Kennebec Academy is the name of an imagined Maine boarding school, described vividly and reflectively in the book’s chapters by Roger F. Duncan as he presents an account of a year in its life. The chapters were mostly not written in a consecutive narrative, however, but as spontaneous essays addressing the values and development of human character and spirit that can be so powerful in the crucible of a secondary school community, sometimes just at the moment they were most needed and helpful.
Hill graduates of the 1970s and early 1980s will remember encountering certain of these chapters as morning talks delivered by Mr. Duncan in the Hamilton Chapel. How well he knew boys’ susceptibility to being drawn in to an intriguing story, peopled by characters of sure relevance to their own lives and facing challenges similar or identical to theirs. “Honesty”, “generosity”, “community”, “sensitivity”, “self-confidence”, “teamwork”, among other human capacities, were to him worth discussing, understanding and acquiring. In his carefully crafted and often poignant 15-minute talks, Mr. Duncan led boys closer to these values and with greater enthusiasm on their part than might have been aroused by even the most sympathetic preceptor. And the whole remains a memorable and enduring sum of its parts.