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Albuquerque Academy is a private co-educational school for grades six through twelve located in Albuquerquemarker, New Mexicomarker, USA. It is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest and the New Mexico State Department of Education. Albuquerque Academy is also a member of the National Association of Independent Schools. It is not to be confused with Albuquerque High Schoolmarker, the first high school established in Albuquerque, which was originally named Albuquerque Academy.

Albuquerque Academy is split into three different divisions: the six-seven division (or "lower school"), the eight-nine division, and the ten-twelve division (both in the "upper school").


Albuquerque Academy was founded in 1955 as The Academy for Boys in the basement of a small Albuquerque church by William B. S. Wilburn. The school was eventually moved into a facility that is today used by Sandia Preparatory School. In 1965, the school moved to its current site in northeast Albuquerque.

Between 1957 and 1964, the Academy received a large tract of undeveloped land north of Albuquerque, part of the Elena Gallegos Land Grant, from the Albert G. Simms family. The western portion (from Wyoming Boulevard to the Rio Grandemarker) was sold to finance the creation of the current campus and the first endowment fund, and the present campus was created in the middle of the tract. The land east of the campus, reaching to the crest of the Sandia Mountains, was sold later in a series of deals. First the section from the campus to Juan Tabo Boulevard was sold to create a second trust. Later, the City of Albuquerque attempted to facilitate a deal to sell the remainder to the Bureau of Land Management by putting up a parking garage as collateral. The deal fell through and the Academy became the garage owner while still retaining the area.

In July 1982, the city purchased most of the land in a complex deal with the Academy and the US Forest Service. The City paid the Academy $23.9 million, raised by a bond issue supported by a temporary ¼ percent sales tax. The City retained part of the land, which is now the 640 acre (2.6 km²) Elena Gallegos Picnic Area/Albert G. Simms Park, located at the feet of the Sandias at the mouths of Bear and Pino Canyons. The 7,000 acre (28 km²) plus remainder of the purchase, most of it forest land in the canyons proper, was sold to the Forest Service, and is now part of the Cibola National Forest and the Sandia Mountain Wildernessmarker. The Academy retained two parts of the tract, the larger adjoining Tramway Boulevard. The school set up the High Desert Investment Corporation (HDIC) to develop this portion as the master-planned community known as High Desert. (The smaller portion, within Bear Canyon itself, is still used by the Academy for experiential education purposes.) HDIC then purchased a large tract of land in the northern section of Rio Ranchomarker, which it is currently developing as Mariposa. The proceeds from the land sales and from HDIC have provided the Academy with a substantial endowment, which is used partly to defray tuition expenses and to subsidize a significant need-based financial aid program.

The school remained an all-boys school, with grades five through twelve, until 1973, at which time girls were allowed into grades nine through twelve. Part of the reason for the delay in allowing girls and for the gradual inclusion was that the Simms grant specified that the number of boys not decrease in order to make room for girls. The 5th grade was dropped in 1979, and the school became fully coeducational in 1984.

Today, the Academy has an enrollment of just over 1,000 in grades 6 through 12, with students drawn from throughout the Albuquerque metropolitan area and the state of New Mexico. The Albuquerque Academy celebrated its 50th anniversary during the 2004-2005 school year with a year-long celebration of the school's history.

Heads of school

  • William B. S. Wilburn, 1955-1960
  • Rev. Paul G. Saunders, 1960-1964
  • Ashby Harper, 1964-1985
  • Robert L. Bovinette, 1985-1996
  • Timothy R. McIntire, 1996-1999
  • Donald W. Smith (interim head), 1999-2001
  • Andrew T. Watson, 2001-present


The school sits on an approximately 312 acre (1.5 km²) gated campus in the northeastern part of the city. It is divided into two campuses, the West Campus and the East Campus. The two campuses are separated by about a quarter of a mile, with the library, science building, and athletic fields in between. The school buildings conform to a consistent, Mediterranean-influenced architectural style, which incorporates brick buildings, arches, and tile roofs.

West Campus

The West Campus comprises eight buildings including sixth and seventh grade classroom buildings, an administration building, a dining hall, and a gymnasium. In addition, the Visual Arts building and Natatorium are on the West Campus. All of the buildings except the Natatorium were designed by Robert McCabe of Flatow, Moore, Bryan, and Associates, and opened in 1984. The Natatorium was added to the West Campus Gymnasium in 1997.

