From the Headmaster

A 1988 graduate of Thornton Academy, Headmaster Rene Menard received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Southern Maine. He later earned a Master’s degree in Teaching and Learning, as well as a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Leadership.

Headmaster Menard began his career at Fryeburg Academy where he worked as a History teacher, coach, class advisor and dorm parent for two years. He joined Thornton Academy’s History Department in 1995, teaching Psychology, Sociology, History and Political Science. Before becoming Headmaster in 2012 at Thornton Academy, Mr. Menard also served as Associate Head, athletic coach, club advisor and class dean. Headmaster Menard lives in the Headmaster's House on campus with his wife, Lisa, and their two children.

You may read Messages from the Headmaster by clicking on them below.


The theme of “innovation,”strikes at the heart of Thornton Academy’s identity, highlighting a unique duality that balances two centuries’ worth of cherished traditions with a stated mission that embraces the future. If our students are to be prepared for a “changing world” we must look constantly forward.  This generation of students will need more and better preparation to meet the challenges ahead, equipped with the knowledge and skills to handle situations and answer questions that we cannot even imagine yet.  

Tom Friedman, op-ed columnist for the New York Times, advised business leaders to be “seeding, nurturing, inspiring, cultivating the ideas coming from below.”  The same holds true for educators. Encouraged by our forward-looking Board of Trustees, our faculty work constantly to promote opportunities for our students.  We continue to develop pathways to career exploration in the STEM fields through partnerships with the University of Maine and the University of New England, and through association with local industries like Pratt & Whitney and Arundel Machine, and national organizations like NTMA. 

We have had great STEM-related successes, particularly in precision engineering, and have received commendation from industry and government agencies, as well as from individuals like U. S. Senator Angus King.  We are now exploring other fields and new places to partner with higher education, governmental agencies, and the tech industry. 

We are fully committed to Thornton Academy’s mission and our responsibility to prepare students for a changing world.  Our past accomplishments, as well as the successes that lie ahead, are built on the strengths of our core values, our traditions, and our ability to envision a future that is as strong as our past.

Headmaster Menard (second from right) accompanied U.S. Senator Angus King (ME) and U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (NH) on a congressional tour of Pratt & Whitney’s North Berwick plant. Thornton Academy students work at the plant as part of the NTMA-U program. 



Any discussion around the theme of Service reinforces for me that it is my privilege and honor it is to serve as Headmaster of Thornton Academy, a school that I had the good fortune to attend myself. This is the school that my children will call their alma mater. This is the school that I believe in and all that it represents. This is the school that I love—the place and all that it stands for. It motivates and drives me. In all of this, I am in good company.

I am especially grateful for the support and service of the Board of Trustees. For more than 200 years, Thornton trustees have voluntarily served our school, balancing tradition with innovation, focusing attention on our educational mission, and stewarding our resources. The board ensures the viability and excellence of this school.  They oversee the vision, and plan strategically to bring that vision to reality.  Every trustee loves Thornton Academy and wants the school to be the best it can be. 

The Board of Trustees has positioned Thornton Academy in a way that has expanded and improved its academic programming. The opening of the new STEM Center this fall is just one example of the proactive innovations ensuring that we prepare students for a changing world. Your generosity made this possible; your desire to honor those who taught and prepared you will make a difference for generations to come.

So, as you read through the profiles of alumni who serve others both near and far, and hear how alumni feel about service, I thank all of you—staff, parents, teachers, alumni, and friends—for your ongoing commitment to Thornton Academy’s mission. It is through our combined efforts that we are able to provide an outstanding educational experience for all students. 


As I reflect on the concept of "Legacy," I remember that a popular adage holds that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. Everywhere on Thornton Academy’s campus I see buildings and programs that show me this is true.  

When I walk to my office in the Main Building every day, I see the determination of citizens who banded together in the 1880s and rebuilt their school after a devastating fire.  

When I attend an event in the library or walk through the art exhibits in our gallery, I think of the generosity of Mary Weymouth Hyde, Class of 1910, and Edward O’Neill, Class of 1928, generous supporters of Thornton Academy who made these spaces possible. 

And when I return home each day to the Headmaster’s House on campus, I think of a story that Ray Shorey, Class of 1949 told me. Most of us have relatives who joke that they walked miles through rain, sleet, and snow to school “back in their day.” Well, Ray Shorey really did. When Ray attended Thornton Academy, he found himself having to walk 14 miles to return home from school each day.  To Ray’s good fortune, Headmaster Porter C. Greene noticed. Ray explained to me, “If Headmaster Greene had not brought me to live with his family at the Headmaster’s House, I would never have been able to stay in school."

That experience shaped Ray such that he has become a member of the 1811 Society, a group of alumni, parents, and friends who have included Thornton Academy in their estate and plan to leave a legacy behind them.

Some years ago, mindful that too many students today face similar obstacles to staying in school, my classmates from the Class of 1988—in a gesture that touched me in its expression of care for young people in need— established a Headmaster’s Fund. This Headmaster’s Fund supports students who, because of family situations, must move out of Saco part way through their education, but wish to continue as a Thornton Academy student. 

As you read through stories about alumni on our website or in our alumni magazine, and hear how alumni feel about standing on the shoulders of those who came before them, or how they are making sure that they leave a legacy behind them, ask yourself: what legacy would you like to leave?

Thornton Academy
438 Main Street Saco 04072 20854
(207) 282-3361
powered by finalsite