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History and Social Science
The History and Social Science Department strives to provide students with an understanding of past events and the differing viewpoints of those who participated in them. We seek to encourage the development among our students of certain historical skills: intelligent questioning, gathering and interpreting data, analyzing concepts, recognizing the significance of historic occurrences, understanding cause and effect, and synthesizing information to produce one’s own interpretation of the past. As a natural consequence of encouraging the development of these skills, we teach students to express their ideas with clarity and vigor in both class discussion and in their writing. Ultimately, we hope that the study of history will become for them a life-long process and provide them with an awareness of complexity and ambiguity as they confront ethical choices in their own lives and seek to unravel meaning in the worlds around them.
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. This course may be taken separately or in conjunction with the full year exploration of America’s empire from the Philippines to Iraq. Despite the discreet title, this course will actually examine wider Western and American policy in the Middle East, beginning with the sectarian rivalries and neocolonial economic relationships developed by the post-World War I mandate system. The United States will replace Europe as the sponsor of regime change actions in the 1953 coup in Iran, which will have an impact on U.S.-Iranian relations before and after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Events in Iran are essential to understanding the U.S. relationship with Iraq, and therefore significant time will be spent on understanding both countries, their relationship with each other, and their place in U.S. security policy. American involvement in two Afghanistan wars—the resistance against Soviet occupation in the 1980s and the U.S. occupation after 2001, are also important to understanding the narrative of American goals in the region.
Only then will we examine the three different U.S. conflicts in Iraq in the past forty years: the Iran-Iraq War, Operation Desert Storm, and the 2003 invasion. While only the last two were commanded and fought directly by American military, neither would have happened had the United States not supported Saddam Hussein’s regime in the first war against Iran. This course will examine all these events as individual policy choices, including: their successes, their failures, and their effects both on the stability of the Middle East and the American body politic.
Particular to this course is a negotiation component that will employ methods developed by the former lead international kidnapping negotiator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. No previous experience in negotiation is required, but students should be ready to engage in extended simulations, role plays, and oral assessment exercises. In addition, all students should enter this course with a thorough grounding in the foundation skills for historical study taught in World and the West, including critical reading skills and familiarity with questions of source reliability and providence. Completion of the American History requirement is strongly recommended, but not required. Reading may include Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (Kinzer), Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It (Voss), and The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation (Jacobson and Colón).
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. This course may be taken separately or in conjunction with the full year exploration of America’s empire from the Philippines to Iraq. This series of electives examines the expansion of American military, political, and economic power into Asia and its effects on the home front in the United States. The Philippine-American War (1899-1913) was a foreboding sign of what was to come. This war changed the size, nature, and readiness of the U.S. military. Today’s debates over global economic integration, nation-building, military force, and religious extremism echo the scrutiny over American policy that started in the Philippines. Today’s headlines could have been ripped from last century’s newspapers: they informed readers on the latest troop deployments overseas, the high rates of what was then called melancholia in returning soldiers, and Senate investigations into military abuses.
This course will begin with a history of American expansion across North America to the Pacific Rim, including early U.S. interference in Japan, China, and Hawaii. It will slow down for a more in-depth discussion of the inciting war against Spain, the decision to purchase and colonize the Philippines, the development of counterinsurgency strategy, the experience of African-American regiments in the Philippines, the course of specific campaigns in the southern islands, the development of civil colonial policy, and the structure of the Philippine Commonwealth. At the end of the course, we will examine how Americans and Filipinos forgave past grievances to work together against the Japanese in World War II. This cooperation allowed the U.S. to grant the Philippines independence on schedule in 1946 and created a strong bilateral (and neo-colonial) relationship that would extend into the Cold War. Finally, we will discuss the status of the U.S.-Philippine relationship today in the shadow of growing U.S.-Chinese competition.
All students should enter this course with a thorough grounding in the foundation skills for historical study taught in World and the West, including critical reading skills, familiarity with questions of source reliability and providence, and comfort with writing sophisticated argumentative essays. Completion of the American History requirement is strongly recommended, but not required. Participation is particularly important in this course, and so students should be ready to engage regularly in spirited but civil class discussions. Reading may include How to Hide an Empire (Immerwahr) and Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (Kinzer).
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. This course may be taken separately or in conjunction with the full year exploration of America’s empire from the Philippines to Iraq. This series of electives examines the expansion of American military, political, and economic power into Asia and its effects on the home front in the United States.
