Founder’s Day 2023

On Tuesday, February 14, Miss Porter’s School will celebrate Founder’s Day. At MPS, Founder’s Day marks our celebration of Sarah Porter’s vision for Miss Porter’s School and allows us to reflect on her commitment and focus on providing opportunities for women and girls to truly make a difference in their communities and in the world.

This year the Founder’s Day celebration will take place between 10:20 AM and 11:00 AM in the Hacker Theater. The school wide event will be kicked off by Head of School, Dr. Katherine G. Windsor who will introduce the guest speaker for the day, Sally Dodge ’64.

Sally Dodge Headshot

We are extremely honored to have Sally Dodge ’64 as this year’s guest speaker for Founder’s Day. Sally is doing important work and living up to our mission to shape a changing world. Let’s take a look at some of the great work Sally is doing to support her community.

Sally Dodge ’64 is a long-time farmer, creative entrepreneur, successful business owner, and energetic environmental activist. For many years she managed her family’s 350 acre farm in Pownal, Vermont, leasing it to several organic operators. She is a former beefalo farmer, raised and marketed grass-fed beef before its importance to consumers became widely embraced. She is one of the pioneers of the locally-grown food movement, promoting public awareness of specialty farmers in Vermont and their value for the Vermont brand. She served for 18 years as a trustee of the Vermont Land Trust, where she took part in helping the organization move toward supporting diversified farms and farm acquisition programs. She was Northeast Community Development Manager for Iroquois Valley Farms from 2013 to 2020, a real estate investment trust that finances farmland for organic farmers.  She is a member of the board of directors of the Cleveland H. Dodge Foundation.

She was educated at Miss Porter’s School, studied modern European government, economics, and culture during a seminal year at Franklin College Switzerland, before attending Bennington College and Wesleyan University. 

She is an owner of The Mountain Goat, an outdoor outfitting store in Manchester, Vermont. She lives in Manchester with her husband, Dale Guldbrandsen, who partnered with her in their Iroquois Valley Farms position, and in other endeavors. They are avid backcountry skiers and hikers. They have five children, nine grandchildren, and two golden retrievers.

In addition to hearing from guest speaker, Sally Dodge ’64, students will also have the opportunity to compete in some MPS trivia. Below are some fun facts about Sarah Porter and Miss Porter’s School history. Take note! Finally, the celebration will conclude with the Perilhettes leading the students in singing Moonbeams, a beloved tradition here at Miss Porter’s School. 

Founder’s Day Fun Facts

In the summer of 1842, Sarah Porter borrowed  $32.94 from her family, and adding some funds of her own, set out to equip a school. She bought nine desks, chairs, a bench, a blackboard, a bowl, two pails and some carpet, rented rooms over a store on the Main Street of Farmington, CT, and prepared to receive pupils. By the end of that first school year, in 1843, she had 18.

Born in 1813, the dutiful third child and eldest daughter of Rev. Noah Porter and his wife Mehitabel, Sarah Porter grew up in a household where education was considered vital, though luxuries were scarce. Of the seven Porter children, five chose teaching as their lifelong profession.

In 1843, the year Miss Porter’s School was founded, popular reading at the time included A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, The Pathfinder, by James Fenimore Cooper and the US Population was 17,000,000.

The cost of tuition in the early years of Miss Porter’s School was $10.00 for pupils over twelve years of age, and $5.00 for those under that age. The young ladies were taught Latin, French and German and instruction on the piano was made available for an extra charge.

Miss Porter’s schoolhouse was finished in January, 1849. Until then she taught, as she had before, in rooms over a store in the village of Farmington. When her new building was ready, she furnished it with the desks and chairs bought seven years earlier. The first schoolhouse was designed as a homelike cottage, emphasizing Sarah Porter’s concept of her school as a family.

Farmington in the 1840s was a hotbed of reform, a center of strong abolitionist temperance and missionary activity. The men who invited Sarah Porter to head the Farmington Female Seminary, sheltered southern blacks escaping to the North along the secret routes of the Underground Railroad.

Girls’ schools of the time could be divided into two types, the rigorous, intellectual, religiously-oriented seminaries which trained young women to be good wives and mothers, teachers, or missionaries, and the superficial “finishing schools” which turned them into ornamental belles. Sarah’s school was to fall somewhere between the extremes, teaching the “accomplishments” considered essential for young ladies, but ground these in a solid mix of English, mathematics, languages and science.

Miss Porter conducted her school in her own fashion, without looking to other “female seminaries” or to other female educators as models. If her school had a model, it was Yale and if her style of teaching was anyone’s, it was her brother’s. First a professor and later, from 1871 – 1886, president of Yale College, Sarah’s older brother Noah Porter, Jr., was her mentor. As he introduced his students to the study of art, philosophy, and European culture, Sarah watched, learned, and, often, copied his example.

By September, 1851, she had 11 day scholars and 19 boarders. She taught most classes herself, with the aid of her sister Lizzie and, later, that of another sister, Maria. Classes were small, never more than six or seven girls at a time. 

These fun facts were taken from Miss Porter’s School: A History by Nancy Davis & Barbara Donahue


Be BOLD for girls' education this Farmington Give Day with your gift to the MPS Annual Fund!