George School

George School
United States
Type Private boarding and day high school
Motto Mind the Light
Religious affiliation(s) Quaker
Established 1893; 128 years ago (1893)
Head of School J. Sam Houser[1]
Faculty 81
Enrollment 539 total
291 boarding
248 day
Average class size 14
Student to teacher ratio 7:1
Campus 265 acres (1.07 km2)
Color(s) Green/White, Buff/Brown
Athletics conference Friends Schools League
Mascot Cougar
Rival Westtown School
Website Edit this at Wikidata

George School is a private Quaker (Society of Friends) boarding and day high school located on a rural campus in Middletown Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania (Newtown postal address).[2] It was founded at its present site in 1893, and has grown from a single building (a still standing Quaker meeting house) to over 20 academic, athletic, and residential buildings. Besides the usual college preparatory courses, including an International Baccalaureate program, the school features several distinct programs deriving from its Quaker heritage. These include community service requirements, an emphasis on social justice and environmental concerns, required arts courses, and community-based decision making.


George School was founded in 1891 and opened in 1893. It is named for John M. George who donated much of the money for the school. It was intended as a school for Hicksite members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) who wanted an alternative to Orthodox Westtown School. The two schools have remained friendly rivals in athletics, although the sectarian rift between them was resolved in the 1950s. The Patterson Cup (commonly known as "the moose" for the moose head at Westtown where the tally was kept by hanging tea bags on alternating antlers) is awarded each year to the school which has won the most varsity and junior varsity contests between the schools.[3] An alumni fundraising competition between the schools, the "Machemer Cup" also exists.[4]

The campus was built on 227 acres (0.92 km2) of the Worth Farm. The owners retained 60 acres (240,000 m2), including the 1756 Tate House and 1804 Worth House. The bulk of the school property was given over in the early years to a farm managed for the benefit of the school. The school's milk and much of the meat was produced there until the farm was closed in 1967. The remaining property including the two historic houses was purchased in 1945. Parts of the campus were leased or given over to Newtown Friends School in 1947 and Pennswood retirement community in 1979.[5]

The first headmaster, George Maris, had been a strong voice in favor of "guarded education," separated from worldly vices, for Hicksite Friends. He was one of the group of Hicksites who courted George and secured a codicil to his will 74 days before his death. He apparently was not an effective headmaster, although the reasons for his lack of success are unclear; he was forced out of his position in 1901, replaced by Joseph Walton, who had also been part of the founding group.[6]

The new headmaster, Joseph Walton, had been a leading candidate for the presidency of Swarthmore College, the Hicksite-sponsored Friends college, in 1898. During his tenure as head of George School (1901–1912), the school overcame what had been a troubled balance sheet by expanding. A new dormitory, Drayton Hall, was built in 1903 (Orton had been built in a fit of optimism in 1897), and the first separate classroom building, Retford Hall, was built in 1903. Unlike Maris, he was an opponent of the idea of "guarded" education, and encouraged arts education. He died of a duodenal ulcer, aged 57.

George Walton, the son of Joseph Walton, served as headmaster from 1912 to 1948, the longest term of any head of school. There was little new construction during his term (the one major building was Bancroft Hall, built in 1931), but considerable social change. The enrollment nearly doubled, from 226 to 425, while the number of Quakers attending remained about the same, lowering the proportion. The first black student was accepted in the 1940s, and social dancing and football were introduced.[7] Outside of the school, he was a prominent voice within the Friends community. He was part of the group that founded the Pendle Hill study center in 1930,[8] and he accompanied two of that group, the well-known writer Rufus Jones and D. Robert Yarnall on a 1938 mission to Germany on behalf of the American Friends Service Committee to allow that group to distribute relief in Poland, then under occupation.[9] After retiring from George School, he was an instrumental figure in reconciling the Hicksite and Orthodox Philadelphia Yearly Meetings in 1955.