Simms Library

Simms Library

The Dr. Albert G. Simms II and Barbara Young Simms Library (almost always shortened to "Simms Library") is the Academy's most iconic building, housing the school's collection of over 135,000 books, periodicals, videos, and recordings. It comprises two wings that open onto a central lobby, with the fiction/nonfiction section housed in the larger north wing and reference materials in the east wing. The Library was designed by Alexander "Sandy" Howe of the Bostonmarker firm of Shepley, Bullfinch, Richardson, and Abbot and opened in 1991 along with the Science Building. The Library spire is the highest point on campus.

Science Building

The Science Building sits across a brick plaza from the Library. It houses the majority of the Academy's science classrooms, labs, and faculty, as well as some teachers from other departments. The building comprises two classroom wings and two laboratory wings grouped around a square central courtyard, which includes a small pond that contains some small fish and aquatic pond snails. The main foyer houses a large Foucault pendulum. (Another much smaller pendulum is located in Brown Hall on the East Campus). The Science Building was also designed by Howe and opened at the same time as the Library.

East Campus

The East Campus currently houses grades 8-12. It includes the Academy's four original buildings, all grouped around a central quad: North Hall (the 8-9 classroom building), Brown Hall (the 10-12 classroom building), the Administration Building (which includes the office of the Head of School), and the gymnasium-dining hall complex. All were designed by Edward O. Holien of Holien and Buckley and completed in 1965. Also on the East Campus is the Simms Center for the Performing Arts, designed by George Pearl, completed in 1975, and remodeled in 2000; and the Music Building, designed by Bill Sabatini of Dekker/Perich/Sabatini and completed in 1996.

Athletic facilities

The Academy's largest sports facilities are Harper Memorial Stadium (used for football and soccer games and track and field meets), the East Campus Gym (basketball and volleyball), and the Natatorium (swimming and diving). There are also several soccer, baseball, and softball fields, a 16-court tennis complex, a cross country course, a weight room, and basketball courts.

Experiential education

The Academy curriculum includes a significant experiential education component, part of which involves outdoor activities such as backpacking, rock climbing, and canoeing. The school's 270 acre (1.1 km²) tract in Bear Canyon is used for this purpose; trips also take place in areas throughout the state. The sixth grade students in 2008/2009 was the first sixth grade class in recent years to take an overnight trip in Bear Canyon. In addition the sixth graders also go on day trips, while the seventh grade class goes to Bear Canyon for a week. The 8th grade class takes a weeklong retreat to Manzano moutntain retreat in and the 9th grade class takes another weeklong backpacking trip to various areas throughout the state. The campus also houses a low ropes course, and a higher 60 ft (18 m) tower, with a zipline attached, called the Alpine Tower. The older students are offered classes in outdoor leadership as well as kayaking and tai chi chih.

Student body

The school is roughly half boys and half girls, and nearly one third of the students have non-white backgrounds. The Academy also ranks among the top independent secondary schools with regard to need-based financial aid offered to students, totaling nearly one-third of the student body and 2.2 million dollars. The Academy devotes an entire day to diversity each year, called Diversity Day. (For two years, in 2007 and 2008, the day was split into two half days.) This day features a forum with music, dancing, skits, and video presentations; group activities on themes related to diversity; and a long row of booths featuring some of the Academy's many clubs, many offering food from different countries or ethnicities.

Albuquerque Academy prides itself on its 8:1 student/teacher ratio.

In 2009, 93 of 400 upper school students were named AP Scholars by the College Board in recognition of their exceptional achievement on AP exams taken in the spring of 2008. 31 out of 160 seniors were named National Merit Semifinalists. Academy Seniors received both New Mexico Siemens Awards for Advanced Placement, given to two seniors, one male and one female, from each state.


The board of trustees sets tuition for each school year. The figures below represent the costs for the 2008-09 school year only, and annual increases should be expected. Financial aid is awarded based on tuition (including lunch fees) and an average book cost. The Academy participates in the National Lunch Program, a federally funded program that allows families with certain income levels to receive free or reduced lunches. Families that qualify for this program will be asked to apply as part of their overall financial aid award. The Albuquerque Academy adds that every student's education is half provided for from their own endowment on a yearly basis.

Tuition (including lunch fees) for 2008-09: $16,189

Books: Cost ranges from $250-$500 per year, depending upon grade level

Extracurricular activities

Extracurricular activities are an important part of the Academy experience. Some of the larger activities include many state championship sports teams, The Advocate (a student newsmagazine that has received numerous awards from the Albuquerque Tribune and the New Mexico Press Women), Science Olympiad, Science Bowl, and theater. Students are able to submit proposals to the 10-12 Student Senate to create a new club or activity, which nearly always approves activities.

