Our history is filled with rich traditions and diversity.
The Montverde Industrial School was created to educate children from families of limited means, and provide them with training for “the heart, head, and hand.” The school opened on September 23, 1912, in a two-room wooden building and a church, with two teachers and a small amount of equipment. The early years of the school were marked by fast growth and hard work. Dormitories were constructed on the campus, along with a broom factory and a canning factory. Students were expected to help earn their keep by working in various capacities on the campus.
To learn more about the Academy’s rich and dynamic past, expand each decade below.
MVA originated from much humbler circumstances in 1912 with the Montverde Industrial School. The MIS was created from the foresight of Boyle County, Kentucky, resident Dr. Henry P. Carpenter. Dr. Carpenter wanted to establish a Christian-based industrial school that gave people from poorer circumstances an opportunity to nurture both their physical and mental capacities and where both boys and girls could develop their “head and heart…sound bodies and good minds.” After relocating to Florida, Dr. Carpenter became enamored with a piece of land in the Green Mountain area of Central Florida – a “virgin village” called Montverde located around the regions of Lakes Apopka and Lake Florence – where he reportedly paid $10.50 in taxes for ten plots of land surrounding the campus. Dr. Carpenter’s mission, as stated in the 1914-15 Montverde Industrial School catalog, was to create an institution for learning “launched in the interest of the worthy poor of our country for the purpose of sending out Christian men and women with a thorough education combining mental, moral and industrial training. The institution believes that the best way to help the youth of our country is to help them help themselves.“
The Great War (World War 1) had concluded by 1918. But the war’s impact on U.S. economy was substantially devastating for many Americans nationwide. Montverde Industrial School continued to remain focused and optimistic – learning to cultivate nearby lands as a means of food and economic survival. Through the early 1920’s, the Montverde Industrial School cannery – located on campus grounds – helped MIS sustain its food levels as the school curriculum continued to emphasize educational techniques connected to farming and agribusiness. Nonetheless, students were expected to study science, math, literature and world history in accordance with their labor in nearby farming fields. MIS archives show that a passing grade of 70 percent was required by all students and students who attained a 90% average grade throughout the year were exempt from their final exams.
Extra-curricular activities were also part of the MIS experience. The Athenian and Philomathean Societies, both of Greek origin (Athenian in reference to Athenian democracy, and Philomathean from Philos meaning “love of”), were prominent campus literary societies that allowed students to compete against each other in both athletic and humanities competitions – in track and field events and by performing works of music, literature, theatre, poetry readings, and literary plays for the honored privilege of hanging their society “pennant”/banner on school grounds as a symbol of campus supremacy.
In 1922, the “industrial” was dropped from the school’s name and it officially became known as The Montverde School. During this period, the word “industrial” possessed negative connotations and the Montverde School wanted to establish itself as a tolerant academic institution instead of a reform school. In 1923, the Montverde School sold its steam cannery operation to the town of Montverde, Florida. The cannery was the only commercial canning enterprise in the region of Montverde, Florida, and would continue to employ citizens of Montverde, Florida, area farmers, and students who worked at the cannery storing surplus crops and meats.
In 1925, INTERLACHEN was the name assigned to the first yearbook that contained nearly one hundred pages of narrative, photographs, and offered a candid glimpse of life as a MVS student. Also in this year, the Christian Endeavor Chapel opened. Originally known as the Carrie F. Conrad Chapel (in honor of the chapel’s benefactor), Conrad insisted the name “Karl Lehmann” be added to the chapel’s name in respect of Mr. Lehmann who conceptualized the original idea for a chapel on campus.
MVS athletic programming of the early 1920’s consisted of track and field, basketball, football, and soccer teams. The soccer team’s first match was against Orange County’s Winter Garden High School on October 9, 1924. Montverde won the match 5-1, and finished its inaugural soccer season with a record of 5-4-1. The Montverde School football team came into existence in 1926 under Head Coach G.R. Carpenter and was named the “Crackers.” The team had 35 players initially that eventually increased to 43 in its inaugural season. The team’s first year record was 4-3-1. In following years, the team maintained a winning tradition with a series of successful seasons. However, by decade’s end the MVS football team dissolved as a sports program.
By the end of the 1920’s, enrollment numbers were reported to be nearly 350 students as a result of the Montverde School adding boarding students. According to the Lake County Newspaper, Dr. Carpenter and The Montverde School Board of Directors made an important announcement in 1929: Montverde School would no longer be accepting students from the public school system in Lake County, Florida, and would begin operating strictly as a private preparatory school.
Montverde School began the decade of the 1930’s operating as a fully accredited private school and discontinuing the use of “Industrial” from its school’s name. The United States began to encounter the worldwide economic devastation of the “Great Depression” and this economic downturn of epic proportions contributed to an enrollment decline at Montverde School. Nonetheless, throughout the decade progress occurred on many levels at Montverde School that included the formation of the AA (Athletic Association) – whose main mission was to offer guidance and support for the financial needs and emotional well-being of the Montverde School’s six athletic teams.
According to the 1930 yearbook, the “Auto-Mechanics Club” also came into existence with 15 male members. The principal objective of this organization was to teach young men the instruction necessary to repair and maintain automobiles. In turn, male students would gain valuable technical skills that would contribute to career possibilities after high-school. Women students continued working in various home-economic and agricultural positions on campus as they also participated in drama clubs, musical study, and literary societies.
