History of the School


Stuart Hall School was founded in 1844 as the Virginia Female Institute, and from its earliest years, has provided an excellent liberal arts education, and has endeavored to develop the character and personal honor of every student. From its first headmaster, the Reverend Richard Phillips, to our current Head of School, Mr. Mark Eastham, each leader of what is now Stuart Hall School has set both high academic and high personal standards for the school community. Mrs. General J.E.B. Stuart, for whom the school is now named and who directed the school from 1880-1899, said, “The school’s high character in every department gives it an enviable name among schools.” Her sentiments remain true today. Despite the tumultuous history Virginia faced during the Civil War and Reconstruction, our original buildings still stand, and our original aim is now central to our mission. Since 1844, Stuart Hall School has educated students from Virginia and around the world, and has placed those students at top colleges and universities.

A New Era

The 20th century gave way to several key developments for Stuart Hall School. In 1992, Stuart Hall opened Cochran Middle School for boys and girls in grades 6-8, and the Upper School accepted boys as the first day students in 1999. After a rich history as a girls’ school, Stuart Hall became the premiere co-educational independent school for 6-12th grade students in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

The Lower School was founded in 1987 by David Frackelton and Dr. James Whitney as Hunter McGuire School. Hunter McGuire provided Kindergarten through 5th grade education for boys and girls in Verona, Virginia and the surrounding area, and in 2007, merged with Stuart Hall School to make us one PreK-12 community serving a single mission.

In 2003, Stuart Hall School became a member of the Church Schools of the Diocese of Virginia. Keeping with its roots in the Anglican tradition and Episcopal Church, the school’s membership to this distinguished network of schools helps us to strengthen our mission and our community across the state and the nation.

The 21st Century and Beyond

Ever in keeping with its founding principles and traditions, Stuart Hall aspires to prepare students of all faiths for success in universities worldwide, and for engaged lives of intellectual curiosity, creativity, and contribution. 

Our strategic vision, born of our mission, represents our commitment to educational innovation, to decisive action, and to our community. 

Stuart Hall School will be recognized globally as a distinctive teaching and learning environment: a premiere day and boarding school in the Episcopal tradition with historic Staunton, Virginia as our campus, offering students innovative educational and real-world experiences and equipping them to be meaningful contributors to the world.

What does this mean? 
  • We will be a project-based, inquiry-based school with an emphasis on place-based learning in the City of Staunton, working strategically with key partner organizations to deliver a distinctive program
  • We will bring both campuses together in Staunton 
- See more at: http://www.stuarthallschool.org/vision#sthash.QLjULTRI.dpuf

In April 2016, we shared Phase I of our strategic plan which will redefine our educational program. Our strategic vision, born of our mission, represents our commitment to educational innovation, to decisive action, and to our community. 

Our vision is to produce students who are invaluable to the future and will navigate with confidence a world we cannot even imagine. To educate in the 21st century is to instill in students the truth of Socrates’ famous paradigm, “wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” To that end, our vision is to collaborate with the city of Staunton and with the community at large to deliver outstanding inquiry-based and authentic learning through curriculum that is inextricably tied to the people, places, and programs within this vibrant, nationally recognized area. 

To accomplish this we will bring our two campuses together in Staunton, revolutionize our physical learning environment, commit to strategic partnerships with institutions across our area, and support our faculty in their professional development. 

Stay tuned for more details to come and visit our Vision page for more information. 


Fun Facts: Our History

  • General Robert E. Lee has a special connection to Stuart Hall School. His daughters were boarders here in our original "Old Main" building, and he served as the president of the Board of Governors.
  • Daisy Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of America, attended the Virginia Female Institute, now Stuart Hall, in the early 1870s.
  • Stuart Hall School his its roots in Mrs. Sheffey's 1831 school, which met in Mrs. Sheffey's home in Staunton, Va. Maria Sheffey is the ancestor of history teacher Mr. Brad Arnold and his son Jonathan Arnold, Class of 2017.
  • The McGuires, for whom the Lower School is named, are the great-great-great grandparents of Catherine Reagan, Class of 2016.

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