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How FOCUS Began

FOCUS’ roots go back to the 1960s when founder Peter Moore and others first began to organize gatherings for students attending New England boarding schools to explore Christianity in fresh, intellectually engaged, and lively ways. Initially based on a series of house parties, weekend conferences, and presentations in schools and chapels, the program grew as faculty, heads-of-school, alumni, and parents recognized the need for an alternative to top-down religious programs and for informal opportunities on campus and off to explore Christian faith. Over the next twenty-five years, Peter Moore (an ordained clergyman and graduate of St. Mark’s, Yale, Oxford, and Episcopal Theological School, with a doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary), along with a growing staff team with deep familiarity with the independent school world, nurtured a program that came to involve thousands from independent boarding and day schools from the Northeast down the Atlantic seaboard.

The First Twenty-Five Years

June 1961: The first FOCUS house party took place in the Adirondacks, sponsored by the fledgling organization, University and Private School Camps, the forerunner to FOCUS. The program and new organization were both inspired by the English branch of Scripture Union that sponsored similar camps in which Peter Moore had participated while at Oxford.

1963: The first Winter House Party was held at Gray Ledges in New Hampshire.

1965-1976: Pawling, New York was the site of camps in June and September, first at Carroll Lodge, then Holiday Hills, a YMCA facility.

1970-1971: Peter Moore and Whitey Haugan, then the chaplain at Ethel Walker, collaborated on an outreach on Martha’s Vineyard centered in a rented house, the Vanderhoop homestead just beneath the lighthouse at Gay Head.

1971: FOCUS was formally established as the Fellowship of Christians in Universities and Schools, an independent organization with a Board of Trustees of faculty, parents, and alumni.

1973: Land with two rustic buildings on Lambert's Cove Road on Martha’s Vineyard was donated to FOCUS. This became the FOCUS Study Center.

Beginning in the mid-70s: FOCUS began to expand beyond the camps and a regular pattern of school visits in New England with the establishment of regional programs in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York. Soon there were regional centers of activity throughout the Northeast.

1979: The first Princeton Weekend was held with John Stott as the program’s speaker.

Recent History

Peter Moore left FOCUS for parish ministry. He was followed as Executive Director by Roger Dewey, Woody Bowman, and Simon Barnes, who served FOCUS from 1992 – 2003. Throughout the 1990s and into the first decade of the new millennium, FOCUS has continued to grow in depth and expanse, marked by the establishment of successful programming in Virginia and North Carolina, and a major building program at the FOCUS Study Center on Martha’s Vineyard.

Peter Moore returned to FOCUS following Terry Cook, the Executive Director from 2003 – 2005, and in 2008 again turned over the reins to another generation of leadership. FOCUS’ current executive director, Dan Walker, was first involved with FOCUS as a student at St. George’s in the 1970s and then continued as a volunteer leader while at Amherst College. He joined the staff in the '90s and served as the Area Director of Fairfield and Westchester counties for twelve years.