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On New Year's Eve in 1962, after over 10 years of work to establish excellence in mathematics through calculus instruction, and excellence in football, basketball and baseball teams, Hyde School Founder Joseph W. Gauld experienced a crisis of conscience.

Previously, in his calculus class, he had a 14-year-old genius who was lazy and self-centered. Joe tried to tell the student that he knew less about himself and life than any kid Joe had ever taught, yet he still gave him the highest grade. In the same class, he had a discouraged Vermont farm boy who complained to Joe that he worked twice as hard as everyone else, and only got half as much out of it. Joe told him his character and determination might someday make him the best engineer, even though at the time this student received the lowest grade in the class.

Joe realized that he was part of an educational system that was failing to effectively prepare students for life; with its singular focus on achievement, it wouldn't necessarily lead all students to reach their fullest potential, and was even doing a disservice to some students.

That New Year's Eve night in 1962, he made a commitment to find a better way to prepare kids for life. (Years after Joe had left his post teaching calculus, he learned that the genius had graduated from MIT with an A average at age 18, yet had been unemployed for 11 years. The hard-working Vermont farm boy had become a nationally recognized engineer.)

In 1964, Joe became a headmaster and instituted a new program emphasizing the concepts of unique potential and character. He became very encouraged by the way this program inspired the school community, but soon realized he was envisioning change beyond what the trustees would accept. Rather than compromise the program, he resigned.

It became clear to him that the revolutionary concept he sought to explore and develop would require a new school. In spite of limited experience and limited funds, in 1966 he was able to secure the Hyde Estate in Bath, Maine on 145 acres, which previously had been a hospital for polio victims.

Hyde's mission from the start was to reach students of all abilities, backgrounds and track records. "Over-Achievers," "Good-to-Great" students, and those needing a life-changing "Turn-Around" would all be supported, challenged, and inspired to commit to excellence in character. The school philosophy would value attitude over aptitude, effort over ability, and character over talent.

Joe identified five words--Courage, Integrity, Leadership, Curiosity and Concern--and a cardinal principle: Every individual is gifted with a unique potential that defines a destiny. He then began to experiment with these founding concepts in trial-and-error fashion.

Not long after the founding of Hyde School it became clear that in order to inspire students to take a deep look at their character and commit to real academic, athletic, artistic, social and emotional growth, it would be critical to engage parents in that same endeavor. The Family Program started at Hyde in 1974, and Hyde has been helping parents help their kids develop the character they need to succeed ever since.

Today, Hyde has grown from one small school of 57 boys to having given over 15,000 families the Hyde experience. Over the years, Hyde's mission and program have garnered national media attention on shows such as 20-20, 60 Minutes, Today, and NPR's "All Thing's Considered." This recognition has led Hyde to expand beyond its original boarding model with schools in Bath, Maine and Woodstock, Connecticut, to include charter schools in Bronx and Brooklyn, New York and leadership schools in New Haven, CT, Washington DC, Colorado Springs, CO, Halifax, PA, Lanham, MD, Oakland, CA, and Orlando, FL.

Hyde also owns a beautiful 600-acre wilderness campus, Lennox Lodge, in the pristine Bigelow Mountain range on Flagstaff Lake in Eustis, Maine, opened in 1998.

The guiding philosophy of the school is focused on an inner leadership model, which is a personal growth program to help each individual discover their unique potential. Everyone participates in everything, "all do all," in the way of rigorous academics, three seasons of competitive sports, and performing and visual arts. Evidence shows that adolescence is a testing ground, and asking everyone to participate in everything and not specializing is a better way of helping kids develop. Faculty are included in this! Students are also able to participate in what are referred to as "Leadership Opportunities." These include participation in singer-songwriter workshops where they learn the craft of lyrical songwriting, performing, and recording, student-mentoring programs in Hyde's New York charter schools, internship and volunteer experiences in the community, and both national and international cultural trips.

A half-century since Hyde was founded, the Hyde character education program has evolved to effectively focus on three emphases, which they believe are the pillars of a successful and happy life:

1. A fully integrated program of character development.

Character is not an "add-on" at Hyde. It permeates everything they do. In Hyde's view, character is inspired rather than imparted. Each one of the Hyde community--students, teachers, and parents--must regard his or her own character development as a lifelong pursuit. For example, in addition to the students being evaluated with both effort and achievement grades, once a year the students also evaluate the faculty. They gather in the theater, and one by one each faculty member sits in the front of the group and the students tell them the strengths and weaknesses they have observed. This moving experience inspires the faculty to also work on being the best version of themselves.

2. Family renewal resulting from real parent participation.

Hyde has discovered that to really ignite change and help a student discover their unique potential, parents must be fully on board. Parents follow a curriculum alongside their student, and Family Weekends are dedicated to coming together and building a new sense of respect, admiration, and understanding between each member of the family. This has led many families to remark that, "I never thought sending my child away to school would bring us closer together." Hyde shares the principles that their Family Education program teaches with the public through national live workshops and webinars, a Parenting Teens podcast, available on iTunes and Google Play, and a Parenting: The Biggest Job website, The name is based on the book The Biggest Job We'll Ever Have--The Hyde Program of Character-Based Education and Parenting (2002) written by Malcolm Gauld, Joe's son and current President of Hyde, and his wife, Laura, the current Head of School in Bath.

3. College Preparation

Not only do over 95% of Hyde graduates go on to 4-year colleges, when students walk out through Hyde's gates after graduation, the most important quality they carry with them is a set of "go-to" principles: Courage, Integrity, Leadership, Curiosity and Concern. Students have learned how to test themselves against these principles, having a sense of what they believe and what values are important to them. Hyde graduates are currently studying at such schools as Assumption, Bowdoin, Colby, Colorado College, Dickinson, Elon, Hampden-Sydney, Northeastern, Syracuse, Trinity, U.S. Military Academy at West Point; and the Universities of Arizona, California (Berkeley, Irvine, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz), Colorado, Denver, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Washington.

Although some schools might excel with one of these emphases singularly, Hyde is the only choice for prospective families who seek to accept the challenge of all of them collectively.

Hyde teaches that it is never too late to fulfill your unique potential and gain the tools needed for a successful life. Ninety-eight percent of Hyde School graduates are accepted to 4-year colleges. Additional information about Hyde School can be found at


Gauld, L., & Gauld, M. (2002). The biggest job we'll ever have: The hyde school program for character-based education and parenting. New York, NY: Scribner.

The Hyde School

* Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: The Hyde School,
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Publication:Journal of Character Education
Date:Jul 1, 2016
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