Ashley Hall (Charleston, South Carolina)

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Ashley Hall
Charleston, South Carolina
United States
Coordinates 32°47′13″N 79°56′46″W / 32.787°N 79.946°W / 32.787; -79.946Coordinates: 32°47′13″N 79°56′46″W / 32.787°N 79.946°W / 32.787; -79.946
Type Private, all-girls day school
Motto Possunt Quae Volunt (Girls who have the will have the ability)
Founded 1909
Head of School Jill Swisher Muti
Faculty 80
Grades Primary2 through 12
Enrollment 670
Campus Urban
Campus size 4.5 acres (1.8 ha)
Color(s) Purple and white         
Nickname Panthers
Yearbook Spiral

Ashley Hall is an all-girls day school in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, United States. It was founded in 1909 by Mary Vardrine McBee, who headed the institution for many years. It is the only girls' college-preparatory school in the state. Originally accepting boarding students, Ashley Hall transitioned to a day school in 1974.

Today[when?] the school has 650 students, and range in grade level from two-year-olds in pre-primary classes, to graduating seniors. Pre-school is the only part of Ashley Hall which admits boys.

The school motto is Possunt Quae Volunt, or "Girls who have the will have the ability." The previous motto was Possunt Qui Volunt, or "Those willing are able." This is the masculine form of the phrase, which was not realized until 2003, when a junior AP Latin student suggested the revision.


The student population is 670. This includes students from the age of two to seniors in high school.

Pre-school (ages 2–5) is coeducational, and from kindergarten through senior year the student body is made up of only girls.

Ashley Hall is the only all-girls school in the state of South Carolina.

Heads of school[edit]

  • Mary Vardrine McBee (1909–48)
  • William Piper (1949–54)
  • Caroline Pardue (1954–78)
  • Marian Bell Leland (1979–84)
  • Margaret C. MacDonald (1985–2004)
  • Jill Swisher Muti (2004–present)


School publications[edit]

Student publications

  • Spiral – school yearbook
  • Acanthus – Upper School literary magazine

Development publications

  • Perspectives – official school magazine, distributed to all alumni, families, students and faculty[2]


Ashley Hall participates in the South Carolina Independent School Association (SCISA).

The school is famed for its excellent varsity volleyball and tennis teams.

It has rivalries with Porter-Gaud School and Bishop England High School.

  • Fall sports: cross country (Class AAA State Champions 2010), golf, sailing (JV and varsity), swimming, tennis (JV and varsity), volleyball (Class AAA State Champions 2007, 2008, 2009)[3]
  • Winter sports: basketball (JV and varsity)
  • Spring sports: soccer, lacrosse, softball, tennis, equestrian, and track (Class AAA State Champions 2013, 2014)
The Shell House


In the spring of 1909, Mary Vardrine McBee bought the James Nicholson House at 172 Rutledge Avenue to found an independent college preparatory school for girls. She named the school Ashley Hall. During her forty-year tenure, the school grew from just 46 students in grades 10–12 to a much larger student body in Lower, Middle and Upper schools.

McBee set the tone for the school – holding it to the highest academic standards, establishing the Alumnae Association, instilling many of the traditions that still exist today, and acquiring facilities that would serve as the foundation for the institution for years to come. Her school included the McBee House (now so named) and surrounding grounds, an indoor swimming pool, the "Old Gym" (Burges auditorium), kitchen and dining room, the Headmistress House and faculty apartments across the street from Ashley Hall.

In 1948, in order for the school to continue to operate as a non-profit institution under a Board of Trustees, the Ashley Hall Foundation was established. The Foundation purchased Ashley Hall from McBee in 1949, the year of her retirement. The Foundation's first move was to appoint William Piper as Head of School. He served as Head from 1949–1954. He was an acknowledged fiscal expert and helped put the school in good economic standing.

Caroline Pardue joined Ashley Hall in 1950 as the Academic Head of the Upper School and teacher of history. She was appointed Headmistress in 1954 and continued to serve in that capacity for the next 25 years until 1978. Her many accomplishments include the establishment of Pardue, Lane and Jenkins Halls to officially house Lower, Middle and Upper school classrooms, the construction of Davies Auditorium, and the incorporation of a kindergarten for boys and girls. It was also during her leadership that the school shifted its student base, eliminating boarding opportunities to focus on providing local students with a superior education. Upon Pardue's retirement, Marian Bell Leland assumed the role of Headmistress from 1979 to 1984. Leland was instrumental in and created the Capital Campaign, “The Ashley Hall Fund,” which funded the construction of the school's gymnasium.

Margaret C. MacDonald led Ashley Hall from 1985 to 2004. She is credited for elevating the school's academic standards, expanding programs, and educating both her faculty and the community on the value of an education that addressed the specific learning needs of girls and young women. She established financial aid programs and additional scholarships, initiated the school's first campus master plan, developed teaching excellence awards, the aquatics and admissions departments, and added to the physical property of the school. MacDonald, along with the school's Board of Trustees, also helped create the 2003–2008 Strategic Plan. This comprehensive blueprint outlines the future goals of the school as they relate to academics, student and faculty recruitment and facilities enhancements.

Notable alumnae[edit]


Charleston legend has it that George Trenholm, a resident of the McBee House, the mansion on the school property, was the man on whom Margaret Mitchell based the character Rhett Butler in her novel, Gone with the Wind.


External links[edit]