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Purnell in the '60s


1963: Lytt Gould, headmaster of Far Hills Country Day School, departs to pursue a new dream: founding a "school which puts the girl first; a school which values each individual". In December, the not-for-profit Purnell corporation is established. The founding members are Lytt Gould, his wife Sis Gould, Hap Johnson, Carroll Boynton, and Ethel Stringfellow. 

1964: Despite not actually being on the market, the 83-acre Basset Farm is sold to the Purnell corporation, thanks to Carroll Boynton's conviction and connections within the Pottersville community. Renovations and remodeling begin in earnest, with the Gould family doing most of the work themselves! The barn is converted into a library and classrooms, while Brook House is expanded to make room for the Head of School's family. Meanwhile, all five founders begin recruiting potential Purnell girls--those who might be better suited for a smaller school with a boarding setting. Teas and dinners are held throughout the tri-state area to help families learn about what Purnell could be for their daughter. 


From the Gould scrapbook: "The library looking toward opening for the fireplace showing beautiful old beams." 

1965: This is it! The first class of Tens, totaling 18 students, arrives at Purnell in September. Students live in Main (where they also eat meals and attend some classes), with a handful living in the Cottage (which also hosts an art studio and faculty accomodations). Students are placed onto committees to help develop and run the new school. The Crow's Nest is christened after a nautical-themed dance is held in the room in November. 

The very first Purnell girls and faculty!

1966: The second year of school opens with 48 students: 6 additional Elevens, and 24 new Tens. The "First House" is constructed and named Boynton in honor of Carroll Boynton, chairman of Purnell's board. Students form two singing groups, the Bamboo Shoots and the Perambulating Strawberries. They also organize a campus tour guide group, called the Doorknockers. The uniform consists of a skirt, blouse, blazer with griffin crest, and Abercrombie shoes. 


From the Gould scrapbook: "Boynton finished and occupied", but looking very lonely! 

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Purnell's first Fair, with still-under-construction Custis and dining hall in the background

1967: As the 66-67 school year winds down, the students present the first Purnell Fair, "to give something back to the School". The third year of school begins in September with 77 students, and Purnell is officially dedicated with a ceremony taking place on October 21st. The second dormitory--named Custis in honor of Sis Gould's mother--and the dining hall are completed, as are the second floor of the library and the first faculty house, later named Johnson House. Another singing group, the school Glee Club, is formed under the direction of Audie Johnson. The seniors take their first canoe trip to the Delaware River in the fall. 

1968: Project Week begins, providing opportunities for in-depth independent projects and internships for Purnell students. In the spring, the first Fox Day takes place, giving the campus community a day for games, fun, food, and competition. (The first winners were the faculty!) The seniors begin a new tradition--sailing on the Gould's boat, Tomoqua. On June 6th, the very first Purnell graduation takes place, with 23 girls donning their long white dresses for the first time. The quad flagpole is erected, donated by parents Mr. and Mrs. John H. Staub. A greenhouse is also built, gift of Mrs. Henry C. Frick, mother of Frances '69. 


Mr. Gould addreses the guests and graduates at Purnell's first graduation, located behind Brook House. 


1969: Purnell's campus expansion continues rolling along with the addition of the tennis courts, a gift of the parents of the first graduating class. The library is named in honor of Ethel Gray Stringfellow, one of Purnell's founders. In the spring, Purnell students hear the strains of "So Long, Seniors" for the very first time--the first Revue is performed just before graduation, roasting the Twelves and celebrating them too! 

The Perambulating Strawberries serenade a beloved classmate, Kitty Jenkins '69, before graduation.

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