Following World War II, teacher Walter Mohr, who had also worked with the American Friends Service Committee, organized affiliations with two German schools, Jacobi Gymnasium for boys in DĂĽsseldorf and Gertraudenschule for girls in Berlin, at first sending relief supplies and organizing student exchanges. In 1950, the first of almost twenty years of German workcamps began. In the late 1960s, these affiliations and work camps began to spread, to Russia, Africa, and Latin America, and came to include work projects domestically.[10]

The next headmaster, Richard McFeely, ushered in an era of campus growth, and of a change to a less formal relationship between students and faculty: he insisted on being addressed by first name, and was generally known as "Mr Dick." McFeely had contracted polio while a student at Swarthmore. He in fact was friendly with Franklin D. Roosevelt, having spent time with him at Warm Springs, Georgia.[11] During his time as head (1948–1966), the Alumni Gym, Hallowell Hall, McFeely Library (so named after his death), and Walton Center were constructed. He was forced to retire because of poor health resulting from his polio, and died within the year.[12]

During the mid-1950s, Julian Bond, later a prominent civil rights leader, attended George School. While he did encounter some cases of racism while attending there, he was impressed by anti-racist philosophy of the school, and first encountered ideas of non-violence and social action.[13] One event in particular involves Bond, a varsity athlete, going to Philadelphia with his white girlfriend while wearing George School apparel. Upon returning he was reprimanded by the dean. George School has claimed it was based on a policy of not wearing George School insignia apparel off-campus, but Bond believed it was based on racism and "That was just like somebody stopping you and slapping you across the face."[14]

Eric Curtis, an Englishman and a former faculty member at Earlham College, was brought in to be the headmaster after McFeely, serving from 1967 (there was an interim head for 1966–67) until 1979. He oversaw a tumultuous time of change in the social relationships within the school, as assertive students and younger faculty battled older faculty and administrators (and the George School Committee) over a variety of procedures. The two major new buildings in his time were the Science Center and the Sports Center.[15]

David Bourns was head of school from 1979 to 2001, when he left to head the Paul Cuffee charter school in Providence, Rhode Island. His time began as a kind of recentering after the tumult of the previous decade. New emphasis on academic rigor was enforced, along with more focused activism: the school built an Alternative Energy Center in the mid-1980s, and for several years hosted a regional "Peace Fair." He was succeeded by Nancy Starmer, the first non-member of the Society of Friends to head the school.

On September 18, 2007, Barbara Dodd Anderson, George School Class of 1950, gave a gift of $128.5 million to George School. The gift is to be received over a period of twenty years from an irrevocable charitable lead trust and is the single largest gift to an existing private school in U.S. history.[16] The gift has its origins with billionaire businessman and philanthropist, Warren Buffett. Buffett was a student of Anderson's father, David Dodd, an economist and professor at Columbia University School of Business. Dodd became an early investor in Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. Ms. Dodd Anderson, Mr. Buffet, and Mollie Dodd Anderson, granddaughter of Barbara Dodd Anderson were present for the dedication of the new LEED Gold Certified Learning Commons and Mollie Dodd Anderson Library on October 17, 2009.[17]

On April 27, 2015, George School became the first preparatory school in the nation to divest its endowment from coal.[18]

Campus location and geography

Although its mailing address is Newtown, Pennsylvania, only a small part of its campus is in Newtown Township. The bulk of the campus is in Middletown Township. Both towns are in Bucks County.

Its property is now divided by the Route 332/Route 413 Newtown bypass, and the main entrance is on Route 413 south of the bypass.

The campus is adjacent to Neshaminy Creek, and Newtown Creek cuts through the property. Both are in the less-developed western part of the campus.[19]

The Pennswood retirement community and Newtown Friends School, also Quaker institutions, are on George School land and adjacent to the campus.

George School Station

When founded, George School was quite isolated. It had its own train station on the Reading Railroad's Newtown line (later the Fox Chase Line), and its own post office branch. Commuter train service was suspended on January 14, 1983.


The campus meetinghouse was originally the 12th Street Meeting House, at 10 South 12th Street, Philadelphia. Built 1812–14, it incorporated materials from the Greater Meeting House, at 2nd and Market Streets, that dated back as early as 1755. When the 12th Street Meeting merged with Race Street Meeting in 1956 to form Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, the building became redundant. The land was sold, but the building was saved from demolition by being dismantled and relocated to George School, 1972–1974.[20]

Quaker influences

George School is governed by the George School Committee, which is self-perpetuating by approval of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends. Quaker influences on the school are apparent in many of the Friends-derived procedures of the school, especially in the consensus format for faculty and other committee meetings, in which all present must either agree to proposals or "stand aside" in order for them to be approved. A four-year course of spiritual study begins with a term of Essentials of a Friends Community in the student's first year, followed by two terms of Faith Traditions, an in-depth World Religions course. Additionally, all students and faculty gather for a thirty-minute Meeting for Worship once a week, and all boarding students and resident faculty attend a longer meeting on Sundays. Also in the Quaker spirit, since 1942 every student has had a "co-op" job, the equivalent to other schools' work-study jobs, but shared equally among all students regardless of their financial aid status. Finally, in the most apparent difference to outsiders, teachers and students usually refer to one another on a first-name basis.[21]


George School offers a college-preparatory course of study. To graduate, students must complete 4 years of English, 3 years of mathematics, 3 years of history, 3 years of science, 3 years of arts and the religious courses noted above, and demonstrate third-year proficiency in a foreign language.