In 1935, the Montverde School senior class dedicated a memorial tower to the Montverde School. The class’s intention was to have the newly named Memorial Tower rest along the side of Lake County Road route 455 that led through campus. The seven foot tower was made of stone and concrete with a square marker in the center displaying the school’s name “The Montverde School”.
Throughout the 1930’s, athletic programs also flourished. Montverde School’s basketball team developed into a skilled and consistent winning unit. In 1935, the team finished their winning season with a 10 wins and 2 losses record with impressive wins over Mount Dora, Eustis, and rival Umatilla. However, the football and soccer programs were terminated at the Montverde School in the 1930’s.
According to the 1935 yearbook, many seniors expressed their ambitions in a section called “Senior Prophecies” where some students stated a desire to own businesses while others yearned to become nurses or travel to foreign countries. By the end of the 1930’s, Montverde School students were granted acceptances into any college in the South without having to take entrance examinations.
As the challenging decade of the 1930’s came to a close, a spirit of optimism was alive and well as the school entered into yet another phase of further turbulence and war in the America of the 1940’s and the advent of World War Two.
Throughout the 1940’s, the United States became embedded in World War Two as it simultaneously tried to recover from the Great Depression of the prior decade. The long-standing Montverde School tradition of promoting the “body, mind, and heart” for the development of well-balanced students continued to prevail even as the MVS transferred leadership four different times and athletic competition became more of a secondary focus to that of advancing school academics. In 1944, school founder Dr. H.P. Carpenter became ill and at the start of the 1945 school year stepped down as President. Neal Smith, a 1922 graduate of The Montverde School, took over leadership responsibilities as MVS Interim President. Smith served for only one year (1945-46). Dr. Carpenter eventually recovered and returned to the school to serve one more year as president (1946-47) before retiring in 1947 after having served 33 years as the Montverde School’s President. Throughout his tenure, Dr. Carpenter had been known as an extremely caring man adept at anticipating cultural instabilities occurring throughout the Nation who diligently worked to implement programming that emphasized innovation, practicality, and optimism. After his resignation, he and his wife, who served as MVSD Lady Principal, moved to nearby Orlando, Florida, for the remainder of their lives. Karl Lehmann took over as President of the Montverde School in 1947. Lehmann served for three years before retiring in 1950.
In the 1940’s, the Montverde School, along with the rest of the U.S.A., had witnessed the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the creation of “new deal” politics and death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the beginning of the Truman Presidency, and the culmination of World War Two. Even as the school endured another tragic world war and troubling post-depression years, Montverde School focused much time and energy on expanding its faculty and classes to reflect contemporary American cultural standards. The Montverde School was also developing into a predominant Florida academic institution. According to a 1947 local newspaper Montverde Breeze, The Montverde School reportedly possessed the “largest and best trained faculty” in the region. Courses were created and taught by teachers hired to specialize in public speaking, commercial subjects and vocal training. By the late 1940’s, attendance was expanding and potential student interest growing from outside the Florida area. Students from 56 Florida towns, 12 American states (including North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan and Maryland), and 3 foreign countries (that included British Guiana and Dominican Republic) attended the Montverde School.
During this decade many infrastructural changes took place on campus. “Five thousand dollars” worth of work and maintenance was completed on campus throughout the summer of 1947. The McKenzie Open Air Recitation Building was re-built to include an expansion to the atrium. The science lab was removed from the second floor of this building and relocated to a larger room on another floor. New showers were installed at Arnold Hall and a new heating unit put in Carpenter Hall. In 1941, The Montverde School’s Boys Basketball team compiled a record of 4-0 with wins over local rivals Groveland (36-15) and Ocoee (8-5).
In 1944, for reasons linked possibly to funding, the Montverde School prohibited outside athletic competition. Instead, girls and boys basketball and baseball teams formed two teams each that competed against each other throughout the year on campus. In 1948, the school returned to outside athletic competitions and, under the direction of Coach Otis McQuaig, both the boys and girls basketball teams were re-established. The baseball team also re-formed in 1949. In this year, The Montverde School Girls’ Basketball team recorded its 1st victory with a 44-42 win over local rival Clermont. The boy’s MVS basketball team was victorious over local rival Clermont 33-24.
Among the many exciting things to occur on campus in the late 1940’s was a campus visit from then U.S. Senator Claude Pepper of Florida in 1948. The Senator’s visit helped increase the school’s outside visibility as he publicly expressed his delight at the groundwork completed throughout Montverde campus and complimented students for their accomplishments academically as well as in woodshops, labor and farming. In the months after the Senator’s visit, a group was formed known as “Old and New Friends of the Montverde School.” The alliance contributed $25,000, an extraordinary amount of money for that era, to establish future support from alumni and friends of the Montverde School. In 1949, Montverde School’s campus apiary was created as a school facility that provided an exorbitant amount of honey to both school and community retailers by employing the use and function of the numerous beehives that existed throughout the MVS campus. Hundreds of gallons of honey jars were filled and distributed to the Montverde School and established commercial-area ventures. In light of the success of the school’s apiary, which had opened in the latter part of the 1930’s, the school’s luncheon and soda counter was eventually named “The Beehive.”
