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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. Michael Robinson, each leader of what is now Stuart Hall School has set both high academic and high personal standards for the school community. Mrs. Flora Cooke 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 1966, when other private schools were being founded across the south in reaction to public school integration, Stuart Hall’s Episcopal ethos bucked this divisive trend by amending its charter to welcome all “young people” to apply.

Stuart Hall students now benefit from a culturally and ethnically diverse population from around the globe.In 1992, Stuart Hall opened Cochran Middle School for boys and girls in grades 6-8, and the Upper School accepted its first male day students in 1999. After a rich history as a girls’ school, Stuart Hall became the premier co-educational independent school for 6-12th grade students in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. While grades served were further extended in 2007 through merger with Hunter McGuire Elementary School in Verona, a strategic refocus on the boarding program required a return to this 6-12th grade model in 2020.

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’s mission aspires to prepare students of all faiths for success in universities worldwide, and for engaged lives of intellectual curiosity, creativity, and contribution. 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 Strategic Plan for our 178th year and beyond accelerates a move towards Mastery Based Learning that will see all students actively participating as partners in their educational plan, mastering academic, professional, and life skills to be, by 2024-25, recorded on an interactive transcript designed to showcase students’  unique strengths and passions. In conjunction with our new Eastham Center right in the heart of downtown Staunton, this real-world problem-solving, authentic learning style, further orients us in the town of Staunton with the many opportunities for collaboration, volunteering, and interning its various organizations offer.

FUN FACTS: OUR HISTORY

  • Daisy Gordon Low (pictured to the right), founder of the Girl Scouts of America, attended the Virginia Female Institute, now Stuart Hall, in the early 1870s.
  • Stuart Hall School has 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 great-great-great-granddaughter of Hunter McGuire, the surgeon after whom the Lower School was originally named, graduated from Stuart Hall in 2016.
  • The Eastham Center, the newest addition to our campus, is named after Mark and Kathy Eastham. Mark was the Head of School for Stuart Hall from 2003 until 2018.