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History of the School


Stuart Hall School was founded in 1844 as the Virginia Female Institute with the goal of providing an excellent liberal arts education and developing the character and personal honor of every student. From the first headmaster, the Reverend Richard Phillips, to the present day, each leader has set high academic and personal standards for the school community. Mrs. General J.E.B. Stuart, who directed the school from 1880-1899 and for whom the school is named, said, “The school’s high character in every department gives it an enviable name among schools.” The School continues to aspire to this. Despite the tumultuous history, the School’s original buildings still stand, and after 180 years, the School’s original aim continues to guide it.


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.

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 in this distinguished network of schools helps us to strengthen our mission and our community across the state and the nation. Find out more about our Episcopal identity here.

In 2007, after several years of conversations, Hunter McGuire School, a coed K-5 school located just north of Staunton in Verona, Virginia, voted to merge with Stuart Hall, creating a K-12 educational program in accordance with Stuart Hall’s strategic direction. The School had been founded in 1987 by David Frackelton and Dr. James Whitney. The program remained in Verona, and a Pre-K program was soon added.


Significant changes include adding male boarding students, building closer ties with the School’s location through the Staunton is Our Campus initiative, and expanding the footprint by purchasing a building on Beverley Street.

In 2019-2020, the School faced its greatest challenge in decades: the COVID-19 pandemic. Faced with a period of great uncertainty, the School developed a unique hybrid learning program that allowed all students, regardless of location, to have a full academic experience during a challenging pandemic year.

Even as it was responding to the pandemic, the School stepped back and looked not just at its present but at its future. Drawing on both its history and the most current research on education, the school recommitted itself to its roots as a boarding and day school serving students from the Shenandoah Valley and around the world who seek a strong academic experience rooted in a vibrant small town where opportunities to become involved abound.

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


  • 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.