In the decade of the 1950’s, home construction and manufacturing was intensifying throughout the United States in an economic-response to U.S. involvement in the Korean War and the beginnings of what historically has been referred to as “The Cold War” with the former Soviet Union. Montverde School was making its own adjustments too. In 1950, Dr. D.P. Hawkins was appointed as the school’s fourth president. Dr. Hawkins came from a literary background and held three separate degrees in literature and arrived to campus after previously serving as a Professor of English, and Head of the Department of Journalism at Shurtleff College in Alton, Illinois. Founded in 1827, Shurtleff College was one of the oldest Baptist colleges in America until 1957 when it terminated its function as an academic institution to become part of the Southern Illinois University system.
Also in 1950, Montverde School formed a first-ever “Montverde School Fire Squad.” The fire-fighters, comprised of six students all from Upper-school, actively helped in responding to fire-related emergencies that occurred on-campus and throughout Montverde, Florida. The members served as a fire prevention squad worked in collaboration with the Montverde Fire Department equipped with a fire truck, one hose, a few ladders and a water pump. The squad, along with the school’s student body, practiced fire drills and educated the Montverde School community on safety awareness regularly by having monthly mock fire-drills both day and night.
During the early part of the 1950’s, further extra-curricular activities, clubs, and organizations were formed on campus. Inspired by contemporary, post-war WW2 academic trends, the Montverde School President’s Council was formed to serve in an advisory capacity to President Hawkins. The MSPC conferred to address important campus academic issues, administrative policies. and student concerns. In a gesture of student-inclusion, each class president was included in the Council’s membership. By the start of 1952, Montverde School underwent another sudden change of leadership. Dr. Grover Ford took the reigns as president in a year that witnessed thirteen seniors graduate. According to the 1953 Montverde School Announcements Book, students below the junior high school level, including K-5th grade, were admitted to attend classes for the first time. During the mid-1950’s, tuition was approximately $550 for an eighteen-week semester.
Home Economics courses were very popular in this era and incorporated into the curriculum to become more specialized with a focus on deep-fry cooking techniques and meats preparation. The school’s farming industries began growing more diverse vegetables such as kidney beans, peas, and green beans. Agriculturally, the 1950’s Montverde School campus thrived and refinements were conducted to improve the irrigation systems on campus – upgrades costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. The goal of these restorations was to allow increased water flow/access from the farthest points of campus and nearer to the shoreline of Lake Florence that would in turn increase the watering treatments of supplementary crops encompassing the school’s nearly 130-acres.
In the late 1950’s, the Montverde School’s campus-culture began to reflect social changes occurring throughout America. For example, male students between ages of 14-19 were allowed to smoke cigarettes on campus provided they presented written permission from their parents. Female students were not allowed to smoke, but were extended many of the same student freedoms/school privileges male students experienced. Nonetheless, long-standing rules prohibited the use of alcoholic beverages (or other forms of tobacco products) on campus from either gender. Montverde School ended the 1950’s focused on improving its infrastructure. Structural plans were devised for the creation of the first male-only dorm on campus that, upon construction’s completion, would be named “Carpenter Hall” in honor of H.P. Carpenter – the first President and Headmaster of the Montverde Industrial School.
The decade of the 1960’s was dominated by the American involvement in the Vietnam War and conflicts arising internationally between economic systems of capitalism versus communism. These events followed the 1960 election of U.S. President John F. Kennedy who provided new visions and inspiration for American citizens by encouraging them to become more involved with public service and to volunteer with organizations such as the newly formed Peace Corps – a government civil service entity that helped economically frailer nations with rebuilding and maintaining their internal infrastructures and financial growth. Other worldwide events such as the flawed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, the Cuban Missile Crisis stand-off with the former Soviet Union and their Premier Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, and the “Space Race to reach the moon” were all contributing factors altering American attitudes, values, and beliefs during the early 1960’s. The preceding decade’s Cold War struggles also encouraged many young people to heed President Kennedy’s request to “ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.” Likewise, these cultural upheavals impacted the MVA campus in ways that helped to revive traditional school principles that made had for decades successfully implemented the “HEAD, HEART, and MIND” (Head – further knowledge, Heart – follow paths of righteousness, Mind – to be alert and active) in school curriculum and activities.
An attitude of discipline, hope, and optimism permeated the campus of MVA throughout the 1960’s decade helping to encourage the planning and completion of many construction projects initiated by MVA President Henry D. Roberts – including a new library and expansion of faculty apartments that were completed by the end of 1962. Archival documents illustrate how very important rules were to the daily life of MVA students in the early 1960’s. MVA student body organizations followed the strict Roberts Rule of Order form of meeting’s operations. There were 30 detailed rules students were expected to follow for the D.A.R. Hall, 34 rules for Dining Hall, and 15 rules for congregating at the Beehive. The rules addressed everything from cash transactions, counter behavior, loitering, and waiting turns to purchase items. Many diverse student clubs formed on campus in the beginning of the decade that included a French Club, F.F.A (Future Farmers of America), Choir (over 30 boys and girls), Skating club, Bowling, Square dance and Pep club. MVA sports-related activities were comprised of cheerleading and JV and Varsity Basketball boys and girls teams only (although by 1970, many other sports would re-form and also thrive).