The winter term will examine the controversial American war in Vietnam from the point of view of both cultures, focusing on why it divided their populations and how it changed the political landscape of each country. It will study the causes of conflict during and after World War II, the path towards US involvement in Vietnam, crucial turning points in the conflict such as the Tet Offensive and the My Lai Massacre, and the impact of the war on American society. The class will place special emphasis on the experience of soldiers on the ground using visiting veterans, autobiographical sources, and selected works from the body of fiction written about the war (such as The Things They Carried, A Rumor of War, Bloods, and A Viet Cong Memoir).
All students should enter this course with a thorough grounding in the foundation skills for historical study taught in World and the West, including critical reading skills, familiarity with questions of source reliability and providence, and comfort with writing sophisticated argumentative essays. Completion of the American History requirement is strongly recommended, but not required. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of some of the reading assignments, students should also be well versed in analyzing literature and poetry. Participation is particularly important in this course, and so students should be ready to engage regularly in spirited but civil class discussions. Reading may include The Vietnam Reader (O’Nan, ed.), The Tunnels of Cu Chi (Mangold and Penycate), and Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (Kinzer).
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. In 1950, liberal critic Lionel Trilling proclaimed that “Liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition,” for “the plain fact that nowadays there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation.” The nascent ideas that were maturing even before Trilling’s bold statement have grown and spread over the last 70 years, firmly planting Conservatism as one of America’s dominant political traditions.
This course will examine the Conservative intellectual movement in America since World War II, focusing on the ideas and intellectuals that have created, accelerated, or described the rising revolt against liberalism. The key goal of the course will be to define American conservatism. Is it an ideology or a tradition? Are conservatives necessarily reactionary, or on the Right? What is the relationship between conservatism and the Republican party? Can one big tent contain libertarians, traditionalists, Rockefeller Republicans, arch-reactionaries, neocons, paleocons, and crunchy cons?
We will answer these questions and more through primary sources written between 1945 and today that furthered the Conservative dialogue. We will start with authors such as William F. Buckley and Russell Kirk and end with current commentators like Ross Douthat and Jonah Goldberg. The story will hang together with the help of George Nash’s The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945, which will serve as a textbook and reference work for most of the course.
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. During the past few decades, India and China have experienced unprecedented economic growth, reversing two centuries of decline and stagnation, and re-establishing themselves as two of the world's most important states, together comprising around a quarter of the world's economic output and a third of the world's population. This course aims to explain Indian and Chinese society in the 21st century by examining how in the 19th century once great Indian and Chinese civilizations underwent unexpected and dramatic decline and then in the late 20th century re-emerged in equally surprising fashion. The readings in this course are largely from Orville Schell, Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century, and from Barbara and Thomas Metcalf, A Concise History of Modern India.
Students are expected to be able to conduct independent research and to engage classmates in spirited but appropriate and effective discussion and debate. Students should be able to write well-organized and comprehensive essays.
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. Prerequisite: World and the West; can be taken alongside US History. No prior knowledge of economics is required. In the early 21st century, capitalism's global reach is truly unprecedented. How did we get here? This course examines the development of capitalism from its theoretical beginnings to its most contentious political and cultural conflicts with other economic and social ideologies. This course starts with economic history and engages with the political, cultural, and social forces that have come to define it. Students will read original thinkers, such as Adam Smith and Karl Marx, and relate their theories to assignments on particular examples related to the development of capitalism in its global manifestations. Readings will be derived from a variety of academic and popular sources for students to access the most encompassing range of materials currently available.
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. This course examines the role of the Constitution and the Supreme Court in American life with respect to the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee to the equal protection of the laws. Students will examine the scope and meaning of the Court’s adjudication in this area. Most of their inquiry will look at the Court’s post-war work in this area with respect to race, ethnicity origin, gender, and sexuality. We begin with a brief examination of the meaning and scope of the equal protection clause in the early decades following the ratification of the 14th Amendment, its evolution in the 1930’s and 40’s, and its dramatic expansion in the 1950’s with the Brown v. Board of Education decisions. The class traces the Court’s equal protection jurisprudence across the landscape of racial segregation, gender discrimination, and ethnic classifications. This study includes an array of issues that define equal protection interpretation in recent decades, including school desegregation, busing, voting rights, employment discrimination, affirmative action, and same-sex marriage. The readings for this class include excerpts from relevant monographs, briefs, opinions, and documents related to the syllabus.
