Sanford School

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Sanford School
Motto No talent lies latent
Established 1930
Type private coeducational secondary
Headmaster Mark Anderson
Founder Sanford and Ellen Sawin
Students 600
Grades Junior K to 12
Location 6900 Lancaster Pike,
Hockessin, Delaware, Delaware, USA
Accreditation Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools
Colors Blue and Gold

Sanford School is a private, college preparatory, coeducational day school for students in pre-kindergarten through grade twelve, located in Hockessin, Delaware. Originally known as "Sunny Hills School", it was founded on September 23, 1930 by Sanford and Ellen Sawin, in memory of their eldest son Sanford Sawin, Jr. The school's name was changed to Sanford in 1966, fifty years after his death.

Originally operated as a family-oriented country boarding school and farm, Sanford graduated its first class in 1937 and the next year was accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. Sanford's leadership was run by a member of the Sawin family until the mid-1960s. In the mid-1970s, the school was re-organized as a full-fledged day school. In 2001, Douglas MacKelcan, Jr. announced a $10 million capital campaign to significantly improve the infrastructure of the school, renovate historic classroom buildings, and construct several new facilities.

Sanford competes in interscholastic sports as a member of the Delaware Independent School Conference. They have made history by winning both girls and boys basketball State Championships in 2010 and 2011, the first school to have done so in the history of Delaware.

The Sanford school song was written by Frank Stephens of Arden, Delaware.

School Overview[edit]

Sanford's motto "No Talent Lies Latent" is at the heart of the school's educational program and mission. Enrolling pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade students, Sanford works to develop the whole child within a safe and supportive environment.

Sanford's Mission Statement: Sanford School identifies and develops the intellectual and creative talents of a diverse group of students. Within a caring and supportive college preparatory environment, students are encouraged and challenged to achieve their finest in academics, athletics and the arts. Our ultimate goal is to teach students to live humanely within the Sanford community in order to prepare them to meet the demands and responsibilities of the future in the broader world.


Throughout its 100+ acre campus, Sanford School has many facilities, some older than the school itself (such as Quigley Hall, constructed in the early 1900s), and some very recently constructed (such as Stephen-May Hall, completed in 2004). Some facilities have had many uses throughout the school's history, such as Pirnie Hall, formerly dormitories, then home to the Upper School History Department, and currently used as storage and the school's Spirit Store.

Geipel Hall[edit]

The first of three gymnasiums constructed for the school throughout its history, Geipel was constructed in the late 1940s, to address the school's necessity for a gymnasium in order to further its athletic teams. Geipel was used as Sanford's primary gymnasium until the construction of Appleby Gym. It briefly became the primary gymansium in the early 1990s following the destruction of Appleby in the tornado that ripped through campus on June 9, 1989. Geipel soon became a multipurpose building once more, however, following the completion of the new Sports Center in the mid-1990s. Today, Geipel is used as the home of Sanford's popular Repertory Theatre Company, serving as its auditorium for performances. The lower level of Geipel is used for the JK-4 extended and expanded day services.

Albright-Yearsley Hall[edit]

The primary facility of the Lower School at Sanford, Albright-Yearsley was expanded, restored and renovated in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Starting in the late 2000s, the Junior Kindergarten was also housed in Albright-Yearsley as well, to save operating costs of the historic Sanford Hall, which is currently only used for Lower and Middle School Art exhibits.

Middle School[edit]

One of the few facilities on Sanford's campus to not have a formal name, the Middle School building was previously used as dormitories when Sanford operated as a boarding school. This can still be seen today, with most classrooms being very small. Home to classrooms for Middle School Science, Mathematics, Foreign Language, English, and History, the vast majority of core Middle School classes are taught in this building. One of the most dated facilities on campus, a movement among Middle School parents and students is rising to pressure Middle School administrators to embark on extensive renovations needed for the building to remain functional into Sanford's future.

Stephen-May Hall[edit]

Sanford's newest building is utilized primarily as an Upper School facility, though Middle School Art classes have been known to meet in Stephen-May as well. Commonly abbreviated in writing as SMH, Stephen-May's main floor is the home of Upper School Administrative offices, and, starting in the 2012-2013 school year, the College Counseling center, which had moved into the former office of Laura Gaylor and the former classroom of John Fritz. Guidance Counselor Sue Dagenais's office was moved to an office in the lower level hallway at the start of the 2012-2013 school year, moving Dean of grades 11 and 12 Stan Waterman to a previously unused office on the upper level of SMH. Classes that meet in SMH include History on the lower level, English on the main level, and World Language on the upper level. Upper School student lockers are in the hallways of all three levels, with the majority of the current Senior class having lockers located on the main level, the current Junior class on the lower level, and the current Freshman and Sophomore classes sharing the upper level hallway.

