today by eight young thumbnail

oarsmen from the Browne and Nichols School...The American boys, after each victory, gave a fine display of school spirit and overflowing "pep" which added to their already great popularity on the river...Their success was the more impressive when it is considered that the average age of the oarsmen is younger than the average of their defeated rivals. The boys will be received by the American Ambassador at London Monday and then will begin an educational tour of England."[7]


In 2004, the boys' varsity soccer team, led by head coach Jesse Sarzana, won the New England Class A Championship. The soccer team won the first outright ISL title in school history in 2007 on their way to a Class A finals appearance. The team won their second ISL championship in 2009 but lost in the class A semi-finals.


The boys varsity tennis team won the New England Class B Tournament in 2004, the 2005 ISL Championship, and finished second in the 2007 New England Class B Tournament.[8]

Other sports

In 2004, the varsity sailing team was undefeated in the regular season. In the past four years, BB&N wrestling has had 6 league champions, 4 league runners-up, and multiple league placers, and has had multiple representatives at the national tournament and New England tournament.

Notable alumni

Browne & Nichols




  1. https://www.bbns.org/about/quick-facts
  2. https://web.archive.org/web/20081121004805/http://bbns.org/link/documents/oct08.pdf
  3. "Presidential Scholars". presidentialscholars.org. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  4. Lois Lilley Howe, The History of Garden Street, Cambridge Historical Society, 1949, page 47 http://www.cambridgehistory.org/content/history-garden-street
  5. "Columbia Beaten by English Crew ... Browne & Nichols Wins.", Special Cable to the New York Times, The New York Times, July 6, 1929. p 9.
  6. "BOSTON PREPS CAPTURE CUP IN HENLEY REGATTA.", The Chicago Daily Tribune Chicago, Ill.: Jul 7, 1929. ; p. A4
  7. THAMES BOAT FEATURE TO U.S. LADS; Brown-Nichols School Wins Challenge Cup in Upset.", The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: Jul 7, 1929. ; p. M16.
  8. http://preptennis.org/netc04.htm
  9. Robert Fiske's Biography
  10. https://web.archive.org/web/20070613172603/http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/unitarians/eliot_th.html
  11. "Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, B&N '60".
  12. https://web.archive.org/web/20070604084502/http://www.bbns.org/ac_us_language.htm
  13. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-06-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. [BOSTON BALLET ANNOUNCES NEW APPOINTMENTS. The Boston Globe. Boston, Mass.: Aug 16, 1989. p 81.]
  15. http://www.espn.com/blog/boston/high-school/post/_/id/262/player-perspective-andrew-chin

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