History of the School
On January 13, 1844, our school received its charter from the commonwealth of Virginia.
Originally named the Virginia Female Institute, Stuart Hall has its origins in Mrs. Sheffey’s 1831 school, which held classes in her Staunton home. Maria Sheffey is the ancestor of history teacher Mr. Brad Arnold and his son Jonathan Arnold, Class of 2017.
From its beginning, our School has focused on enlightened learning and the formation of character within every student.
The Reverend Richard Phillips was Principal of the School from 1848 to 1880. From his background with the University of Virginia, he brought a high standard of academic excellence and the Honor Code to Stuart Hall.
During the Civil War the school building was used to house the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind because VSDB’s building was being used as a hospital. Classes for Stuart Hall’s day students were held in a home in Staunton for the duration of the war.
Under the direction of Mrs. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart from 1880-1899, the school persevered through the incredibly difficult economic and social times following the Civil War, never wavering in its mission to educate students in moral character and scholarship.
During her tenure, Mrs. Stuart revised the curriculum and raised the standards of scholarship. According to the 1896 handbook, “The school’s high character in every department gives it an enviable name among schools.”
From 1899 to 1915, the school was directed by Maria Pendleton Duval, a vigorous and forward-looking administrator. Miss Duval, who was Mrs. Stuart’s cousin, was the first faculty advisor to ELA, the student group that founded the library in 1882.
Under Miss Duval’s leadership, the school, which was renamed “Stuart Hall” in 1907, was expanded to include grades K through 12 and admitted boys into the lower school.
Stuart Hall students in 1915 were accepted unconditionally to the top women’s colleges in the United States, demonstrating that Stuart Hall has for almost a century prepared students for the highest level of academic challenge and achievement.
Since this time, Stuart Hall has enjoyed great leadership: Miss Jane Howard, Mrs. Ada Hills, Miss Ophelia Carr, Mrs. Annie Hodges, Miss Martha Dabney Jones, Mr. Nat Goddard, Mr. Pat Bassett, Father Kevin Fox, and, last on the list but first in our minds, Mr. Mark Eastham. (By the way, Miss Jones celebrated her 102st birthday on January 15th!)
In 1940 the Lower School was discontinued due to low enrollment. In 1992, the School opened a Middle School serving boys and girls in grades 6-8. Boys were accepted as day students into the Upper School in 1999. In 2007, Stuart Hall School merged with Hunter McGuire School, founded in 1987 by David Frackelton and Dr. James Whitney, and became, once again, a strong K-12 independent school. Mr. Frackelton currently serves on the Stuart Hall Board of Governors. Two years ago, the School added a Pre-Kindergarten level to its program.
Dr. Hunter Holmes McGuire, for whom the Lower School is named, was chair of surgery at the Medical College of Virginia and was the foremost leader of medical progress in this state and the nation during the mid-19th century. He married Mary Stuart, who graduated VFI in 1857. The McGuires are the great-great-great grandparents of William Reagan, Class of 2018 and Catherine Reagan, Class of 2016.
The late Honorable George M. Cochran, for whom the Middle School is named, was a justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, former president of the Virginia Bar Association, a former member for the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate, and was a member of the commission that rewrote the Virginia Constitution in 1968-69. The son, brother, and grandfather of alums, Justice Cochran served on the Stuart Hall Board of Trustees for over 30 years and served as its president for 16 years.
The Upper School was named for the Gray family in 2008 during Alumnae/i Weekend. It specifically honors the sister, wife, and daughter of Senator Elmon T. Gray, a long time supporter of Stuart Hall School who died September 2011. His beloved wife, Pamela Burnside Gray ’44, and his sister, Florence Gray Tullidge ’45, who had been roommates at Stuart Hall, died within two weeks of each other in the fall of 2010.
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 168 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.
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History of the School