Keswick Christian School
|Keswick Christian School|
|10101 54th Ave N
St. Petersburg, Florida, 33708
|Religious affiliation(s)||Christian, Protestant|
|Color(s)||Green & White|
Founded originally as Grace Livingston Hill Memorial School in 1953, Keswick Christian School is a private, Pre-K-12, Christian school with an interdenominational student body, mostly of Protestant background, and an enrollment around 650 students (2007). The campus spans 30 acres (120,000 m2), set among towering oak trees reminiscent of its once rural surroundings, and is located on the outlying area of St. Petersburg, Florida, only about half of a mile outside Seminole, Florida, whose city council annexed the school into its city limits in 2000. The school is accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Following a temporary location started with help from Roy Gustafson and her other friends at "the Baptist Church on 22nd Avenue South" in St. Petersburg in 1952, Ruth Munce founded Grace Livingston Hill Memorial School in 1953, naming it after her mother, an author of more than 100 Christian-themed romance novels. Munce felt called by God to establish this private educational facility because no other Christian school existed in Pinellas County, so she purchased a 13-acre (53,000 m2) site, an old chicken farm off Seminole Boulevard on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, Florida. Munce's philosophy that "God would be the sum of the equation, the Bible a textbook" was put into motion. Classes were held in the chicken house and log cabin-style farmhouse. Munce taught Bible and English courses and remained principal of the school for 15 years, bringing enrollment to as many as 200 students a year. In 1968, at age 70, she undertook an eight-year stint teaching at Nairobi Bible Institute in Kenya.
Name change and growth
Headquartered on the same site as the school were Keswick radio stations, WKES-FM and WGNB AM, and the Southern Keswick Bible Conference. Bill Caldwell operated these facilities, and to him, Munce turned over the school in 1961. The following year, the school name was changed to Keswick Christian School to reflect its new ownership. The Keswick name is said to come from a holiness movement that originated in Keswick, England, in the late nineteenth century. By 1970, the school's enrollment rose to 480 students, giving the Board of Directors ample reason to expand the school to offer a senior high, which was completed in 1975 with the first senior class graduating in 1978. Also around this time, the school became a mission of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, an affiliation that lasted 18 years.
Moving into the 1980s, school officials broke ground in February 1983 for constructing a new library, but in order to do so, part of Keswick's history was removed. The early log-cabin farmhouse, where Keswick's first classes were held, was partially demolished, leaving only one room, maintained for elementary music classes. The library was named Ruth Munce Library after the school's founder. In the early 1990s, the Upham Music Building was constructed to better accommodate band and choral instruction and rehearsal.
Parting ways with Moody
In 1996, Moody Bible Institute decided that their future focus would be solely on higher education, so the college amicably parted ways with Keswick. Moody sold its conference center property, established in 1962 on Lake Kersey, including a 48-room lodge, a 550-seat chapel and three homes, to Keswick for $600,000. The radio station remained the property of Moody. A fundraising campaign ensued to fund the purchase; however, this was only the beginning of the school's endeavors to reach new goals through a capital campaign.
Foundations for the future
In 1999, school officials announced their expansion plans to add a two-story, 18,690-square-foot (1,736 m2) building that would house administrative offices, classrooms and a state-of-the-art media center. The following year, the Seminole city council changed the school's unincorporated status with Pinellas County, annexing it into Seminole city limits. At a Seminole city council meeting in July 2000, neighbors of the school aired their grievances concerning the expansion. They argued the proposed building would change the look of the neighborhood and generate more traffic and noise. This council meeting, however, was not to discuss the school's expansion but to decide its request for rezoning it from residential status to public/semipublic status. The re-designation was granted after tough debate. In 2001, Keswick officials scrapped the plan for the large, two-story building; instead, minor modifications were made, such as installing a fence on the grounds along 54th Avenue, building a paved running track, improving drainage and paving dirt parking lots.
Despite the false start of sorts, Keswick did embark on a three-year capital campaign called Foundations for the Future in 2003, the fiftieth anniversary of the school. The $4.5 million campaign was completed in 2007. Highlights of the campaign include a new 23,000-square-foot (2,100 m2) senior high school building; a refurbished preschool and new two-year old program; and a relocated junior high building.
- Neil Amato (class of 1988), sports writer The Star-News, Wilmington, North Carolina non-graduate
- Christa Benton (class of 2001), winning long-distance runner
- Bruce G. Blowers (class of 2004), singer-songwriter non-graduate
- Jonathan Davenport (class of 1993), artist, animator
- Samantha Dorman (Class of 1987), fashion model, actress non-graduate
- Kirk Hoffman (class of 2002), 2004 Olympics Judo Team alternate, 2005 World Judo Championship Team
- Kris Ingeneri, Ph.D. (class of 1990), scientist, ORNL & International Atomic Energy Agency
- Nick Ingeneri (class of 1991), artist, animator
- Dan Lothian (class of 1982), CNN correspondent
- John Mark McManus (class of 1988), poet
- Natalie (Nichols) Gillespie (class of 1985), author & journalist non-graduate
- Jeremy Rasmussen (class of 1985), St Petersburg Times prep sports writer, Jeopardy! champion, & instructor at USF
- Timothy Rasmussen (class of 1991), Director of Production at Worship Network
- Gabrielle Reece (Class of 1987), professional beach volleyball player, fashion model, author & columnist
- Christine (Stolba) Rosen, Ph.D. (class of 1990), author, historian, scholar non-graduate
- Norton, Wilma (2000-07-13). "School's Growth Concerns Neighbors." St Petersburg Times. Retrieved April 9, 2007 from Lexis Nexis Academic.
- Miller, Betty Jean (1988-05-30). "Unhappy with Public Education, She Founded a Christian School." St.Petersburg Times. Retrieved April 5, 2007 from Lexis Nexis Academic.
- Rosen, Christine (2006-01-03).Book Excerpt: "My Fundamentalist Education". Retrieved April 07, 2007.
- Basse, Craig (2001-04-25). Keswick School Founder Dies at 103. St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2007-04-03.
- Official site of Keswick Christian School: History
- Laurenzo, Catherine, ed. Tradition: Crusader 1983 Yearbook, p. 76.
- Norton, Wilma (1995-12-15). Keswick, Moody Parting Ways. St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved April 6, 2007 from Lexis Nexis Academic.
- Byrne, Maureen (2001-11-12). "Keswick Abandons Plan for Building." St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved April 9, 2007 from Lexis Nexis Academic
- Wheatt, Dalia (2008-1-14). Jeopardy! tips from a pro. St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved June 12, 2008 from The St. Petersburg Times.
- Keswick Christian School Official school web site
- State Champs 1983 Stories and pictures of Keswick's 1983 state soccer championship
- Coach Mike J. Wells Pictures and records of Keswick basketball teams from 1983-99 when Wells coached there
- St. Pete Times article Former Keswick basketball coach Mike Wells dies.
- St. Pete Times article About Christine Rosen's book "My Fundamentalist Education"
- St. Pete Times article about Jeremy Rasmussen's appearance on Jeopardy!
- St. Pete Times article Obituary of Valerie Wells, former Keswick teacher and wife to Mike Wells.