A spirit of international openness blossomed at MVA during the 1960’s initiated by the increased numbers of foreign students living on-campus from Japan, Germany, Iraq, and Colombia. “With enlarged enrollment, many improvements to buildings and campus, a well-qualified staff and the cold winter almost forgotten, the years ahead loom bright and inviting for the Montverde Academy,” wrote President Roberts in his 1964 annual message to Montverde Academy. Organizations continued to grow and succeed by stressing that all students “become responsible citizens of the community.” Female-based organizations were also formed on-campus like “Y-Teens,” an organization of almost 20 girls whose mission was to “build the fellowship of women and girls devoted to the task of realizing those ideals of personal and social living… by faith as Christians.” Intramural sports options also increased in popularity during the 1960’s with the addition of the sports programs baseball and swimming. By 1965, Montverde Academy attendance from outside Florida included students from Venezuela, Virgin Islands, West Indies and American states as far away as New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington, DC. By 1966, MVA clubs included a Public Speaking club, Band club, Dance club and an all-inclusive student council.
The Montverde Academy belonged to the Florida High School Activities Association that retained teams competing in track, swimming, and boys J.V. and Varsity Basketball teams, the latter of which was coached by future Headmaster Walter L. Stevens that won the regionally respected Lakes and Hills basketball Championship that year. According to the 1967-1968 Montverde Academy General Catalog, an important objective of MVA faculty was to make sure students maintained an established code of ethics and personal conduct as they continued to “Study, Work, and Play” – even establishing a competitive skating rink on campus for a few years.
Archival photos of MVA students during the middle to late 1960’s reflect a willingness on behalf of the MVA administration to allow students to be more expressive in their manner of dress and demonstrate how the MVA community had been affected by changes in social norms that effected the personal determinations, styles, and philosophies. Male staff and students wore longer hair and thick sideburns – while many women wore straight, long hair or beehive hairstyles with scarves. Women are seen in photos wearing jeans and mini-skirts with psychedelic “hippie- flower power” designs inspired by the European fashions worn by contemporary rock musicians such as Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Rolling Stones.
The St. Valentines’ Dance/Sweetheart and Valentine Court, the Halloween Dance, and the Miss Montverde Academy Pageant (a very popular and long-standing campus competition lasting many years until its demise in 1975) were very popular events on campus. There were also many additional clubs added during the decade including the Bible Club, the Spanish Club, the Knitting Club, Psychology Club, Chess Club, Nature Club (that cultivated an interest in ecology), and International Relations Club (that compared conflicts, economies, and people of foreign countries). MVA also developed new and important relationships with local Florida commerce and regional business support networks and joined in various partnership events with advertisers like Orlando’s Biggers, Patterson & Parke Advertising and CPI (Central Purchasing, Inc.), and First National Bank, Maryland Fried Chicken, Pepsi-Cola, Winter Garden Lumber Co. and Winter Garden Inn from nearby Winter Garden, Florida. These relationships helped establish financial support for yearbook activity, public outreach, sports and Alumni events.
Another new trend developing in student popularity was the “Montverde Academy Summer School Study and Play,” a summer school program that gave “students who did not apply themselves in the regular school year with an opportunity to receive individual attention.” The summer school programs created in the 1960’s were taught by regular MVA faculty for grades 1-12 to help struggling students get on the right academic track. Summer programs were important aspects of academic programming throughout the next four decades. By 1968, Montverde Academy had chosen Walter L. Stephens, Jr. as the new MVA Headmaster. Under the appointment, Dr. Stephens shared the management of Montverde Academy with long-term President Henry Roberts. In 1969, Mr. Stephens would solely assume these responsibilities as MVA Headmaster.
By decade’s end, the Montverde Academy had developed into a predominate Central Florida academic institution even as the Nation experienced the trauma of the assassinations of many public figures, violence and unrest of the civil rights movement, and anti-war Vietnam groups’ protests at many American colleges and U.S. cities that sparked anger, divisiveness, and civic disorder. In the same era, the “space race” with Russia ended with the Apollo 11’s Moon Mission of 1969. U.S.A. Astronaut Neil Armstrong, with the assistance of Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, became the first humans to reach the moon. Upon landing, Armstrong uttered the famous phrase “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” – words of reassurance that helped bring people together as a proud nation eager to embrace the new challenges of the 1970’s.
The beginning decade of the 1970’s in America witnessed the continuation of civic disarray and turmoil incited by the Vietnam War. Historical student-protests nationwide centered attention around ending the Vietnam War and advancing both civil and women’s rights. America was constantly adjusting to continually changing political climates that included the Congressional impeachment of Republican President Richard M. Nixon in 1974 and (as America celebrated their bicentennial anniversary) the election of Georgia Democratic Governor Jimmy Carter as President in 1976. Montverde Academy met these fluctuating social environments with a positive outlook that inspired new and vigorous plans for campus building projects and continued implementation of the “Montverde Philosophy” that stated students should “grow toward the world of tomorrow with a quest for harmony among men and duties within a system of mutual responsibilities and law and order.” Instead of the title of Head of School of Montverde Academy awarded to him in 1969, Walter L. Stephens, Jr. would instead hold the designation of President starting in 1970. President Stephens’s administrational vision included proposing, directing, and completing several infrastructure projects that would improve housing, sports, and academic facilities for both students and staff of Montverde Academy. The MVA student center, new girl’s dorm, and a new administration building were all scheduled for completion within the first part of the 1970’s decade – and they were. In actuality, campus-wide infrastructure projects flourished under President Stephens and included the completed construction of the Walter L. Stephens Administration Building in 1970, the President’s home finalized in 1973, the MVA Tennis Courts resurfacing and enlargement projects concluded in 1975, and the first athletic complex and 440-yard running track and soccer/baseball fields completed in 1976.