George School offers the two-year International Baccalaureate program, which certifies students to attend colleges and universities around the world.

George School also offers Advanced Placement courses and examinations in Biology, Calculus (AB), English, U.S. History, Human Geography, Chemistry, Physics, Statistics and the school's four foreign languages: French, Spanish, Latin and Chinese. Additionally, students in the Portfolio Preparation class have been known to submit their work for the Art AP.[22]

Students must take three full years of art. George school offers classes in ceramics, chorus, dance, digital imaging, drama, music seminar, newspaper (The Curious George, formerly The George School News), painting and drawing, photography, stagecraft, film production, orchestra, woodworking, and yearbook.


All George School students are required to complete a 65-hour community service project before they graduate. Students work on projects and in programs that reflect Friends' practices. Projects must be grounded in one-on-one contact with communities and persons who are disempowered because of social, racial, economic, or health factors. These projects include intense, two-week experiences in school-sponsored, domestic or international work camps; once-a-week experiences that extend throughout the school year; and preapproved independent projects. Service projects may be completed during the school year or vacation time, any time after the completion of a student's sophomore year.

Recent service trips include India; Nicaragua; Cuba; Costa Rica; Boston, Massachusetts; Coastal Mississippi; and The Palestinian territories; France; South Africa; Ghana; Arizona; New Orleans, Louisiana; Americus, Georgia; South Carolina; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; West Virginia; South Korea; Vietnam; and China.[23]

While more than half of the students at George School are on significant financial aid, proportionally few of those students can afford to go on international service trips as the maximum scholarship offered on most trips amounts to roughly half of the total costs, which range from $2000 to over $5000.


Students are almost always required to play a competitive sport or participate in a physical education program. Starting in the 1996/97 school year, certain fully scheduled students have been permitted to take one trimester with no athletics. Still, underclassmen must play two interscholastic competitive sports and juniors and seniors must play one:

When possible, George School competes in the Friends School League, but in certain sports, such as equestrian, football, and wrestling, this is not possible due to the small number of league members that also participate. There is an annual competition with Westtown which results in the awarding of the Patterson Cup, which most students and faculty refer to as "The Moose". The scores are based on the results of all varsity and junior varsity competitions between the two schools.

The school once had a swimming competency requirement for graduation.


  • The Curious George is the school's student-produced newspaper on campus, formerly The George School News, "G Magazine," and "The Gazette." It returned to the name "Curious George" in 2016.
  • The Georgian is the alumni newspaper that is circulated to alums, parents, and faculty.
  • Argo is a student-produced literary and arts magazine.
  • Opus is the school's yearbook.

Performing arts

The school has a very active performing arts program of long standing. Although it is not formally an "arts school," many of George School's most prominent alumni are performing artists.

Both student- and department-produced theater productions are performed in Walton Center on the main stage or the smaller green room stage. Productions range from conventional high school productions, such as Guys and Dolls to more controversial pieces such as the Laramie Project. George School's dance classes perform in the annual Dance Eclectic, a combination of student and faculty-created choreography. The George School Community Chorus includes a mixture of students and adults, and offers an annual winter concert. George School's Musical Theater course performs a musical in Walton Auditorium in the spring or winter term.

Symbols and logos

  • The school's seal is an oil lamp with the inscription "Mind the light," referring to the Quaker conception of God's presence within all people as the inner light.
  • The logo consists of the two words of the name ("The George School" is incorrect) separated by a stylized tree, reminiscent of the large one on the south end of campus. The Katsura tree which inspired the logo was removed and replaced in 2014 due to its "frail and dangerous condition."[24] The current logo, adopted in 2000, replaced a more stylized, "bare branch" logo adopted in the late 1970s.[25]
  • The school colors were historically buff and brown, but those proved harder and harder to find for sports uniforms. Since autumn 2000, the school colors have been green and white.
  • The mascot is a cougar, portrayed by one of the cheerleaders.

Notable alumni

Notable faculty

See also

Other Languages