The two longest sports state championship streaks by Academy sports teams are the 6-Peat Boys Basketball team (1989-1994), led by Coach Mike Brown, and the 6-time state champion Boys Track team (2002-2007) led by Coach Adam Kedge.

Coach Kedge has also led the Boys Cross Country team to Nike Cross Nationals (formerly Nike Team Nationals) four out of the five years it has been in existence, most notably to a third place finish in 2007.

In the spring of 2006, the orchestra, called the Chamber Players, was invited to attend the National Orchestra Festival in Kansas City, Missouri, where they received a superior rating.

In June 2006, the Academy's Middle School Science Bowl team placed second at the National Middle School Science Bowl competition in Denver, CO. In 2009, another team placed fourth in Washington DC.

In addition to these optional extracurricular activities, all students at the Academy spend the final month of their senior year doing a "senior project," which is the culmination of the experiential education part of the curriculum. A senior project is usually an off-campus internship with a community sponsor; it can also be on-campus work with a faculty mentor, participation in a seminar, or it can be a completely self-directed project.

The Academy also offers a summer school program, which has a variety of classes including language, science, and art. The summer program usually runs from early June to mid-July, lasting 6 weeks (with a vacation for Independence Day). In addition to the academic offerings, the summer program includes a traditional summer camp and athletic and aquatic camps.

The Speech and Debate team has held the state title for 23 straight years as of 2009. At the 2009 State Speech and Debate Tournament, Albuquerque Academy had five state champions, as well as winning Speech Sweepstakes, Debate Sweepstakes, and Debate Coach of the Year (Susan Ontiveros). The Albuquerque Academy style of Original Oratory is popular on the National Speech and Debate circuit, brought about by 2001 champion Yasmin Mashhoon and coach Randy McCutcheon.

Rivalry With St. Pius X High School

The Albuquerque Academy Chargers hold a fierce rivalry with the St. Pius X High School marker Sartans that has lasted for decades. Albuquerque Academy and St. Pius had evenly matched teams and were the largest two independent schools in the Albuquerque metropolitan area for years, fueling the rivalry which grew during the 1980s. Signs of the rivalry show up occasionally in acts of vandalism: St. Pius students burned a large X into the Richard Harper Memorial Field at Albuquerque Academy (although this act was ascribed by some to students from La Cueva High School. Also, Academy students allegedly defaced the statue on the St. Pius campus numerous times. In 2000, all of the fingers except for the middle finger of the statue were broken off. This caused public outrage from the faculty of both schools, and a member of the Academy varsity soccer team was blamed.

Most recently, students at St. Pius X High School defaced a memorial site of a deceased Academy student on the Albuquerque Academy campus and spray-painted other areas around the campus, inciting outrage from both Albuquerque Academy and the St. Pius administrations. Though the offending students were dismissed, numerous members of the St. Pius community publicly protested what they viewed as an unfair punishment.

A notorious event in the rivalry's history occurred on October 6, 1976, when someone, allegedly St. Pius students, set fire to Albuquerque Academy's wooden press box the night before their annual football game. Another well-known event occurred in 1996, when a St. Pius football center played with two buckles on his helmet that were made razor sharp by his father. One Charger football player was hospitalized with serious injuries. The New Mexico Activities Association determined that this was the work of an individual, with no evidence to show that other students were involved.

Notable alumni

Notable former and current faculty

External links


  1. ISAS Home Page
  2. About the Academy (school website)
  3. "City Acquires 7,761 acre (31.4 km²) Elena Gallegos Poperty in Sandias", Albuquerque Journal, July 2, 1982.
  4. Open Space History, City of Albuquerque, accessed 3-8-2007.
  5. Patrick Armijo, "Mariposa Plan Earns an OK, Council Approves Land Annexation", Albuquerque Journal, February 15, 2002.
  6. Academy Facts (school website)
  7. AA at
  8. Extracurricular programs (school website)
  9. " Protestors say St. Pius vandals treated unfairly" (December 16, 2005). KOB Eyewitness News 4.
  10. " Football player who sharpened buckle banned" (1996). Associated Press.
  11. Nelson, Robby (September 2002). "'X' Marks the spot: a rivalry since 1954". The Albuquerque Academy Advocate.
  12. Jessie Milligan, "Sharpened buckle renews debate over sports ethics," Albuquerque Tribune, October 24, 1996.
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