These substantial structural accomplishments created a campus-wide spirit of excitement, confidence, and optimism that permeated Montverde Academy throughout the seventies. Although MVA core values would continue to be taught, cultivated, and enforced by faculty and administration, documents of this period also reflect a MVA growing emphasis being placed on individual expression and tolerance. “It is our purpose at Montverde Academy to take your student where he is and work with him from there. We further recognize that each student is an individual who has individual needs. We try and meet these needs through small classes, individualized instruction, proper motivation, supervision, and a balanced program of academic study and social activities,” stated President Stephens in a 1975 Montverde Catalogue. Throughout the early to middle 1970’s, Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and homecoming activities were celebrated on campus with tremendous student and faculty involvement. The Miss Montverde Pageant continued to be a memorable event that attracted many participants from varied backgrounds who were supported on-stage by performances from both male and female student musicians.
By the middle of the decade, brochures and MVA catalogs depict students, faculty, and staff working, playing, and congregating in more androgynous atmospheres – male and female students lounged together in fashionable swimwear at poolside, dined together at meals, shared acoustic guitar and piano music with each other, and danced comfortably (and freely apart from each other) during school-sponsored dances. In respect to the American Bicentennial of 1976, MVA students traveled to Washington, D.C., to visit with then 5th District Florida Congressional Representative Richard Kelly. “Parents Night” had also become a popular staple of interest at Montverde Academy in the 1970’s. Students, faculty, and parents were able to meet together and discuss student academics and programming as they refined relationships between each other that would decades-later serve as a precursor to the formation of our modern-day Montverde Academy Parent Association.
Throughout the 1970’s, boys wore their hair much longer than in previous decades while girls donned short dresses and were allowed to dress in jeans and corduroy pants when not attending classes. Organizations were also developing on-campus – fertile with innovative concepts that addressed student intellectual and spiritual concerns related mostly to life in the 1970’s contemporary American society. By 1976, the newest MVA club additions included a “Girls Athletic Association,” a Folk Song Club, a Rembrandt painting club, a contemporary-based Drama Club, and an Astronomy club. By 1977, the aesthetic character of Montverde Academy demonstrated an openness, humor, and creativity that manifested itself in many forms – especially in student yearbook photos containing captions of sarcasm and folly. A section of the 1977 yearbook asked “What is Montverde?”- answered with a curious style of punctuation and capitalization (similar to the writing style of popular American poet E.E. Cummings):
“Montverde is buildings with four walls and the Future inside. Along with the Educational Fundaments, it provides Experience in living together as a Family. A healthy, friendly atmosphere, dedicated to improving the Mind – the Body and the Social Graces – with the Aim of making ALL of us better qualified to move into the FUTURE. A FUTURE that is but a few short years ahead… A FUTURE filled with HAPPINESS.”
By decade’s end, the tuition, room, and boarding fees were $3,200 a year for boarding students and $1,450 for day students. The presence of a highly successful MVA Junior Varsity and Varsity girls’ and boys’ basketball, volleyball, track, and tennis teams throughout the seventies continued to remain competitive in the Central Florida region and were comprised of both local and international students of different races and diverse cultures. The MVA graduating senior class of 1978 perhaps best exemplified Montverde Academy’s varied student body composition when they graduated students from Aruba, Bahamas, El Salvador, Honduras, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and St. Croix, Virgin Islands.
Overall, the 1970’s was a decade of cultural examination in America. The end of American involvement in the Vietnam War came by 1975. Women and civil rights issues were debated and non-traditional clothes and hairstyles worn. Advances in media coverage and computer technology helped reveal the indignity of Watergate by broadcasting the Congressional hearings that expelled President Nixon from office and led to the leadership of President Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter’s subsequent battle to free American hostages taken in Iran (Iran Hostage Crises) – an incident that contributed to astronomical gas prices worldwide and a nation trending towards fresh attitudes aligned more with modern conservative values that culminated with the election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980.
Many changes occurred at Montverde Academy and in American contemporary society throughout the decade of the 1980s. Double-digit inflation, violence relating to mounting nationwide illegal drug crimes and distribution, cultural battles regarding public decency and how to fund public arts and education, and policy developments proposed to combat the growing AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) epidemic were all factors contributing to social-psyche of Americans in the 1980’s. Music videos, cable television, the success of popular world-wide American performers/artists like Michael Jackson and Madonna (and lesser-known sub-culture movements inspired by punk, new-wave, heavy-metal music and visual artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Andy Warhol) gained in popularity, competed for public approval and encountered resistance from persons and groups aligning themselves with the ideals of individual financial prosperity and the conservative principles of the Reagan administration.