Hebb Hall[edit]

Nearly as old as Quigley Hall, Hebb Hall is home to Sanford's fine arts department, teaching Lower and Middle School art classes, but no Upper School art courses. Chair of the Art department Betty O'Reagan and Art faculty member Nina Silverman operate classrooms in this facility.

Nancy Sawin Math and Science Building[edit]

Constructed in the mid-1960s, this facility is used for all Upper School Mathematics and Science courses, as well as Upper and Middle School health and anatomy courses. Commonly referred to by students simply as "Math and Science", the building houses a Biology Laboratory, a Physics Laboratory, and a Chemistry Laboratory on the ground floor, as well as bathroom facilities and offices for science administrators. The upper level of the building is home to six mathematics classrooms, the health classroom, and mathematics administrative offices. The building is the only facility on Sanford's campus to have a green roof.

Sports Center[edit]

Constructed to replace Appleby Gymnasium after its destruction in the 1989 tornado, the Sports Center houses an athletic training room with an array of weight machines and free weights, as well as two basketball courts (utilized for Volleyball during the fall sports season) that can be combined to a large space utilized for JK-12 assemblys, which need to fit nearly 700 students inside one space.

Quigley Hall[edit]

Constructed prior to Sanford's foundation as an institution, the front end of Quigley Hall is used by the performing arts department, containing several classrooms used to teach Lower and Middle School students. The Upper level of Quigley Hall is home to small rooms used for private lessons, as well as a large Band/Choir room used for Concert Band and Concert Choir rehearsals, as well as Vocal Ensemble and Jazz Band Rehearsals. The back end of Quigley's lower level is utilized as the School's dining hall, home to an industrial-grade kitchen operated by CulinArt and a large eating space.

Lower School[edit]

Middle School[edit]

As Sanford students "graduate" from the Lower School and move into the Middle School in grade 5, class sizes slightly increase to accommodate the slight increase in students for the Middle School years. Grades 5 and 6 are notably segregated from Grades 7 and 8 for the majority of their time at school. For instance, seventh grade, like many Delaware independent schools, marks the end of Physical Education classes during the academic day, to make way for team sports, of which 7th and 8th graders are required to play in all 3 seasons. The advisory system for 7th and 8th grades differs greatly from the 5th and 6th grades, as well.

Upper School[edit]

Sanford’s Upper School strikes an artful balance between focused, intensive academics that challenge and engage and a community spirit that fosters joy and genuine satisfaction in what each student accomplishes every single day, both in and out of the classroom.

Sanford offers a full and flexible college-preparatory curriculum that stretches students to think deeply and critically, to apply themselves and their knowledge effectively, and to reach places they’ve never been before, intellectually and creatively. Sanford's talented faculty invests in teaching kids, not just content, and ensures that students leave here exceptionally equipped with all the tools they need for college and for a life of rewarding work, dedicated service and thoughtful leadership.

Sanford seniors in the past few years have continued their education at Duke, MIT, Harvard, Stanford, NYU, Skidmore, and many other notable colleges and universities. With two dedicated college counselors, Sanford's College Counseling team encourages students to select schools that value what they value and offer opportunities and programs that fit with their interests and ambitions.


Sanford emphasizes the variety available in their curriculum, allowing each student to discover their own strengths and weaknesses and to construct a rigorous course load to accommodate such.

World Languages[edit]

In the Upper School, students are required to take Spanish, French, or Latin for at least three years. German was offered by the school until the conclusion of the 2010-2011 school year, when it was dropped from the World Language curriculum due to lack of student interest. The number of students taking each language during the 2011-2012 school year was as follows: 173 Spanish, 44 French, 7 Latin. For the remaining three languages, levels I, II, III and IV are offered, in addition to the AP level of the language, offered to students for their senior year. Most students coming from Sanford's Middle School, as well as many transfer students from other independent Middle Schools in the Delaware-Pennsylvania-Maryland-New Jersey area, take level II of a World Language for their freshman year.


Students in the Upper School begin their freshman year in World Civilizations I, which covers human history from the beginning of recorded history to the start of the Rennisance. Previously only offered in one standardized level, the History Department acknowledged a need for an Honors level of this course, which was introduced during the 2012-2013 school year. Students performing exceptionally in World Civilizations I are recommended by their instructor to take AP World History their sophomore year. All other students take World Civilizations II for their sophomore year. Though many students choose to remain in either the AP or standard track for their junior year, the Upper School History Department allows for controlled movement between levels, allowing some students in AP World History to drop to standard American History for junior year, and exceptional World Civilizations II students to move up to AP US History. Though a course in history is not required for students to take their senior year, some choose to take trimester electives, such as Civil War History or Anthropology; or, starting in the 2012-2013 school year, the newly introduced AP US Government and Politics course; or starting in the 2013-2014 school year, a standard US Government course; or starting in the 2014-2015 school year, semester courses in World War II offered exclusively to juniors and seniors.


