School history

1777 Moses Brown served on a committee to produce a plan for the education of children of the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.

1784 The New England Boarding School opened in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

1788 Post-Revolution instability and a remote location hurt the school’s efforts to recruit qualified students and faculty, and the Meeting decided to close the school for one year. In fact, the school remained closed for 31 years, during which time Moses Brown held onto the school’s funds and vision.

1819 Moses Brown donated 43 acres of his farm for the relocation of the school to Providence. The school’s future was secure when it received a generous bequest of $100,000 in the will of Moses’ son, Obadiah, at the time the largest single contribution made to an American educational institution.

1879-1904 In the wake of the Civil War, the school made significant academic and social shifts and the school’s curriculum was broadened with music, art, and a more organized athletic program.

1884 The first day students were admitted.

1926 As a result of changing national attitudes toward coeducation, Moses Brown became a single sex school, admitting only boys.

1976 The school returned to its roots and once again enrolled girls.

1978-1994  David Burnham was appointed headmaster. He was instrumental in helping the school through its return to coeducation and he helped facilitate an increase in the school’s endowment.
1994-2009 Joanne Hoffman was our head of school. She is credited with deepening the school’s traditions as a Friends school, making broad advancements throughout the academic program, and securing $43 million in capital improvements.

2009-present In 2009, the Moses Brown Community welcomed a new Head of School, Matt Glendinning, an educator with more than a decade of leadership experience in Quaker schools.  Matt was drawn to Moses Brown because the school’s core values: Friends education; a commitment to global studies; a strong, stable, and creative faculty; and a program focused on the education of the whole child.  

Matt has helped the school formulate its current strategic plan – MB Believes: a vision for learning, people and place – including construction of the Woodman Family Community & Performance Center, due to open in December, 2016.  The strategic plan as a whole focuses on fostering key skills and attributes in students, including:
  • expert thinking---the ability to do something useful and creative with accumulated knowledge;
  • global and intercultural awareness---knowledge of other world regions, an ability to communicate across cultures by speaking other languages, and the capacity to work with those from different backgrounds and learn from those with different perspectives;
  • ethical leadership---developing future leaders who are motivated less by status and power than by a sense of kinship with and responsibility to others.