Unique from its very beginning, NFA was founded largely through the efforts of the Rev. Doctor John P. Gulliver. In 1853, Dr. Gulliver, an innovative and forward-thinking educator and minister, appealed to the “wealthiest and noblest” people of Norwich to support his plan “to establish a free academy to provide education for mechanics, navigators and agriculturists…that young ladies shall be educated here…to offer to the poorest boy in the community, who aspires to pin himself to the noble fraternity of scholars, the opportunity to fit himself for the university or the scientific school…” Forty generous benefactors contributed $76,000 by 1855 in order to purchase land, subsidize building construction and establish an endowment fund.
The Norwich Free Academy opened in 1856 with a student body of 80, a faculty of five, one classroom building consisting of 11 rooms, and a graduating class of two. From its opening until 1932, admission to the school was through the successful completion of an entrance examination. This exam covered spelling, word definition, grammar, geography and arithmetic. The Academy provided three courses of study. College Preparatory focused on classical subjects and prepared students for a university education. The Scientific Program focused on mathematics and prepared students for further study in science institutions. The final course of study focused on practical life skills and was designed for students who would enter into careers upon graduation.
Today, NFA has a student body of more than 2,400 students, a faculty of 175, 9 classroom buildings including a Library/Media Center, an administration building, an art school, and an athletic complex with astro-turf field and a graduating class of nearly 600. Sixty-seven student clubs and organizations and thirty-two interscholastic sports comprise a full co-curricular program. NFA is the second largest high school in the state of Connecticut and is the only high school serving public secondary students in the United States that has an art museum on campus. Two-thirds of NFA’s students hail from the city of Norwich and one-third of its students are minorities. The cultural, social and ethnic diversity experienced and celebrated on campus is one of NFA’s many strengths.
NFA is proud to provide a myriad of opportunities that prepare students for college and for life. More than 80 percent of NFA graduates go on to college immediately after graduation. More than half of recent graduating classes enter college with college credits earned from Advanced Placement courses or though NFA’s College Pathways, a partnership program with the University of Connecticut, Eastern Connecticut State University and Three Rivers Community College. For those students who are headed into the work force, NFA’s Career Pathways program offers an opportunity for students to gain certification as emergency medical technicians, nursing assistants or computer technicians.
The Norwich Free Academy's historic Slater Memorial Building, Converse Building, Norton Memorial Building and Alumni Hall were all built prior to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and have maintained limited access until now. These four buildings, in the center of NFA's campus are used every day by nearly every student and serve as the hub for all community activities. Tens of thousands of visitors attend cultural and athletic events held within these four buidling every year. The renovation project has come to completion and is scheduled for a grand opening in November 2011.
"This project reminds us of the distinguished history of NFA...By connecting these buildings together in a modern and attractive way and opening them up to our students and the community, we link our legacies of the past with new opportunities for the Academy's future." -Glenn T. Carberry '72, NFA Foundation Board President