A Story 125 Years in the Making

In 1891, Maria Bissell Hotchkiss founded a school based on two key principles: academic excellence and financial accessibility. Her vision has stood the test of time: today, Hotchkiss offers more than $9 million in financial aid, and the School remains committed to providing an education of unsurpassed quality. Just as important as those two pillars is the richness of community life at Hotchkiss, anchored by traditions that have grown and changed with the School.

A Hotchkiss Glossary


The book issued to all students that outlines community rules and codes of conduct. View the online version.

All School

On Tuesdays, the entire student body meets in Elfers Hall to hear important announcements and updates, listen to talks by guest speakers, and, on Fridays, enjoy student-led activities and performances.

Bucky the Bearcat

The School mascot. Often seen leading the cheering section at athletic events and galavanting around campus during Spirit Week.

Blue and White Ball

A formal dance held each winter, featuring a live band and photobooths.

Blue and White Society

Dedicated to school spirit and led by mascot Bucky the Bearcat, Blue and White takes its name from Hotchkiss's school colors. Members of Blue and White help organize Spirit Week, lead pep rallies, coordinate fan buses to away games, and keep the school spirit alive throughout the year.

Blue and White Saturdays

On Blue and White Saturdays, all students and faculty don the School colors to show their Hotchkiss spirit.


All faculty and students meet twice a week to reflect and share personal experiences in Hotchkiss’s Chapel, a nondenominational gathering space designed in 1931 by the architecture firm Delano & Aldrich. Chapel is also where Matriculation, the ceremony in which new students officially join the Hotchkiss community, takes place.

Contra Dance

In the late 1970s, former math teacher Art Eddy brought his enthusiasm for contra dancing (think: square dancing) to campus. Since then, the first day of orientation has ended with a contra dance in the field house, with nearly everyone at the School twirling and spinning their partners on the dance floor. Students say the contra dance is one of the highlights of the year.


The evening before the first day of classes, the entire student body and all faculty members assemble for Convocation. The head of school and the two student co-presidents welcome everyone, and the head gives a speech. The evening ends with a presentation of selected student awards and the singing of "Fair Hotchkiss," the School song.

Class Nomenclature

The terminology for the four classes — prep (9th grade), lower mid (10th), upper mid (11th), and senior (12th) — came to Hotchkiss with the School’s first headmaster, Edward G. Coy. Coy had been head of the Greek department at Phillips Academy Andover, the only other school that uses this nomenclature.

“Fair Hotchkiss”

The School song, sung at matriculation, convocation, graduation, and upon the announcement of a headmaster’s holiday, among other occasions.

Fun Fridays

Each Friday, the School co-presidents organize activities for Auditorium, which might take the form of student film screenings, minute to win-it style games, dance offs, lip sync competitions, or performances.

Head of School Holiday

A spontaneous holiday announced by the head of school. The first Head of School Holiday was called in 1908 in honor of Maxwell O. Parry, Class of 1905, to commemorate his winning the Ten Eyck Prize at Yale. Sometimes, students go to the head of School’s house (called Frank House) and sing “Fair Hotchkiss” the night before they want a holiday; other times, the head announces the holiday unexpectedly, and students sing in celebration.

Last Class

When retiring teachers finish their final class, all students and faculty line the halls as they exit their classroom for the last time.


All new students meet with the head of school in the Chapel for a ceremony welcoming them to the Hotchkiss community. Each student introduces himself or herself to the rest of the new students, shakes hands with the head of school, and writes his or her name and hometown in a leather-bound books.

School Seal & Motto

At the seal’s center is Athena, the patron goddess of wisdom and ancient Athens, shown in profile with her helmet. Encircling her image are the words of the Hotchkiss motto: Moniti Meliora Sequamur. The Latin phrase, which comes from Virgil’s “Aeneid,” might be loosely translated to mean, "Guided by each other, let us seek better paths." Because of our commitment to our Latin motto, we refer to the goddess as Minerva, Athena's Roman counterpart.

Senior Carnival

A much-anticipated event complete with a slip 'n' slide, dunking machine, cotton candy, and burgers that first began in 1965. The carnival, held the first weekend of the fall semester, is organized by the seniors as a class fund-raiser and celebration to start of the year.

Spirit Days

The week leading up to and including Taft Day, the fall Saturday when Hotchkiss competes against Taft in every sport. From the start of the week to the Friday night pep rally to Taft Day itself, blue and white rule. Six days of fun: clash day, nerd day, preppy day, “secret dorm day” (when all the students in each dorm dress up according to a chosen theme), twin day, and Taft Day.

Student-Faculty Basketball Game

Each winter, students and faculty take to the basketball courts in a friendly matchup. Students dress up in creative costumes, and faculty members have been known to do similarly ridiculous things. Each year, the proceeds from the ticket sales go to Habitat for Humanity spring break building trip.

Taft Day

On the Saturday following Spirit Week, Hotchkiss and Taft hash out their rivalry in a day of athletic matchups, held at Hotchkiss every other year. Bearcat pride is always in full force, whether Hotchkiss is home or away.

“Writes” of Passage

"Daily Themes,” an exercise that takes place over a two-month period during which all lower mids write up to 40 papers on themes of their choosing, dates back to the mid-20th century at Hotchkiss. A second writing tradition at Hotchkiss is the “ticket,” a spontaneous overnight essay assigned in all grades. The essay becomes the student’s “ticket” into class the following day.