Students are expected to possess a survey knowledge of US History, a passion for debate, and an ability to compose clear analytical essays. By the end of the term, it is hoped students will be more purposeful and persuasive in their ability to engage in textual analysis of legal briefs and opinions, summarize and assess historical/constitutional concepts and themes, and recognize that the Court’s work is best understood as an interrelated thematic whole. An end-of-term mock courtis a capstone opportunity for students to display a mastery of these skills.
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. This course examines the role of the Constitution and the Supreme Court in American life with respect to individual liberty. The focus in the fall is on individual rights in the development of federal jurisprudence and constitutional interpretation from the framing of the Constitution to the work of the contemporary Court. This study includes the origins and development of judicial review, the nationalization of the Bill of Rights and the “incorporation controversy,” and the development of substantive due process adjudication with respect to individual liberty. The term ends with a public mock court simulation of either a recent Court decision or a hypothetical case. This exhibition includes written briefs, oral arguments, and written opinions. The readings for this class include excerpts from relevant monographs, legal briefs, Court opinions, and documents related to the syllabus.
Students are expected to possess a survey knowledge of US History, a passion for debate, and an ability to compose clear analytical essays. By the end of the term, it is hoped that they will be more purposeful and persuasive in their ability to engage in textual analysis of legal briefs and opinions, summarize and assess historical/constitutional concepts and themes, and recognize that the Court’s work is best understood as an interrelated thematic whole. The mock court is a capstone opportunity for students to display a mastery of these skills.
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. Prerequisite: World and the West; can be taken alongside US History. Remembering and forgetting are intertwined in the fabric of the human experience. How do communities memorialize their histories? How should they? Who owns the past? Whose past is lauded and whose marginalized? This course will examine several examples of historical reparations, as well as monuments, memorials, and museums and the politics involved in their creation, maintenance, and destruction. Students will grapple with theories and examples regarding historical memory, reparative justice, national myth-making, and public commemorations, as well as the enduring ways these processes, programs, and sites have been and remain contested. Touching on material from nearly every continent, this course offers a global perspective and seeks to understand the fruitful ways national comparisons can enrich our understanding of the ways the past is remembered.
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. Prerequisite: World and the West; can be taken alongside US History. What do climate change, human rights, sugar, maps, and the Mediterranean Sea have in common? They are all viable topics to study in the expansive field of global history. Seeking to move beyond histories that emphasize national boundaries or the supremacy of Europe, global historians work to understand large-scale processes—such as globalization, the spread of diseases, imperialism, and racial slavery—over the long term. Rather than a broad survey of world history, this course is targeted towards an in-depth examination of certain events, topics, regions, and themes that a global perspective is uniquely suited to tackle. Plus, while there is no research paper, students will have the opportunity for independent exploration of topics of their choosing. As the 21st century world calls for a global approach to our most vexing political and cultural issues, an understanding of our global past is essential to help solve these problems.
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. This course introduces students to the fundamentals of microeconomics. The course begins with a study of the basic forces that determine an equilibrium in a market economy. Next, it introduces a framework to analyze how consumers and producers make their decisions. We then look at the role of competition and the impact of market structures on firms' behavior. At the end of the course, we will use microeconomic theory to analyze some of the more advanced topics, such as international trade, behavioral economics, game theory, and equity versus efficiency trade-offs in economic policy. Though this course is not designed to prepare students for the Advanced Placement Examination, students are welcome to take the exam if they wish. They will, however, need to do substantial extra reading during school vacations in advance of the exam.
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. This course examines the nature of racism and genocide by exploring in detail the history of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust and of the Atlantic Slave Trade and slavery in the Americas. Students will also conduct independent research on episodes of genocide and ethnic conflict in places such as Cambodia and Rwanda. Readings, which are largely primary sources, including Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, a Slave, Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative and Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavas Vassa, the African, Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz, and Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men. Students are expected to be able to conduct independent research and engage classmates in spirited but respectful and effective discussion and debate. Students should be able to write well-organized and comprehensive essays that reflect an understanding of the topics and an appreciation for the relevance of the material. Some of the language and images used in the various course materials may make some students uncomfortable.
Taught jointly by the Religious Studies and Philosophy Department and the History Department, this course introduces students to religious traditions and the history and cultures that shaped their origins and development. Global in scope, the course considers religious traditions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as well as Chinese philosophies. Similarly, the course surveys traditions and history of Africa and the Americas and the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome. This foundational course introduces students to religious pluralism, methods for the study and interpretation of religion, history, and culture; it aids students in gaining religious literacy and intercultural knowledge; and it develops students' skills as note-takers, critical readers, analytical writers, researchers, and interpreters of primary sources.
