Buffalo Seminary

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The Buffalo Seminary
205 Bidwell Parkway, Buffalo, NY, US
Type private, all-girls
Established 1851
Songs Alma Mater and Jerusalem
Head of School Jody Douglass
Faculty 40
Number of students 209
School color(s) Red and White
Mascot Red Tailed Hawk

The Buffalo Seminary, commonly called SEM, is an independent private, all-girls college preparatory day and boarding school located at 205 Bidwell Parkway in Buffalo, New York, United States. The school operates independently from the New York State guidelines established by the Board of Regents.


Founded in 1851, Buffalo Seminary is Western New York’s oldest college preparatory school for girls. The school was originally named The Buffalo Female Academy, and has maintained all-female attendance. Its original and unflagging mission was to provide an exceptional education to young women. Originally, it offered education for young girls from kindergarten through sophomore year in college. In 1889, the school adopted its current name, The Buffalo Seminary. Graduates of the Seminary founded the Twentieth Century Club in the late 1800s.[1] one of the oldest and most historic private women's clubs in the United States. The school changed its policy in 1899 to teach only grades 9 through 12 after merging with the Elmwood School. In 1908, the school moved from its initial founding address on Johnson Park to the current address on Bidwell Parkway. That building, completed the following year, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.[2]


SEM's main building is located at 205 Bidwell Parkway. It was designed by Boston architect George F. Newton, who also designed the Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. It was completed in 1909, in the Tudor Revival style, the school's building features buttresses, terra cotta sculptures, Gothic style arches, and limestone ornamentation. The interior of the building features a library with a fireplace, a remodeled study hall, traditional chapel for all school gatherings (while called "chapel" it is more an auditorium - the school is not religious and never has been) as well as modern computer labs, a 1-to-1 laptop program, and Smartboard technology. A contemporary Performing Arts Center, MAC lab, darkroom, squash courts, and a fitness room have helped keep the school modern. Additionally, the building features the West-Chester Hall, now used for meetings and classes, but previously served as a private residence for the headmaster or mistress.


The Buffalo Seminary Red-Tailed Hawks are part of the Monsignor Martin Girls Athletic League. The students compete with other schools in the league as well as other local and regional high schools in various sports. The school offers 12 sports in which the girls may participate in either the Varsity and Junior Varsity level. They range from bowling and golf to basketball, squash and crew. Notably, SEM regularly sends boats to the US National Scholastic Rowing Championships in Camden, NJ and the Head of Charles in Boston. The school's mascot has recently been changed to the Red- Tailed Hawks. Formerly, they were known as the Seminary Sirens, a reference to Greek myth.


One of the school's prominent traditions is the Hornet and Jacket tradition. It originates from a time when girls were forbidden to participate in organized sports. SEM organized itself into these two teams so girls could compete amicably. After admission to the school, a student is sorted into either team on the festival-like Hornet/Jacket Day http://www.buffalonews.com/life-arts/next/buffalo-seminary-students-find-out-if-they-are-jackets-or-hornets-20131003. Throughout the year, festive and often holiday themed contests are held, such as costume contests, and the teams compete against the other. Points are awarded to the winning team, and at the close of the school year, the points are tallied, and the winning team is engraved into the "Cup."

Another SEM tradition is the "morning meeting." While other high schools may begin their day with an assigned homeroom for students, at SEM, all students gather in the chapel first. Morning meeting is led by the President of the Student Government Association, and opens with the entire student body singing SEM's alma mater and a selection made by SEM's musical director. Announcements are then made by students and faculty. Students commonly perform comical skits meant to be educational or informational to convey their announcements. Every senior class student must make a formal "Senior Presentation," at morning meeting - they are often accompanied by media or a live musical performance.

Cultural References[edit]

In City of Light by Lauren Belfer, a novel exploring the cultural mores of old Buffalo wealth, The Buffalo Seminary serves as inspiration for the Macaulay School for Girls, of which the main character is Headmistress. Lauren Belfer is herself a graduate of the school.

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Coordinates: 42°55′28.041″N 78°52′30.04″W / 42.92445583°N 78.8750111°W / 42.92445583; -78.8750111