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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. Jason Coady, 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.


The 20th century saw 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 in the Diocese of Virginia. Keeping with its roots in the Anglican tradition and Episcopal Church, the School’s membership in this distinguished network of schools helps us to strengthen our mission and our community across the state and the nation. 

In 2020, Stuart Hall opened the Eastham Center, a state-of-the-art technology center for the school, located directly across from Staunton's City Hall. 


Ever in keeping with its founding principles and traditions, Stuart Hall's mission is to prepare students of all faiths for success in universities worldwide, and for engaged lives of intellectual curiosity, creativity, and contribution. Stuart Hall's vision is to be the school of choice for parents of boarding and day students who want their children to be independent, self-aware, self-directed, and motivated and who — through meaningful, real-world learning experiences — have obtained mastery in knowledge and skills essential for engaged contribution to the world. 

To that end, our Strategic Plan for our 179th year and beyond accelerates a move towards mastery based learning that will see all students actively participating as partners in their educational plan. Students will master academic, professional, and life skills in their classes, co-curriculars, and other experiences, and their progress will be more fully documented by grading and feedback practices that increase student agency and showcase students’ unique strengths and passions. In conjunction with our new Eastham Center right in the heart of downtown Staunton, access to real-world experiences through connection with our community in Staunton and Augusta County permits students to practice skills and apply content knowledge in authentic settings and engage in service learning.


  • 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 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.