Honor A Legacy

Founded on May 5, 1854, Norwich Free Academy is one of few remaining endowed academies in New England true to the original independent model. Established to remove education from political pressures and to serve every student regardless of social class or gender, NFA’s mission is as relevant today as it was over 165 years ago.

In celebration of 169 years of NFA, we are honoring our founders' vision and celebrating the people who have continued that legacy through their work at Norwich Free Academy.

Here, you will find select stories of how teachers and staff at Norwich Free Academy have personally impacted our alumni.  If you would like to submit a full testimonial, please fill out this form.
Give This Legacy Day!

Dr. Bierman

It’s a running joke for teachers having a not-so-great day to respond to “How’s it going?” with a sarcastic “I’m living the dream!”, but it’s my reality, as I’ve been able to spend the last five years co-teaching my favorite class as a student, Shakespeare, with the teacher that left the greatest positive impact on me, Dr. Bruce Bierman. I had Shakespeare with Dr. Bierman as my senior year English class, and I still remember on one of the first days, he had us all stand up in front of the class and recite a Shakespeare line of his choosing. He gave me King Claudius from Hamlet, and after I said my piece, he asked “Are you an actor? I can tell.” I had taken the acting classes at NFA and had a small role in the previous spring musical, but I wasn’t close to being the “class actor” or anything like that. First impressions mean a lot, and him labeling me an actor meant I would always be willing to volunteer and participate in the plays we performed in class.

Those words and the confidence and integrity that he instilled in me over that year helped set the ball rolling on me eventually choosing to study acting and having it as a career, before taking those skills and experience into my own classroom. He’s left an immeasurable mark on my life for which I’ll always be grateful.
- Phil Trostler ’03

Mrs. Nugent

Mrs. Nugent was the Bradlaw House Secretary. She truly had a heart for the students that she interacted with. I only ever knew her to be a person of compassion. On more than one occasion she proved her compassion to me by going whatever distance was necessary in either time or effort. Most may call this "the extra distance"; to her it was not extra, it was what was needed. Mrs. Nugent seemed to see people's hearts, by looking at people with her heart. She was truly a person of compassion.
- Ron Delgado ’73

Fran Leta

Fran Leta was an inspiring English teacher who helped me learn to love literature. Her sense of humor, intelligence, and compassion impacted all of her students.  She was such a role model for me and definitely someone for whom I had enormous respect. I will always be grateful for her encouragement and support and her genuine love of NFA. 
- Lorraine Dooley ’88

Joseph Tella

Joe Tella was my Freshman soccer coach and met me at a time in my life when I was testing ALL of the boundaries around me. He and I connected during that season and for whatever reason he was always able to reach me even when I wasn't listening to anyone else's advice. When I found out the summer after Freshman year that he would be my counselor for the next 3 years I was thrilled but man did he have his work cut out for him. Tella is almost single-handedly responsible for me graduating on time and was available to me always for whatever I needed. He was honest with me even when I didn't like it, helped me stay afloat during really difficult times like when we lost a classmate in our Junior year and made a greater impact on my life than I even realized at the time. To say that Joe Tella went above and beyond the normal job description of school counsellor and soccer coach is probably an understatement and I am really grateful that I had him to lean on during my time at NFA. Thank you Tella, for everything.
- Matt Danieluk '07

Paul Girardi

Coach Paul Giardi had a significant impact on my personal development not only during my high school years as an athlete, but well into adulthood with the lessons he taught on and off the court.  I played basketball for Coach Giardi from 1980 through 1984.  He invested in the athletes he coached beyond the court and he freely gave his time, his talent and his heart. I always knew he wasn’t going to sugar coat anything, and I was getting the truth from him.  Till this day, I still think of him as my coach and I love visiting with him till this day.  He was a great influence on my life.
-Beth Curran Garver ’84

Raymond "Pop" Congdon

Mr. Raymond “Pop” Congdon was my freshman football coach. I interacted with him closely as the quarterback. He was well known to tell a player to "have some intestinal fortitude". In other words, 'have some guts and be a stand-up guy'. He was really never interested in excuses. Integrity and honor are life lessons that I learned from him.
- Ron Delgado ’73

Shirley Kutia

During my time at NFA Mrs. Kutia had been an incredible mentor to me. Mrs. Kutia was a person who always went the extra mile to support me. She always made time to listen to me and provide guidance, which was immensely helpful during challenging times. One of the most impactful things Mrs. Kutia did for me was introducing me to a range of volunteering opportunities, including helping out with the NFA food pantry and the Wildcat loft. She showed me the value of giving back to specific communities, such as the NFA community, and helped me to develop a strong sense of community involvement. Thanks to her constant support and push to give back, I have continued to carry out volunteering throughout my time at UConn, and I intend to continue this for the rest of my life. Mrs. Kutia also played a crucial role in guiding me throughout my time at NFA. She was always there for me, connecting me with other faculty members and providing me with the resources and support that I needed to succeed. I am incredibly grateful for everything she has done for me. Thank you, Mrs. Kutia, for everything!
- Ann’Darhaly Barbot ’21