History & Philosophy
Founding Head of School
Yale University, BA
Goddard College, MEd
Boston University, EdD
Sant Bani School was founded in 1973 as an elementary school with six students, and rapidly grew to include a high school. Due to changing demographics, the high school closed in June 2015, and Sant Bani is focused on being a best-in-class K-8 program. SBS provides a high-level, comprehensive educational experience while also recognizing the value of the spirit and the unique gifts each member of the school community brings.
Initially an outgrowth of Sant Bani Ashram, a spiritual retreat center, the School became an independent organization in 1983. (More information on the early years of the school is available here.) While the School and the Ashram are separate organizations, they continue to coexist harmoniously as neighbors. Sant Bani School does not apply pressure on anyone to accept a certain set of beliefs. Students and faculty of all backgrounds are welcome. In fact, one of the School’s founding principles is that truth can thrive only when there is freedom of thought and expression.
Both the Ashram and the School were founded under the direction of a spiritual teacher from India, Sant Kirpal Singh (1894-1974). The School also received the guidance and wisdom of Sant Kirpal Singh’s successor, Sant Ajaib Singh (1926-1997), for twenty-one years. Core educational beliefs laid out by Sant Kirpal Singh and supported by Sant Ajaib Singh include:
- Each one of us is unique. There is a divine purpose behind the life of everyone who comes into the world. We have something to learn from everyone.
- The best education is that which teaches us that the end of knowledge is service.
- This ‘service’ is another name for love and fellowship, which constitute the very essence of personal and social life.
- It is a constant association with gentle forces which breeds virtuous persons.
- A child is the center of creative life, and needs to be opened as a flower is opened, gently, by sympathy, not by force.
- The real aim of education is to develop the character and individuality of the pupil’s mind, will and soul power.
Founding Head of School Kent Bicknell
Kent Bicknell helped found Sant Bani School in 1973, and served as Head of School through June 2017. An independent scholar whose work has been published in a variety of journals, his main interest is the New England Transcendentalists, particularly their interest in Asian wisdom traditions.
Kent was an educator for nearly five decades, additionally serving on the New Hampshire Commissioner of Education’s Non-Public School Advisory Council since 1975, on the Board of Trustees of the Independent Schools Association of Northern New England since 2007, and as a commissioner with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges from 2003-2010. He has advised schools in Bhutan, Colombia, Canada, Guatemala, India and the United States.
In 1995 Kent acquired and edited an unpublished manuscript by Louisa May Alcott that became a New York Times best seller, A Long Fatal Love Chase. In 2018 he completed a history of the early years of the school, Stepping Stones: The First Five Years of Sant Bani School (1973-1978).
In 2021 New Hampton School awarded Kent (class of 1965) with its Lifetime Achievement Award.