Norfolk Academy came into existence with the legal fanfare of a charter signed and dated November 13, 1728, deeding a plot of land to three leading citizens, the school's first trustees -- Sam Boush II, Nathaniel Newton, and Sam Smith.
Charter Day is the school's distinguished title for what might be called, more colloquially, its birthday, and traditions for observing the special day have undoubtedly varied over the centuries, although some were not duly recorded in the annals of school history. The date itself makes Norfolk Academy the oldest independent school in Virginia and the eighth oldest school in the country. The school has been located on several sites during its long history, settling at its present location in 1966, when the school merged with Country Day School of Virginia Beach, thus becoming a school for boys and girls.
Even amid a pandemic, the celebratory spirit of the day is undimmed. The school's birthday morning launched with one of the best annual traditions, bestowing the Charter Day Award on a surprised (and delighted) teacher-coach. In announcing the award, which is voted on by the Tunstall Student Council, President Frank Mercer IV noted its significance in recognizing a faculty member who has earned the respect of colleagues and students through excellence in teaching and extracurricular activities, depth of knowledge in his or her field, and the ability to create a nurturing, trusting environment for students.
This year's recipient was Dr. John Lindbeck, chairman of the History Department and a tennis coach. The award was bestowed on the Johnson Theater stage; since COVID-19 restrictions required a sparse crowd, members of the Student Council were seated at socially distanced intervals in the theater, and they erupted in applause.
Dr. Lindbeck earned a bachelor of arts in History, graduating summa cum laude from the University of Colorado, becoming a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2009. Dr. Lindbeck received a graduate honors fellowship at the University of Mississippi from 2011-2015. The following year, he was awarded the Arch Dalrymple III Department of History Travel Grant to do research in Boston, Baton Rouge and Jackson, Mississippi. He also received a dissertation fellowship at the University of Mississippi as well as a summer writing fellowship. Dr. Lindbeck completed his Ph.D. in American History in 2018; his area of specialization is the history of American religion, capitalism, and slavery from the colonial era through the 19th century.
Several students offered thoughts on his teaching. “Dr. Lindbeck understands people our age and how to make history fun and exciting for us," said Sabrina Sterns '21. “I was lucky to have him as my teacher for two years in a row, and I always looked forward to his class. He would always play wonderful music as we walked into the classroom every day and take the time to ask how we were all doing."
“His enthusiasm is contagious, and every class is so much fun," said Rachel Thetford '22. “Learning history has been very enjoyable, and I can credit his passion and eagerness for teaching. Thank you for a great two years, Dr. Lindbeck!"
Following the award, Dr. Grayson Bryant, Assistant Headmaster for Development, emphasized the school's values, including shaping graduates into leaders who will make “the world better tomorrow than it is today," referencing the Norfolk Academy Portrait of a Graduate.
In a year shaped by connecting through technology, he invited students to whip out their phones and write a note of thanks to at least one person that they appreciate in their lives. The chapel dropped into silence as students typed and the notes were sent.
There were other moments of Charter Day cheer throughout the day. The Bulldog made cameo appearances in classrooms, accompanied by Headmaster Dennis Manning, and the pair did a video that was shared with Lower School classes. Brown bag lunches for the day included a special treat from the refectory -- orange and blue cupcakes, which were consumed with appropriate glee.
Happy Charter Day and Happy Birthday, Norfolk Academy!