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. Students in this course will use sport as a lens for exploring and understanding recent U.S. history. Our study will move chronologically, tracing issues of race, gender, ethnicity, and economic change through figures, events, and trends in the sports world. In addition to examining these topics, students will be given opportunities to pursue areas of their own interest through individual research. This course will draw on a variety of sources from historians, journalists, and documentary filmmakers rather than a single text.
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. Students in this course will use sport as a lens for exploring and understanding global developments since the Second World War. Three main topics will be used to organize our study: the Cold War, Decolonization, and Globalization. Within these topics, we will look at the role of major events like the Olympics and the World Cup, as well as the influence of specific sports like soccer and hockey. In addition to examining these topics, students will be given opportunities to pursue areas of their own interest through individual research. This course will draw on a variety of sources from historians, journalists, and documentary filmmakers rather than a single text.
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. This course will examine the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. Our study will begin with Lenin and the Bolsheviks and progress through the revolutionary period and the emergence of Stalinism. We will follow Stalin's leadership through the Great Patriotic War (World War II) and the emergence of the Cold War in its aftermath. From there, we will focus on the Soviet role in Eastern Europe and elsewhere as well as the decline and stagnation of the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Finally, we will conclude with Gorbachev's failed reforms and the ultimate collapse of the empire in 1991. We will read Orlando Fige's Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A History as our text while CNN's documentary, Cold War, will also be used extensively.
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. This course will focus on the demise of the Soviet Union and its empire as well as the transition to democracy and capitalism after 1991. It will look at the problems within the Soviet state as well as the Eastern European Revolutions of 1989. Finally, students will study recent developments within Russia under Boris Yeltsin and then Vladimir Putin. Potential texts and sources include Stephen Kotkin’s, Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000 and Masha Gessen’s The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin.
Open to VI and V Formers. This course examines major issues in international relations today such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, globalization and the growth of transnational agencies and economies, and the preponderance of failing States as a result of the spread of ethnic and religious intolerance. Specific geographical regions of conflict such as the Korean Peninsula or the Balkans may also be investigated. The starting point for the course is a look at differing theories of International Relations by important thinkers such as Von Clauswitz, Kenneth Waltz, and Samuel Huntington as well as an examination of how American foreign policy is made. Students then conduct extensive research to prepare for role-plays and debates on the current aforementioned issues. In addition students play the board game, Diplomacy, a simulation of international relations.
Most readings are articles from Foreign Affairs magazine, and the rest come from other periodicals such as Current History, The National Interest, Foreign Policy (The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace), and The Foreign Policy Association's Great Decisions series. A regularly updated Groton School web site helps students to access sites such as the United Nations, The U.S. State Department, and non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International, as well as various universities, think tanks, and private foundations.
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. What does the WTO do? What is an ICBM? Why is the Korean peninsula still divided? Is Globalization a good thing? What is the ICC? Where is Latvia and why should Americans care?
This course examines major issues in international relations today, including regional conflicts in places such as the Middle East and Asia, and various trends in global affairs, including trade, migration, and the rise of authoritarianism. Students learn about the international challenges facing both the United States and the world at large. The starting point of the course is a look at differing theories of International Relations and how US foreign policy is made. Students then conduct extensive research to prepare for role-plays, simulations, and debates on a variety of topics including Sino-American relations, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and humanitarian intervention. In addition, students play the board game, Diplomacy, a simulation of international relations. Most readings are articles from the archives of Foreign Affairs magazine, and other readings include articles from journals such as Foreign Policy, The National Interest, Current History, The American Interest, and The Foreign Policy Association’s Great Decisions series. Students are expected to be able to conduct research independently and engage classmates in spirited but appropriate and effective discussion and debate. Students should be able to write well-organized and comprehensive essays that consider solutions to difficult questions as well as reflect an understanding and appreciation of the complexity of international relations and different points of view.
Although the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 is often seen as the end of the American Indian story in the US narrative of US History, it should instead be understood as the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. Military conflict between the United States and American Indians had largely concluded by 1890, but Indians’ struggle in legal, cultural, and at times physical terms was far from over. American Indian history in the 20th century illuminates the unique position of tribes within American society and law as “domestic dependent nations,” as well as the ongoing tension between assimilation and cultural preservation. Through a combination of primary and secondary sources, fiction, and film, this course examines various episodes and problems throughout the twentieth century, including the founding and operation of the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania, the American Indian Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and contemporary issues in reservation life.
