Traditions and Activities
Doane students develop a sense of community that is cultivated in its present but deeply rooted in its past. Students are bound together across centuries and generations by important traditions, some of which have been in place since the school’s founding in 1837. Doane is not only a place where students go to school, but also a place where they are from. Its traditions are an essential way of linking current students to the many alumni to whom the community is indebted.
First Day of School
Doane Academy begins the school year in a way that is profoundly meaningful and joy-filled. The entire school community, including students, faculty, family, alumni, and members of the board of trustees, gather on the bank of the Delaware River to celebrate the start of the new school year and welcome the members of the senior class as they arrive by canoe for the first day of school. The seniors’ arrival is a moving reminder to them and their families that this is the beginning of the end of their time as students at Doane. It is a moment for seniors to reflect on how the school community will look to them to be leaders in the new school year. In addition, it is an exciting way to open school for our youngest students, who track the seniors’ progress from the distant shore to the heart of Doane’s campus.
The culmination of Spirit Week, Homecoming is a time for alumni to return to campus for a day of fellowship, celebration, and entertainment. The day begins with a soccer triple-header, with the returning alumni facing off against each other, followed by the Varsity Girls and Varsity Boys hosting rival teams. At midday, alumni and members of the school community share signature dishes in a tailgate party for the enjoyment of all and in competition for 'Best of Homecoming' accolades. The daytime events end with teams of students using slingshots, trebuchets, and other hand-built siege engines to launch pumpkins toward the Delaware River. Students in grades 9-12 return to school at night for the Homecoming Dance.
Started by Upper School students over 40 years ago, Doane’s Dungeon gives a literary twist to the traditional Halloween haunted house. Scary, spooky, and Shakespearean, the event turns the basement and corridors of our historic school into a haunted dungeon for an entire weekend. Drama students, as well as those interested in set design and lighting, work together to create scenes from classics such as Frankenstein, The Crucible, The Phantom of the Opera, “The Tell-Tale Heart", and many other literary works. Open to the public, Doane’s Dungeon is one of the year’s biggest community events.
The Christmas season at Doane includes Upper School and Lower School concerts. Yet, the season’s centerpiece is the annual performance of the Christmas Mystery. Originated in 1848 by St. Mary’s Hall boarding students who were unable to travel home for the holidays, the Christmas Mystery is a music-filled presentation on the Nativity. Performed word for word as it was written so long ago (the current script dates from 1930), the Christmas Mystery is one of our most beloved traditions. Each year Upper School students vie for a part in the performance, with the parts of Mary and Joseph reserved for the senior boy and girl who have been at the school the longest, and the part of the Baby Jesus often filled by the baby of a Doane family or faculty member. The play is performed in the morning for students in grades Primary-8, and the evening performance for students in grades 9-12 is followed by a dinner that includes the reading of student holiday season reflections. The evening closes with a choir led singing of “Silent Night.”
Founder's Day Weekend
An alumni celebration of the school’s founder, Bishop George Washington Doane, and his enduring, revolutionary vision of providing educational opportunities to young women takes place every May. A weekend long series of events inspires alumni to relive their days at Doane alongside their longtime friends and share their stories with current students. A cocktail reception on Friday evening welcomes back alumni, and there is a chapel service on Saturday morning during which a wreath of pansies is placed on Bishop Doane’s portrait as a symbolic expression of gratitude. This service is followed by the Society of Graduates luncheon, and a dinner party caps off the events in the evening. Each year’s Founder’s Day Weekend pays special tribute to classes celebrating their major reunions.
Affirmations are designed to send seniors off to college with positive and sometimes enlightening messages and reminders of what of what they have given to the school community, and emphasizing the unique traits that make each of them so worthy of admiration, love, and respect. During a given senior’s Affirmation, a selection of faculty members and fellow students speak about them before the student body, and many more record their tributes in writing for that senior to carry with them as they move into boldly into their future.
Clubs and Activities
Doane’s club offerings mirror the diversity of the school’s students and their interests. They offer students the chance to participate in collaborative engineering projects, deliver closing arguments in mock trial, organize community service efforts, and much more. They provide unique ways for students to connect their academic studies with real world, real-time issues as well as devote additional time and energy to activities that bring them joy. Clubs are led by students to the fullest extent possible, with faculty members serving as advisors. These advisors encourage club members to take on the many different kinds of leadership opportunities and challenges inherent in building and running an organization with specific and meaningful goals. An essential part of school culture, clubs allow students to test themselves and their ideas in bold, exciting, and fun ways.