At Montverde Academy, President Walter L. Stephens, Jr. remained steadfast in providing an education that awarded students with opportunities to be involved in campus sports and activities, regional trips, and first-class academic instruction. Stephens was dedicated to the enforcement of rules that he felt, in turn, would guide and advance a student’s social and learning behaviors and help contribute to them becoming a well-rounded young people. According to 1980 and 1981 media and outreach materials, “poise and manners” (longtime standards of MVA student life) continued to be emphasized as a means of attaining personal achievements and gaining a positive reputation in both school and throughout a lifetime. Specific regulations forbid gambling in any form, drinking any intoxicating beverages of any form, clandestine meetings from anyone of the opposite sex, using profane language, or engaging in any disrespectful behavior towards any member of the administration, faculty, or staff of Montverde Academy. These expectations and standards were further punctuated in the 1980-1985 Montverde Academy Student Handbook’s section called the Montverde Philosophy that stated,
“Realizing that our community is within the American society, we strive to instill in our students an appreciation to keep current on events that are of concern to Americans. Guidelines for behavior are formed, which, we believe, are best suited to develop character conducive to positive citizenship within the American setting… Hence, we strive to promote a desire to honor each other’s rights and duties within a system of mutual responsibilities and law and order. In this light, our young men and women will face the world of tomorrow with a quest for harmony among men and preservation of individual worth. They will do so in a rational and logical way which will result in learned solutions to complex problems”
In the early part of the decade, many Montverde Academy students were offered the opportunity to travel to Europe and visit countries such as Italy, Austria, and Germany in order to broaden their understandings of different cultures. This continued throughout the decade with perhaps the most memorable of these trips occurring in 1987 when Dr. and Mrs. Stephens, along with several Montverde Academy students and chaperones, visited South Korea and Hong Kong, China. Throughout the 1980s, talent shows, sports events, and clubs were very popular and prospered at MVA. Clubs included more miscellaneous options for students to choose from – such as the Cooking club, the Weightlifting club, the War Games club, Photography club, Backgammon club, Bible club, Horseback Riding club, Senior Volunteer club. During this period, archive photos suggest that Montverde Academy became more focused on neatness, personal grooming, and fitness than in the 1970’s – yet a school (as exemplified in the MVA 1985 yearbook) always reminding students that there is “No Better Time to Improve the Body and Mind” than when one “Perfected Work and Play”. The Student body of the 1980s included international students from as far away as Brazil, Japan, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia and as nearby as Winter Garden, Florida. MVA boys’ and girls’ JV and Varsity teams competed in basketball and volleyball and also had successful boys’ track and field and soccer teams – as well as a very strong cheerleading squad. In 1989, a very important administration appointment was made. Mrs. Sandra O. Stephens, wife of then MVA President Walter L. Stephens, was appointed Vice-President of Montverde Academy and Director of Admissions and Public Relations.
By the end of the decade, America had witnessed cultural battles associated with a worldwide economic recession, observed geopolitical conflicts relating to economic policies, “culture-wars” surrounding funding for the arts and improvements in nuclear energy policy, the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, the invasion of Grenada, and unrest in the regions of Beirut, Afghanistan, and the Middle East. President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to end the “Cold War” and the Berlin, Germany, “Wall” was “torn-down” beginning in 1989 – a symbolic decision to end regional separation due to communist rule that “opened the door” for German reunification. Through all of this, Montverde Academy remained focused on doing what they had done for over fifty years: Developing the minds and bodies of students by creating an environment where students were provided with opportunities and tools to attain a (as a MVA handbook from 1986 states) “deeper desire for learning and a greater appreciation of the higher values of life.” Perhaps a message from the President, Dr. Stephens in a 1988 Student Handbook best exemplifies the Montverde Academy mission and philosophy of achieving student success when he writes of “Stars to Steer By” from “a book we have here at the Academy”:
Show enthusiasm and you’ll have enthusiasm.
Those who make trouble rarely make much else.
As respect for law dies, democracy dies.
Recipe for happiness: Do more than you have to.
Souls need goals
The best defense is common sense.
Opportunity and ability add up to responsibility.
Spend your life for something that will outlast it.
The road to success is always under construction.
Every man is the architect of his own future.
Even perfect people buy pencils with erasers.
Running people down is a bad habit, whether you are a gossip or motorist.
Be sure your path leads upward; there is always room at top.
You may delay, but time will not.
Throughout the decade of the 1990s, Americans witnessed many disconcerting global tribulations – events that included the civil unrest between Iran and Iraq during the 1st Gulf War, ethnic cleansings, atrocities, and murders committed during the Hutu and Tutsi conflicts (connected to the Rwandan genocide), the Muslims, Serbs, and Croat’s divergences that led to the Bosnian War, and an increase in poverty, famine, and AIDS happening throughout Africa. These world incidents – coupled with the popularity in the usage of personal computers and the World Wide Web, email, cell phones, and internet technology – impacted the ways Montverde Academy students studied and lived. In popular culture, Music Television (“MTV”) programming, broadly accepted animated shows such as South Park, Beavis and Butthead, and the situation comedy Married with Children combined dramatic themes with adult humor that in turn challenged contemporary American social norms. Other widespread cultural arts movements – such as Hip-Hop, Post-punk/alternative and “Grunge” music scenes inspired fashion and the mega-popular pop-rock icon status of bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam. At MVA, an era of inclusiveness seemed to permeate the student campus in the 1990s. The Academy remained focused on student equality and optimism – perhaps best exemplified by the introductory pages of the 1991 MVA Yearbook that stated, “If you can raise a smile to everyone you see and hold no grudge towards anyone at all, if you live each day to its utmost and you see things as they are instead of as they are not, then you have life’s truest meaning and where others have failed you will succeed.”