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers. This course will focus on the Cold War through the lens of Soviet leadership with particular attention to the importance of ideology, personality, and realpolitik in foreign policy. We will also look at the global impact of the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union and the role it played in various regions, including: Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. Potential texts and sources includeVladislav Zubok’s A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev and the CNN documentary series Cold War.
Open to Sixth and Fifth Formers who have completed The World and the West and required of all students in the Upper School, United States History is a survey course that begins with the pre-Revolutionary War Period and continues through the post-War era. While recognizing the different cultures that have contributed to the American experience, this course emphasizes the values we all share in common: democratic participation in government, freedom of expression and basic civil liberties, the rule of law, social movements, and the relationship between liberty and equality. In addition, students also explore the changing role the United States has played in the world.
Enrollment in U.S. History assumes that students will have a thorough grounding in the foundation skills for historical inquiry taught in Sacred Texts and Ancient Peoples and The World and the West, including researching and writing a major paper. During the year, students will continue to develop as analytical writers, critical readers, and inquiring discussants in pursuit of an understanding that our history may be interpreted in many and varied ways.
Though this course is not designed to prepare students for the Advanced Placement Examination, students are welcome to take the exam if they wish. They should, however, prepare during school vacations in advance of the exam.
Open to Fifth and Fourth Formers and required of all students in the Upper School. World and the West is a year-long course that carries the human story forward from the year 1200 to the present. The course examines the role played by western and non-western societies in the development of the modern world, and focuses in particular on the cross-cultural interchange between the world's societies during the past millennia. Because of the broad time span it covers, World and the Westfills an important role in the larger school curriculum by enabling students to place knowledge acquired in other courses in its proper chronological context.
Students entering The World and the West should be able to write a five-paragraph essay with effective thesis and topic sentences. They should be able to take notes and organize information on their own when preparing for both objective and essay tests. They should have an enhanced capacity for abstract reasoning beyond that expected in the Lower School. Among the many skills taught in World and the West are: an understanding of point of view and the ability to make judgments concerning relative reliability when using primary sources, the ability to use these primary sources in document-based essay questions, the ability to handle multiple-choice questions of a type generally used on standardized national exams, and the ability to engage in spirited but civil class discussions. As they continue to hone their critical thinking and essay writing skills, students will also undertake two research papers sometime during the year. Their instructors lead them through all phases of the process including: identifying an appropriate historical question as a topic, orientation to the library, finding and discriminating among printed sources (whether accessed in person or online), developing an argument based upon this research, understanding of what plagiarism is and how it can be avoided, and formatting proper footnotes and a bibliography according to the University of Chicago style.
Though this course is not explicitly designed to prepare students for the Advanced Placement Examination in World History: Modern, they are welcome to take the exam if they wish. They will, however, need to do extra reading during school vacations in advance of the exam.
Originally from China, Renee holds a B.A. in economics from Gordon College in Massachusetts. She worked in asset management as a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) charterholder before joining the Groton faculty in 2015. Renee teaches Chinese as well as economics, and works with the Stagecraft crew in theater. She also serves as a dorm affiliate in the Second Form girls’ dormitory.
Nelson Mandela once said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Renee is a firm believer in this “heart” power and is passionate to pass it down to her students. Having worked as an interpreter/translator/tutor with people in various fields, from professors to politicians to pro athletes, Renee brings real-world applications to linguistic and cultural studies. She is also an active community organizer. In her spare time, she has hosted over one hundred multicultural events in the Greater Boston area and beyond.
Renee considers herself a traveler, storyteller, gourmand, and accidental poet. She lives in Groton, MA and is constantly perfecting her scallion pancake recipe for advisory dinners.
Harold Francis, head basketball coach, assistant athletic director, and teacher, joined Groton in 2013, after teaching and serving as an assistant coach at Buckingham Brown and Nichols in Cambridge, MA for six years, where he became familiar with the level of play within the ISL. Before that, Coach Francis spent three years as head coach at Boston Collegiate Charter School in Dorchester, MA, where he led the school to three consecutive playoff appearances and was named Massachusetts Charter School Athletic Organization Basketball Coach of the Year.
Originally from Queens, New York, Coach Francis played football and basketball at the Taft School, then went on to play football at Hobart College. He has worked at numerous basketball camps throughout the country, including the Coach K Duke Basketball Camp and Hoop Mountain. He earned a master's in sports leadership from Northeastern University. Besides being assistant athletic director and coaching basketball, he also coaches football, teaches a section of Sacred Texts, and lives on campus with his wife, Sarah, and dog, Brooklyn.
