History of the School

Beginnings

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.

The 21st Century and Beyond

Ever in keeping with its founding principles and traditions, Stuart Hall aspires to prepare girls and boys of all faiths for success in colleges and universities worldwide, and to live engaged, healthy lives of intellectual curiosity, responsible citizenship, creative expression, ethical leadership, and compassionate service.

For nearly 170 years, Stuart Hall has understood the “whole person” tradition of educating the mind, strengthening the body, renewing the heart, and nourishing the spirit as goals inseparable with education.

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.

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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