MVA President Walter L. Stephens and his wife, Vice-President Sandra O. Stephens, continued working to promote student responsibility and an adherence to the core MVA principles that encouraged students, “to handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” Boys’ and Girls’ Varsity basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball, and softball continued to thrive alongside prevalent student activities such as the Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day dances. Theatrical works of “Macbeth” and “The Little Match Girl,” “The Importance of Being Earnest,” and “What Women Want Most” were some of the dramatic performances produced on campus throughout the 1990’s. In 1992, America elected a new U.S. President, former Arkansas Governor William Jefferson Clinton. He would serve two consecutive terms until 2000. The President promised a more prosperous America as he initially campaigned at rallies throughout the U.S.A. – using the popular song “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” (from the American band Fleetwood Mac) as a musical message of rebirth and hope for America. At MVA, students were inspired too and demonstrated a similar enthusiasm in that year’s MVA Yearbook introduction entitled “Celebrate Life” which stated, “There is a wonderful LIFE waiting to be lived, celebrate it today; life is too short to put off living until tomorrow.”
MVA archives from 1993 and 1994 reflect an increase in student population. According to the Summer 1993 “Montverde Academy News” (Volume 7, No. 4), Dr. Stephens awarded twenty-nine diplomas to students as close to MVA as Winter Garden, Florida, and as far away as Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Saitama-ken, Japan. Remarkably, by 1994, 44 diplomas were awarded to MVA students, almost double from the previous year, and although student graduation numbers would again fall slightly as the 1990s ended, Montverde Academy students were becoming more culturally diverse and succeeding in school work as well as in art, community, and athletic activities – winning state medals in track and field high hurdles, triple jump, and relays as they held on-campus art shows, hosted regional ballet dance company performances, volunteered at local nursing homes, and continued traveling the world including visits to Budapest, Munich, and Switzerland’s Mount Titlis. All through the 1990’s, Montverde Academy regularly attended regional “college nights” with the accompaniment of MVA Deans and staff. In 1997 the MVA Fitness Center opened. Co-joined to the Henry D. Roberts Gymnasium, the 2400 square foot, air-conditioned facility consisted of treadmills, step machines, recumbent bicycles, and nautilus-inspired weights for squat and power-lifting.
By the end of the 1990s summer school was still a respectfully excepted option for both U.S. and international students with different academic needs and schedules. As the “Aims and Objectives of MVA Summer School” recognized in its 1998 pamphlet, “summer is the time of year students enjoy relaxation, recreation, and some study – we have tried to provide a balanced program where all these needs can be accomplished. Classes are taught by qualified instructors, in air-conditioned classrooms, where each student is given individual instruction. Under these conditions, progress is inevitable.” Perhaps 1999’s graduating class best exemplifies the diversity of the decade’s increasing upward trend towards higher student populations being comprised of students as close as Montverde, Florida, and Washington, DC, and as far away as Barbados, West Indies, Kinshasa, Zaire, Hong Kong, China, and Bottrop, Germany – indicators of the amazing scholar growth and expansion in infrastructure to occur in the next decade at Montverde Academy following the 2000 appointment of Dr. Kasey C. Kesselring as the school’s new Head of School.
By the year 1999, there had been only 8 heads-of-school in the history of Montverde Academy’s nearly 90 years of existence. Just 31 years of age, Kasey C. Kesselring was selected as MVA’s newest Head of School in 2000. According to a South Lake Press newspaper announcement, Kesselring, who would also be one of the youngest Head of Schools in the United States, was selected by the MVA Board of Trustees “because of his proven leadership in motivating young people to excel, and his vision for developing educational strategies that only a small school can implement.”
Head of School Kesselring had graduated from Saint James School, a private Episcopalian high school located near Hagerstown, Maryland, then received his BA from Dickenson College in Pennsylvania, with major concentrations in Latin-Classical History and Music before receiving a Master of Arts in Education from Middle Tennessee State University (he recently received his Doctorate in Education from California Coast University). Previous to his arrival at MVA, Dr. Kesselring was both Dean of Students and former Assistant Head of School at the Webb School in Nashville, Tennessee. From the very beginning of his tenure, Dr. Kesselring provided innovative ideas for a new millennium – steadfast support and guidance steeped in a visionary style of leadership inspired by his own private school education, professional training, and his belief that it was the job of the educator to serve in loco parentis (in the place of the parent) when helping students to “re-invent their self-esteem and self-confidence” and “providing a place where every young person who enters the halls of MVA is provided with opportunities and experiences to grow as individuals, to understand themselves and those around them, and to have a deeper awareness of the finer values of life.”