All students in the Upper School are required to take English for all four years. English I and Honors English I, offered to freshmen, acts as an introduction to High School-level English, teaching such works as Fahrenheit 451, Julius Caesar, and The Catcher in the Rye. Basic English grammar, composition, and vocabulary are also emphasized. World Literature is covered during students' sophomore year in English II and Honors English II, teaching works such as Lord of the Flies, Night, Inferno, and A Raisin in the Sun. Vocabulary continues to be emphasized for students. At the conclusion of this course, students will be recommended to either remain in Honors English for their junior year, or to take AP English Language and Composition, in which virtually no fictional literature is taught, with a strong emphasis on writing, rhetoric, grammar, and mechanics. Standard and Honors English III focus on American literature, reading classic works like The Tales of Huckleberry Finn. Vocabulary is no longer covered. Some Honors students are usually recommended to move into AP English Literature and Composition for their senior year, which places an emphasis on reading comprehension and essay writing. Standard and Honors English IV covers British Literature.


The Mathematics Department in the Upper School aims to tailor a math class to fit the commitment, knowledge, and previous instruction of all individuals. The most typical course for freshman to take is Geometry, in which an honors level is also offered; but students may also take Algebra I or Honors Algebra II during this year. The standard course for sophomores to take is Algebra II, in which an honors level is offered. 10th graders in the remedial track take Geometry, and accelerated 10th graders take either Honors Pre-calculus AB or BC. Juniors who attained a B or above in Algebra II the previous year go into Honors Pre-calculus AB, with those getting a B- or below going into Functional Analysis, which briefly covers Pre-calculus topics as well. Sophomores in Honors Algebra II students may, with a teachers' recommendation, take Honors PreCalculus BC for their junior year. Students who took Geometry their sophomore year take either standard or conceptual Algebra II. For a student's senior year, a course in mathematics is not required, though it is highly recommended by the school, and many students choose to take one anyway. Students in Honors Pre-calculus AB or BC will go into AP Calculus AB or BC, respectively. Although many 11th grade Algebra II students choose not to take a math course their senior year, the ones who do will usually take either Statistics and Personal Finance or Honors Pre-calculus AB. Accelerated mathematics students, who took AP Calculus their junior year, will take AP Statistics for their senior year.


Freshman in the Upper School take either Standard or Honors Biology. Sophomores will take Standard or Honors Chemistry. Juniors will take either Standard Physics or Honors Physics with Trigonometry, which requires students to have already taken or concurrently be enrolled in Pre-calculus, which introduces trigonometry as a part of the course. Seniors that had been in the standard track in previous years will either take Anatomy and Physiology, or choose to not enroll in a science class. Students in the honors track, however, will take an AP Science course in either Chemistry, Physics, Biology, or Environmental Sciences. AP Environmental Sciences and AP Biology have never been taught in the same school year; one is offered over the other based on demand.


Students in the Upper School are required to play on at least one athletic team each year (two for a student's freshman year). By graduation, students are expected to have played on at least 5 interscholastic sports teams. While many students choose to fulfill their 8 co-cirricular-credit requirement with just sports, some choose to fulfill the remaining 3 credits with Library Aide, Extended Day Assistant (in which Upper School students watch the Lower School students during Extended Day), or the campus-famous Punkin Chunkin team. Sports available to students varies by season, but is organized as follows.

Fall Season[edit]

Students are encouraged to consider playing on a fall sports team, especially as incoming freshmen. Preseason practices for athletic teams begin as early as allowed by the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association, as opposed to competing institutions such as The Tatnall School, which usually delays the start of preseason practices by almost a week, depending on the year. Sports teams offered to students for the fall season are:

  • Men's and Women's Cross Country
  • Men's Soccer
  • Women's Field Hockey
  • Women's Volleyball

Winter Season[edit]

Though it is the longest season from beginning to end, Winter sports practices take extensive breaks during the season, at the start of Thanksgiving break, during Winter break, and during the long weekend offered to students in February. Sports teams offered to students for the winter season are:

  • Men's and Women's Swimming
  • Men's and Women's Indoor Track and Field
  • Men's Wrestling
  • Men's and Women's Basketball

In recent years, Sanford's basketball teams have seen great success, with the Women's team securing the State Championship titles for 2010 and 2011, but losing to Ursuline Academy in the final for the 2012 trophy. The Men's team, meanwhile, has managed to win the State Championship titles for 2010, 2011, and 2012. Also available as a co-curricular credit, but not a team credit, is participation in the Winter Musical. But many students, in recent years, have expressed frustration over the school administration seeming to purposely block students from participating in both a winter sport and the winter musical. The School has seen minor dilution in the talents available to both winter sports teams and the winter production due to this, and many students worry that the implementation of the controversial new cocurricular program will force students to "pick a side" during the fall sports season, as well, placing students in the uncomfortable decision of choosing to participate in either the fall play or a team such as field hockey.

