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Houghton Academy Celebrates 140 Years

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From Houghton Academy, Photo from left to right,

Dr. Wayne D. Lewis     President, Houghton University

Mr. Seth D. Pullen       Chair, Houghton Academy Board of Trustees

Dr. Toby A. Travis         Head of School   Houghton Academy

Mr. Philip G. Stockin     Headmaster Emeritus   Houghton Academy

HOUGHTON—On Friday, November 3 and Saturday, November 4, Houghton Academy celebrated its 140th anniversary by welcoming home its graduates, sharing highlights from its history, being congratulated by representatives of elected officials, and officially installing its new head of school.

The prevailing theme both days of the 140th anniversary celebration was of God’s faithfulness, as evidenced through the many years of service by some, the regular financial provision of others, and the consistent prayer support of many.

Mark Getzin (’68), a member of the Board of Trustees, traced the Academy’s “humble origins,” including its founder, Willard J. Houghton, who was a member of the third generation of farmers and only had an eighth-grade education. Nevertheless, passionate about the need for Christian education and Sunday schools in the area, Houghton went to the Lockport conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, now known as the Wesleyan Church, in 1883, to solicit monies to start the school. As a result, in 1884, between fifty and seventy-five students began as a middle school—then located on Tucker Hill Road—and given the name, Houghton Wesleyan Methodist Seminary.  A grade was added each year, with the first high school diploma awarded in 1888 and college classes eventually included.

In 1902 the Seminary was relocated to the site which is now the campus of Houghton University.  The Seminary, with its name changed to Houghton Academy in 1957, shared the campus with Houghton University until 1959, when it relocated again to its present site.

Representatives of local elected officials were present to honor the Academy’s long history of offering quality education in Allegany County.  Lee James, representing Congressman Nick Langworthy, shared a special citation which was entered into the Congressional Record of the House of Representatives on November 6.  The citation commended the Academy’s “world-class education” and its excellence at “instilling in [students] a sense of purpose . . . and Christian values.”  Congratulations from Senator’s Thomas O’Mara and George Borrello were brought by John Eberth and Joe Sempolinski was present on behalf of Assemblyman Joe Giglio.

Peter Luckey (’70), a member of the Board of Trustees, expressed appreciation to Philip G. Stockin (’63) who served the Academy from 1971 to 2011.  Stockin served the last 28 of those years as Headmaster and stepped out of retirement to serve as Interim Head of School for the 2022-23 school year. 

Seth Pullen, (’96), Chair of the Board of Trustees, led the ceremonial transfer of leadership from Philip G. Stockin to Dr. Toby A. Travis by handing over of the shovel used at all of the Academy’s groundbreakings over the years, beginning with the original building at the current site and the gymnasium, dormitories, and additions that followed. The shovel, which is adorned with ribbons added by each graduating class, is symbolic of new beginnings and the ribbons are reminders of the many students for whom the Academy was founded to serve. 

Dr. Wayne D. Lewis, Jr., President of Houghton University, gave the keynote address, saying, “Our [schools’] history is a shared history . . . a shared vision.” He spoke about both the Academy and the University being “planted by an ordinary man with ordinary experiences,” saying that God “still uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.” He cited Esther 4, particularly verse 14 in terms of how God sends people to accomplish specific missions at specific times. He also commented on the importance of verse 13, which sometimes is glossed over but underscores God’s purposes prevailing no matter how individuals called step up to the challenges and opportunities with which they are presented. “It is wise to remember and foolish to forget that God is God alone,” he concluded, “but oh, what a privilege we have . . . at this very moment.”

Saturday’s program included the Academy choir, under the direction of Aaron Jacob, singing the classic hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”  A reception following the program concluded the anniversary celebration.  (The entire Saturday program can be viewed on Facebook.)

Houghton Academy, one of the oldest continuously operating Christian schools in the country, is fully accredited by Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and the Association of Christian Schools International and currently serves students in grades 6-12 from across western New York and around the world. Its vision statement reads as follows: “Houghton Academy models and communicates the Christian community that reflects Core Values crucial to prepare students to Live authentically, Learn deeply, Lead globally, and Love boldly for the glory of God.”

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