Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School

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Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School
Founders Hall, the main academic building
Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School is located in Washington, D.C.
Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School
Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School
1524 35th Street, N.W.


United States
Coordinates38°54′34″N 77°4′9″W / 38.90944°N 77.06917°W / 38.90944; -77.06917Coordinates: 38°54′34″N 77°4′9″W / 38.90944°N 77.06917°W / 38.90944; -77.06917
TypePrivate High School
MottoFides et Scientia
(Faith and Science)
Religious affiliation(s)Roman Catholic (Visitandines)
PresidentSr. Mary Berchmans Hannan
DeanSue Foreman
PrincipalMary Kate Blaine
HeadmasterDaniel M. Kerns, Jr.
EnrollmentApproximately 500
Student to teacher ratio13:1
CampusUrban, 45 acres (0.18 km2)
SongCor Jesu
Athletics21 teams
Athletics conferenceIndependent School League
Sports13 sports
MascotThe Gold Team - Tigers
The White Team - Bears
Team nameThe Cubs
AccreditationMiddle States Association of Colleges and Schools[1]
AffiliationOrder of the Visitation of Holy Mary

Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School is a private Roman Catholic college-preparatory school for girls located in the historic Washington, D.C. neighborhood of Georgetown. Founded in 1799 by the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary (also known as the Visitation Sisters), it is one of the oldest continuously-operating school for girls in the country and the city[2] as well as the oldest Catholic school for girls in the original Thirteen Colonies.[3] It is located within the Archdiocese of Washington.


Georgetown Visitation Monastery was founded at the request of Archbishop Leonard Neale, president of Georgetown College, with Teresa Lalor.[4] The Visitation order is Salesian, basing its spirituality on the teachings of Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Jane Frances de Chantal. One of St. Francis's central teachings is, “Be who you are and be that well.” A second teaching still imparted to the students of Visitation is, “Nothing is so strong as gentleness and nothing so gentle as real strength.” While the Sisters of the Visitation no longer teach the majority of classes at the school, they maintain an active presence in daily life there by teaching homeroom, participating in school events, and reaching out to students and their families.

The monastery and school at Georgetown Visitation have been active participants in the history of Washington, DC. The sisters operated the Georgetown Academy for Young Ladies alongside free classes on Saturdays for girls of all races. At a time when it was still illegal to teach slaves to read, both free blacks and slaves learned at the Visitation monastery.[3] During the War of 1812, the Visitation campus was used as a hospital for soldiers wounded when the British set fire to the city of Washington. The walls and corridors of Founders Hall display the family heirlooms and portraits that were given to the school in lieu of tuition payment during the hard economic times of the American Civil War, World War I and World War II.

Fire and rebuilding[edit]

On July 8–9, 1993, a fire destroyed the historic main academic building of the campus, Founders Hall, causing an initially estimated $3.5 million in damages.[5] Trailers were brought in to serve as temporary classrooms in time for the start of the 1994 academic year. Founders Hall was restored and rededicated on May 5, 1995.[6][7] Since then, the campus has been revitalized with the Catharine E. Nolan Center for the Performing Arts and the Sarah and Charles T. Fisher Athletic Center completed for the bicentennial of the school in 1999, and the renovation of both St. Joseph's Hall and the St. Bernard Library in 2002 and 2003. Modern facilities are located side-by-side with historic buildings boasting a myriad of architectural styles, ranging from Victorian to Neo-Gothic.[8]

Student life[edit]

Located on more than 23 acres (93,000 m2) of land in the heart of Georgetown, the Visitation campus offers its students state-of-the art academic, sports, and performing arts facilities. Students enroll in a wide variety of Advanced Placement courses, and 100 percent of Visitation students attend college. Students play on a wide variety of athletic teams, including lacrosse, field hockey, soccer, tennis, basketball, track, cross country, swimming and diving, and crew. The Visitation Masqueraders mount musical and theatrical productions each year in the Catharine E. Nolan Center for the Performing Arts. There are also a Dance Ensemble, Choir, Instrumental Ensemble, and Madrigal Singers. The groups have performed at various events around the city, including in the Kennedy Center’s Christmas program.