Spring Season[edit]

Many students, particularly freshmen, will elect to participate in a spring sport, such as to earn the required credit necessitated as part of the cocurricular program. Sports teams offered to students for the spring season are:

  • Men's and Women's Lacrosse
  • Men's Baseball
  • Women's Soccer
  • Men's and Women's Tennis
  • Men's and Women's Golf

Due to a lack of required facilities, Sanford's Upper School has no Outdoor Track team. Students argue, however, that the same required facilities are not available for the school's Indoor Track team, which has thrived yearly. Athletic Director Joan Samonisky has stated that if enough student interest is shown, she will strongly consider adding an Outdoor Track team to the athletic roster for the spring season, especially following the hiring of Jim Fischer as the new Cross Country and Track coach.

Recent Changes[edit]

Following the departure of Chip Mackelcan, Jr., at the conclusion of the 2010-2011 School year, Mark Anderson was welcomed as the new Headmaster of Sanford School. Due to Anderson's arrival just prior to the start of the school year, very few changes were seen in the school's structure and programming. Many families predicted sweeping changes to be brought to the school by Anderson for the following year. The end of the 2011-2012 school year saw the departure of faculty members Jim Weeks, Kathy Daum, Donna Figenshu, and the retirement of Catherine Klier. Casey Zimmer also moved to a new position as College Counselor though he promised to continue teaching English I for the foreseeable future as well. New faculty hired to replace these teachers included Kaitlin Harker, Beatrice Cooke, and Heather Taylor. The 2012-2013 academic year also saw the addition of Jim Fischer as the new Cross Country and Track coach, as well as the hiring of Cera Babb, who had served as a student teacher the year before for the Performing Arts department. The 2012-2013 school year also brought an overhaul to the school's co-curricular system, maintaining the requirement of 8 co-curricular credits to be amassed by grade 12, but allowing for 3 of these credits to be earned under the new co-curricular program, under which certain clubs, such as the school's successful Punkin Chunkin team and the Fall and Winter SRTC Productions, will meet during the same time frame as athletic teams. This will allow students that do not play a sport during the trimester these clubs meet to earn a co-curricular credit that can be put towards graduation. Other changes to the school during the 2012-2013 school year include the movement of the College Counseling offices from their previous position in the Lower Library to a more centralized location on the main floor of Stephen-May Hall, in the former office and classroom of Laura Gaylor and John Fritz, respectively.

The most notable change to the 2013-2014 school year was the daily schedule. With the introduction of a modified block style schedule, in which courses meet for 60 minutes five times in the seven day cycle, many students have found the changes to provide a more relaxed pace to the day and a decreased homework load since students do not have to prepare for each class every night.

During the 2014-2015 school year, students should expect to see various changes around campus with the newly launched "Front & Center" 7 million dollar campaign for campus upgrades. Construction can currently be seen throughout Sanford School's campus, most particularly to Geipel Hall, the auditorium by the entrance of the campus that will soon be home to the entire Performing Arts Department. Another expected campus upgrade includes a renovated Dining Hall that will hopefully give the students more space to eat lunch and grab snacks during break or in between classes. With the Performing Arts Department moving out of Quigley Hall, the College Counseling center and the Upper School Library will soon call Quigley their new home. Since the library will no longer be in the duPont building, the Visual Arts center will be located there with few, short renovations. In addition to facility upgrades, Sanford Upper School is now offering a multitude of new courses and electives such as AP Art History, The Art of Leadership, Psychology, World War II: Europe, World War II: Pacific, Introduction to Business, Introduction to Acting, Introduction to Programming, and many more. With the addition of AP Art History, the school now offers 18 AP courses.

Notable Alumni'

Phil George Walker Dixie Van Der Swanson III

Jefferson Cornelius Caldwell Marshall Vanderbilt Swanson VII

Walter Davis, NBA Star

Trevor Cooney, Syracuse basketball player

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°46′23″N 75°40′37″W / 39.773°N 75.677°W / 39.773; -75.677