Dr. Kesselring began his tenure at Montverde Academy working to accomplish numerous long-term goals that included the establishment of sister-city relationships with cities like Tainan, Taiwan, and Orlando, Florida, that allowed MVA to serve as host to hundreds of students through cultural immersion programs that promoted economic growth and cultural exchange throughout the Central Florida region. MVA student technology access and computer labs were expanded, new academy transportation vans and buses were purchased, improvement of fine arts curricula and professional development for teachers and administrators were instituted, and the establishment of an MVA PK3-6th grade program, Honors and AP courses, multilevel ESL programs, and SAT preparations classes were added. The foundation of new dorms, outdoor facilities, and sidewalks enhanced the aesthetics and landscapes of campus. Head of School Kesselring advanced accreditation’s and increased enrollment by hundreds in the combined MVA Lower, Middle, and Upper School divisions as he functioned as “a compass” directing MVA’s mission to “increase student knowledge, and develop character through a nurturing, diverse community by inspiring achievement, preparing for the future, and leading from example.” Equally impressive was the focus MVA placed on the arts throughout the 2000s that culminated in the design, creation, and development of MVA’s newest building completed in 2011 – the $1.5 million Sandra O. Stephens Center for Media & Performing Arts equipped with new media labs and music rehearsal spaces.
Although dramatic arts had for years been taught and cultivated in classes, school organizations, activities, and semester events, evening cultural events were now developed that increased the regional visibility of Montverde Academy and welcomed our surrounding communities. Featured performances and lectures from acclaimed artists such as Danny Glover and Felix Justice were scheduled on-campus. Spoken-word performances were also produced that celebrated historical figures such as Martin Luther King and Langston Hughes and demonstrated both instructional and organizational creativity focused on expanding MVA’s national accreditations – that over the decade would include being accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Florida Council of Independent Schools, the Southern Association of Independent Schools, and the Florida Kindergarten Council. By 2007, MVA world-travel programs included student visits to Italy and England. MVA admissions and executive staff also traveled together working to foster the school’s mission and prominence with annual trips to China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, and Vietnam. During the decade, Montverde Academy gained national distinction for its invitational basketball tournament (M.A.I.T.) and nationally-ranked varsity basketball and soccer sports programs that won both the ESPN National Championships for Boys’ Varsity Basketball in 2007 and Boys’ Varsity Soccer in 2010. By the later part of the decade, remarkable opportunities for students had been established that improved their participation in arts, athletics, clubs, and service organizations.
It seems hard to imagine how the “Montverde Industrial School” (whose mission was “to educate children from families of limited means and provide them with training for the heart, head and hand”) has in 100 years constructively transformed into a prestigious academic institution we know today as Montverde Academy. According to MVA admissions statistics, our school now “educates nearly 1350 students on a daily basis, including more than 350 boarding students from 13 states across America and over 90 countries from around the world.” Aside from the establishment of very successful academic activity partnerships with the Bishop’s Gate Golf Academy, Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy, the National Training Center Swimming Program (NTC), MVA has for many years hosted an annual M.A.I.T (Montverde Academy Invitational Tournament) and most recently begun an annual M.A.S.T (Montverde Academy Soccer Tournament), and MVA Golf Classic.
Over the decade of the 2000s, Dr. Kesselring has labored tirelessly in his efforts to cultivate community relations throughout central Florida – serving in advisory capacities on civic boards and organizations as an appointed official and trusted advisor. His prescient leadership has led to the creation of over twenty million dollars of infrastructural growth and cultural advancement for Montverde Academy over his 18 years as Head of School that includes new roads and sidewalks, outdoor maintenance facilities, concessions, bathroom amenities, soccer and baseball fields, equestrian program, a new arts wing, Centennial Plaza, and a 6.5 million dollar new Athletic Complex.
History of Heads of School
- Jon Hopman, 2022-Present
- Dr. Kasey C. Kesselring, 1999-2022
- Walter L. Stephens, Jr., 1968-1999
- Henry D. Roberts, 1955-1968
- L. Neal Smith, 1952-1955
- Grover M. Ford, 1951-1952
- L. Neal Smith, 1950-1951
- D.P. Hawkins, 1949-1950
- Karl Lehmann, 1947-1949
- H.P. Carpenter, 1945-1947
- L. Neal Smith, 1944-1945
- H.P. Carpenter, 1912-1944
Alma Mater (Montverde Academy)
Written by Fine Arts Department Chair, Aubrey Connelly-Candelario and Lindsey Drnek ’06
This is my Montverde
My home away from home
Where friends are friends forever
Despite how far we roam
My heart swells with pride
Every time I see
The purple and the gold,
The Eagles soaring free
And since nineteen twelve
In these we all believe
Knowledge and good character,
And though I’ll leave someday
Out in the world I’ll be
My heart will always linger At Montverde Academy
Alma Mater (The Montverde School, 1912-1930)
Oh, Montverde, our guide and friend Dear School, we sing your praise
That you and we may once again bring work, success
And play to all our days.
Take thou our minds, our hands, our hearts; Fill them for your purpose high,
That in our lives you may impart
Strength and growth anew for each day passing.
Oh, Montverde, Our guide and friend,
We sing your Love and praise.
For home so dear you e’er
Have been All hail, Montverde, all hail,
Our guide and friend.