The decade of the 1960’s was dominated by the American involvement in the Vietnam War and conflicts arising internationally between economic systems of capitalism versus communism. These events followed the 1960 election of U.S. President John F. Kennedy who provided new visions and inspiration for American citizens by encouraging them to become more involved with public service and to volunteer with organizations such as the newly formed Peace Corps – a government civil service entity that helped economically frailer nations with rebuilding and maintaining their internal infrastructures and financial growth. Other world-wide events such as the flawed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, the Cuban Missile Crisis stand-off with the former Soviet Union and their Premier Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, and the “Space Race to reach the moon” were all contributing factors altering American attitudes, values, and beliefs during the early 1960’s. The preceding decade’s Cold War struggles also encouraged many young people to heed President Kennedy’s request to “ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.” Likewise, these cultural upheavals impacted the MVA campus in ways that helped to revive traditional school principles that made had for decades successfully implemented the “HEAD, HEART, and MIND” (Head – further knowledge, Heart – follow paths of righteousness, Mind – to be alert and active) in school curriculum and activities.
An attitude of discipline, hope, and optimism permeated the campus of MVA throughout the 1960’s decade helping to encourage the planning and completion of many construction projects initiated by MVA President Henry D. Roberts – including a new library and expansion of faculty apartments that were completed by the end of 1962. Archival documents illustrate how very important rules were to the daily life of MVA students in the early 1960’s. MVA student body organizations followed the strict Roberts Rule of Order form of meeting’s operations. There were 30 detailed rules students were expected to follow for the D.A.R. Hall, 34 rules for Dining Hall, and 15 rules for congregating at the Beehive. The rules addressed everything from cash transactions, counter behavior, loitering, and waiting turns to purchase items. Many diverse student clubs formed on campus in the beginning of the decade that included a French Club, F.F.A (Future Farmers of America), Choir (over 30 boys and girls), Skating club, Bowling, Square dance and Pep club. MVA sports-related activities were comprised of cheerleading and JV and Varsity Basketball boys and girls teams only (although by 1970, many other sports would re-form and also thrive).
A spirit of international openness blossomed at MVA during the 1960’s initiated by the increased numbers of foreign students living on-campus from Japan, Germany, Iraq, and Colombia. “With enlarged enrollment, many improvements to buildings and campus, a well-qualified staff and the cold winter almost forgotten, the years ahead loom bright and inviting for the Montverde Academy,” wrote President Roberts in his 1964 annual message to Montverde Academy. Organizations continued to grow and succeed by stressing that all students “become responsible citizens of the community.” Female-based organizations were also formed on-campus like “Y-Teens,” an organization of almost 20 girls whose mission was to “build the fellowship of women and girls devoted to the task of realizing those ideals of personal and social living… by faith as Christians.” Intramural sports options also increased in popularity during the 1960’s with the addition of the sports programs baseball and swimming. By 1965, Montverde Academy attendance from outside Florida included students from Venezuela, Virgin Islands, West Indies and American states as far away as New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington, DC. By 1966, MVA clubs included a Public Speaking club, Band club, Dance club and an all-inclusive student council.
The Montverde Academy belonged to the Florida High School Activities Association that retained teams competing in track, swimming, and boys J.V. and Varsity Basketball teams, the latter of which was coached by future Head of School Walter L. Stevens that won the regionally respected Lakes and Hills basketball Championship that year. According to the 1967-1968 Montverde Academy General Catalog, an important objective of MVA faculty was to make sure students maintained an established code of ethics and personal conduct as they continued to “Study, Work, and Play” – even establishing a competitive skating rink on campus for a few years.
Archival photos of MVA students during the middle to late 1960’s reflect a willingness on behalf of the MVA administration to allow students to be more expressive in their manner of dress and demonstrate how the MVA community had been affected by changes in social norms that effected the personal determinations, styles, and philosophies. Male staff and students wore longer hair and thick sideburns – while many women wore straight, long hair or beehive hairstyles with scarves. Women are seen in photos wearing jeans and mini-skirts with psychedelic “hippie- flower power” designs inspired by the European fashions worn by contemporary rock musicians such as Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Rolling Stones.
The St. Valentines’ Dance/Sweetheart and Valentine Court, the Halloween Dance, and the Miss Montverde Academy Pageant (a very popular and long standing campus competition lasting many years until its demise in 1975) were very popular events on campus. There were also many additional clubs added during the decade including the Bible Club, the Spanish Club, the Knitting Club, Psychology club, Chess Club, Nature Club (that cultivated an interest in ecology), and International Relations Club (that compared conflicts, economies, and people of foreign countries). MVA also developed new and important relationships with local Florida commerce and regional business support networks and joined in various partnership events with advertisers like Orlando’s Biggers, Patterson & Parke Advertising and CPI (Central Purchasing, Inc.), and First National Bank, Maryland Fried Chicken, Pepsi-Cola, Winter Garden Lumber Co. and Winter Garden Inn from nearby Winter Garden, Florida. These relationships helped establish financial support for yearbook activity, public outreach, sports and Alumni events.
Another new trend developing in student popularity was the “Montverde Academy Summer School Study and Play,” a summer school program that gave “students who did not apply themselves in the regular school year with an opportunity to receive individual attention.” The summer school programs created in the 1960’s were taught by regular MVA faculty for grades 1-12 to help struggling students get on the right academic track. Summer programs were important aspects of academic programming throughout the next four decades. By 1968, Montverde Academy had chosen Walter L. Stephens, Jr. as the new MVA Head of School. Under the appointment, Dr. Stephens shared the management of Montverde Academy with long-term President Henry Roberts. In 1969, Mr. Stephens would solely assume these responsibilities as MVA Head of School.
By decade’s end, the Montverde Academy had developed into a predominate Central Florida academic institution even as the Nation experienced the trauma of the assassinations of many public figures, violence and unrest of the civil rights movement, and anti-war Vietnam groups’ protests at many American colleges and U.S. cities that sparked anger, divisiveness, and civic disorder. In the same era, the “space race” with Russia ended with the Apollo 11’s Moon Mission of 1969. U.S.A. Astronaut Neil Armstrong, with the assistance of Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, became the first humans to reach the moon. Upon landing, Armstrong uttered the famous phrase “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” – words of reassurance that helped bring people together as a proud nation eager to embrace the new challenges of the 1970’s.