Tears, laughter as Brookfield Academy celebrates its 50th anniversary

School founded by local families has grown to more than 900 students

Allison Hertel (left), a middle school languages teacher, and Mara King of the Narnina After-School program share some laughs during the Brookfield Academy 50th anniversary celebration at Patriots Hall on Saturday.

Allison Hertel (left), a middle school languages teacher, and Mara King of the Narnina After-School program share some laughs during the Brookfield Academy 50th anniversary celebration at Patriots Hall on Saturday. Photo By C.T. Kruger

Jan. 30, 2013

Several generations of alumni, teachers and families gathered Saturday to celebrate Brookfield Academy's 50th birthday.

Guests shared laughs, tears and stories over photos, timelines and a movie recognizing the academy's founders.

Mary York has been a board member since 1986 and comes from one of the founding families.

"I was actually embarrassed that my parents would form a school and take my siblings out of public school," York said. "My friends teased me."

York said she learned that sometimes, father really does know best.

"I've learned so much about taking risks and how important it is to stand up for your principles," she said. "They felt that public schools were deviating from what education should be."

Idea took off

Brookfield Academy, 3460 N. Brookfield Road, is a private, college-preparatory school serving students in kindergarten through grade 12. What started as a one-building school serving students in kindergarten through eighth-grade has now grown into a six-building campus with more than 900 students, four libraries, four gymnasiums, three music studios, eight science labs, five art centers and five computer labs.

Students from Milwaukee and surrounding suburbs attend Brookfield Academy, coming from as far away as Hartford, East Troy, Mequon and Oconomowoc.

"I can't say enough about the values and principles they are taught in addition to the academics," York said.

Her three children attended the academy, and she said she looks forward to her six, soon to be seven, grandchildren attending the school as well.

"The school gave them confidence and helped them learn who they are as individuals," York said of her children. "Academically, they were always further ahead of their peers, helping their friends write papers."

York admitted she didn't think Brookfield Academy would see this milestone.

"I never thought we would get to 50 years," York said. "What I thought was a half-crazy idea has turned into something wonderful.

"Everything we have, we take no government money for," York said. "That's a principle. Everything we have, we've raised for."

Dedication rewarded

Robert Solsrud, head of school, said the milestone pays tribute to a group dedicated to education.

"This anniversary recognizes a core group of dedicated pioneers who saw the need for educational reform," Solsrud said. "They took the risk of starting a school, uncertain of its chances of succeeding, in a simple facility with moderate resources."

Solsrud is only the third head of school in the academy's history, and has worked for the school for more than four decades.

"The school has been my life. For 42 years I have truly enjoyed working in a unique and distinct climate and culture whose philosophy, program and people align with my educational philosophy," he said.

Guests received a book full of facts about the academy as well as a DVD that shows the school's history.

"It brought tears to my eyes," York said of the paty's turnout. "I think the academy is an asset to the community."

While she is not sure what the next 50 years will bring, she said that as long as the founding principles stay in place, the academy has the power to stay around.

"What's most important to me is that we hang on to our philosophy," she said.

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