There are many clubs and publications at the school. Student publications include the award-winning student newspaper The Wicket, the Green Gate yearbook, and also a literary magazine produced and edited by students entitled The Georgetowner. Students also participate in the Think Pink Society, Model United Nations Club, Kaleidoscope Club, Peer Educators Club, and Black Women's Society, among others. Students have the opportunity to serve as representatives of the student body in the Student Government Association, the Athletic Association, and the Honor Board, which is charged with ensuring the integrity and of the Visitation Honor Code.

Each graduate performs at least eighty hours of community service, but many students offer hundreds of hours of their time throughout their four years at Visitation. Community service trips take place domestically and abroad. Recent trips have been to Peru, Camden, New Jersey, the poorest city in America, St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia, and an Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Each year, several Georgetown Visitation students also participate in Vistory, a week-long program of Salesian sisterhood and community service with students from other Visitation schools around the country. Some students make long-term service commitments through tutoring programs with local public schools, Best Buddies, and Saturday School, a program on the Visitation campus. Students also share their community service experiences with their parents through programs like Together for Others, McKenna's Wagon, and Gleaning of the Fields.

Many students participate in the theatre program on campus as well as at the theatre program at Gonzaga College High School. Two shows are performed each year, on average, on the Nolan Center stage. While many of the boys who participate in the shows come from Gonzaga College High School, it is not unusual to find boys from such schools at Bishop O'Connell, St. Anselm's Abbey School, and several others.


There are many traditions at Georgetown Visitation. Prior to her first day at Visitation, each student is assigned to either the Gold Team or the White Team. The mascot of the White Team is a bear named Nicodemus, a name that is a lasting tradition for this team. The Gold Team's mascot is a tiger, officially named Ferdinand in 2010 via a team-wide vote. All family members are assigned to the same team to prevent intra-family strife. Throughout the year, the teams compete to win points through athletic competitions, quiz bowls and canned food drives. Students can also earn points throughout the year by trying out for and participating in sports teams and theatre productions, or by earning academic honors. Faculty and administrators join in, especially for the big fall and spring Gold/White field hockey and basketball games. Other popular Visitation events include Marshmallow Roast (classes come up with their own themed skits "roasting" their teachers, and the first year teachers vote on the winner), Father/Daughter Masses and dances, Grandparents' Day, Diversity Day, Junior Ring Ceremony, Together for Others, Class Retreats, Snowball and Snowflake (winter formal dances).

Visitation traditionally held its graduation ceremonies in the Odeon, an auditorium where John Quincy Adams addressed the graduates of 1828.[5] After the Odeon was destroyed in the fire of Founder's Hall, graduation ceremonies were moved to Georgetown University’s Gaston Hall. Starting with the class of 2005, graduation has been held on Visitation's McNabb Field. Graduates are outfitted in matching white custom-made gowns and process through the historic Green Gate wearing long white gloves and carrying long-stem red roses. One student is elected by her class to give a speech at graduation. [9]

Notable alumnae[edit]

Popular culture[edit]

In 1850, John H. Hewitt wrote the Grand Promenade March[10] and dedicated it to the Sisters of the Academy of Visitation, Georgetown.


  1. ^ MSA-CSS. "MSA-Commission on Secondary Schools". Archived from the original on 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2009-06-23.
  2. ^ "A Private School For Every Student". Washingtonian. October 10, 2011.
  3. ^ a b "History".
  4. ^ CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: The Visitation Monastery (Georgetown)
  5. ^ a b Rosenfeld, Megan (1993-11-20). "What the Flames Couldn't Touch; At Georgetown Visitation, an Enduring History and Faith". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved 2009-02-06.
  6. ^ Sullivan, Eleanore C.; Susan Hannan (2004). Georgetown Visitation Since 1799, second edition. Washington, DC: Georgetown Visitation Monastery. ISBN 0-9705851-2-8.
  7. ^ "Projects: Georgetown Visitation Founder's Hall". cox graae + spack architects.
  8. ^ Moeller Jr., G. Martin (2006). AIA Guide to the Architecture of Washington, Part 3. JHU Press. p. 212.
  9. ^ Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School:
  10. ^ Grand Promenade March

External links[edit]