Lawrence Family Chair in History and World Affairs
Tommy Lamont earned a BA in history from Harvard University in 1983 and an M.Phil. in history from the University of Oxford in 1991. She teaches American history and world history at Groton, as well as electives on modern China, modern India, and international relations. Tommy also has taught courses on the Holocaust, modern Russia, and modern Japan, and has traveled extensively around the globe, including trips with students to Japan, India, China, and Haiti. She holds the Lawrence Family Chair in History and World Affairs. Tommy has coached football, crew, basketball, soccer, ice hockey, squash, and baseball; she ran a Third Form boys’ dormitory at Groton for ten years. All three of Tommy's children are Groton graduates. Tommy enjoys foreign films, sailing, and playing the blues, country, and classic rock.
Director of New Faculty Development, John Hay Whitney Chair of History and Public Affairs
John Lyons arrived at Groton in 1995 and was chair of the History Department from 2006 to 2012. Following his undergraduate years at Middlebury College, John pursued an MA at Georgetown University. He completed two years as a history instructor at Northfield Mt. Hermon before spending the next ten years at St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, DE, chairing the history department during his last five years there.
After assuming many roles at St. Andrew’s, including head varsity football coach, varsity baseball assistant, dorm head, and residential dean, John and his family headed to Groton. In 1996, he was awarded Groton's John Hay Whitney Chair in History and Public Affairs, and in June 2000, Lyons received the Henry and Wendy Breck Award for Teaching Excellence and in 2012 received the Jonathan Choate '60 Faculty Award for excellence in teaching and coaching. His professional development activities include a year as a visiting scholar in history at Middlebury College, three William Robertson Coe Fellowships in American History at Stanford University, and summer colloquiums with the Gilder-Lehrman Institute for American History, the Liberty Fund, the Center for the American Idea, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
John holds the Charles C. Alexander Endowed Varsity Football Coach position and coaches boys JV ice hockey. At various times he has directed Groton's Teaching Intern program, moderated Groton's Model UN group, and served as a member of the Curriculum and Studies committees as well as a dorm head. His wife of 29 years, Hannah, is a clinical nurse specialist in oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital; they have two daughters, Rachel, a 2008 St. Mark's graduate, and Molly ’12. Rounding out the Lyons clan is a black Lab, George.
Eric Spierer teaches world history and United States history. He graduated with distinction from the Columbia University - London School of Economics dual MA/MSc program in international and world history, and he was the joint recipient of the Richard Hofstadter Prize for Best Dissertation. Eric earned his bachelor's degree at Wesleyan University, where he was a history major and a varsity rower. Prior to graduate school, Eric was a paralegal at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York City and taught history at The Derryfield School, his alma mater, in Manchester, New Hampshire. At Groton, Eric coaches basketball and rowing, is the director of Jewish Student Life, and runs a dorm with his wife, Jessica.
Ryan Spring joined the Groton faculty in 2013. His experience in independent boarding schools began as a student at Phillips Academy, Andover. After Andover, he completed his undergraduate studies at Bates College, earning a BA in American Cultural Studies and Russian History. Ryan later earned an MA in history at the George Washington University.
Since arriving on the Circle, Ryan has taught U.S. History, World and the West, and a series of electives on 20th-century Russia. He has also led a Third Form girls’ dormitory and coached girls’ varsity soccer and thirds basketball. The girls’ soccer team won the NEPSAC Class B championship in 2014 and reached the semifinals in 2013 and 2015. In 2014. Ryan was awarded the Jonathan Choate Award for Excellence in Teaching and Coaching.
Before working at Groton, Ryan spent fifteen years teaching, coaching, and advising at Blair Academy, in Blairstown, NJ. He lives on campus with his wife, Stacey, a doctoral student in political science at Boston University and also a member of Groton’s History Department, and their two children, Owen and Eleanor (Elly).
Jennifer Wallace teaches everything from ancient to recent history, with a special focus on Southeast Asia and the Middle East. She holds both a BS and MS from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and, prior to Groton, lived and taught in Beirut, Lebanon; Manila, Philippines; and Chiang Mai, Thailand. She was awarded the Henry and Wendy Breck Award for Teaching Excellence in 2005, and the Jonathan Choate Award for Excellence in Teaching and Coaching in 2014. Jen coaches varsity volleyball and winter running, ran an Upper School girls’ dormitory for six years, and is now a brownie-toting affiliate in the Third Form.