|School type||Independent, coeducational, boarding school|
Elementary School (1-5):122
Middle School (6-8): 89
High School (9-12): 100
|Average class size||Elementary-Middle School: 12-15
High School: 15-18
Girard College Complex
|Location||Bounded by Poplar St., Girard, W. College, S. College, and Ridge Aves., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
|Area||43 acres (17 ha)|
|Architectural style||Colonial Revival, Greek Revival, Collegiate Gothic|
|NRHP Reference #||74001802|
|Added to NRHP||October 29, 1974|
Girard College enrolls academically capable students, grades one through twelve, and awards a full scholarship with a yearly value of approximately $44,000 to every child admitted. The scholarship covers most of the costs of attending Girard, including tuition, room and board, books and school uniforms. The scholarship may be renewed yearly until the student's high school graduation. Applicants must be at least six years old (by the first day of first grade), demonstrate good social skills and the potential for scholastic achievement, and come from a single-parent, low-income (determined by HUD guidelines) family. Girard accepts students on the basis of previous school records, admissions testing, a visit and interviews. The process is conducted without preference for race, gender, religion or national origin.
Girard's mission is to prepare students for advanced education and life as informed, ethical, and productive citizens through a rigorous educational program that promotes intellectual, social, and emotional growth.
Stephen Girard's legacy
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Born in the Atlantic merchant and naval seaport city of Bordeaux, in the Kingdom of France, Stephen Girard (1750-1831), was the eldest of nine children. His mother died when he was age 11, and he left home at the age of 14 to spend the next 12 years sailing the seas and learning the international mercantile and shipping business.
Girard arrived in the Delaware Bay and River port city of Philadelphia in May 1776, during the momentous summer of American Revolutionary War events at the nearby old "Pennsylvania State House" (now "Independence Hall") and remained there for the rest of his life. During his 55 years in the "City of Brotherly Love," he became one of the richest Americans of his time.
Girard was married (at age 27) to Mary Lum, from 1777 until her death in 1815. They had no children.
His initial success in business and the source of his first fortune was international shipping and merchant activities. He sent his cargo sailing ships, crews and captains around the world, trading goods and amassing a fortune. He deposited his growing wealth in the "First" Bank of the United States, a semi-private/public financial institution, chartered by Congress, with deposits and an official relationship with the United States Department of the Treasury and its domineering first Secretary of the Treasury, the newly appointed Alexander Hamilton, under the administration of the first President George Washington. The new First Bank of the U.S. had been recently established on behalf of private financiers, businessmen and the new central U.S. Government in the temporary national capital of Philadelphia. When the First Bank of the U.S. lost its charter two decades later in 1811, Girard bought the bank's landmark Greek Revial-styled building, left his deposited money and accounts there, and reopened as a new financial institution named the "Bank of Stephen Girard." This made him America’s first private banker. He then made his second fortune in banking. Stephen Girard used his position as banker to raise the $16 million required for the fledgling U.S. government to fight the War of 1812 against the Kingdom of Great Britain, after war was declared by the Congress at the request of fourth President James Madison in June. By the time of his death, his fortune totaled approximately $7.5 million.
One of the most interesting chapters of Girard’s life was his role in fighting Philadelphia’s devastating "yellow-fever" epidemic in the summer of 1793. He was instrumental in running the city’s hospital at William Hamilton's home, “Bush Hill,” using his business skills to better organize the primitive hospital’s health care procedures and record-keeping and becoming personally involved in the nursing of patients.
With the assistance of noted attorney William J. Duane, (1780-1865), in the 1820s, he wrote a long will and testament, outlining every detail of how his fortune would be used. He delighted in keeping the document secret, knowing that everyone wondered what would happen to his fortune. Immediately after his death in 1831, the provisions of his will were made public. In addition to extensive personal and institutional bequests, he left the bulk of his fortune to the city of Philadelphia to build and operate a residential school for impoverished orphans. This innovative social vision was considered extremely unusual both then and now: to use the Girard fortune not to endow another so-called "Ivy League" college or university but to assist children in need. In 1831, the bequest was the largest single act of philanthropy up to that time in American history.
Girard’s will eventually became famous for his restriction that students must be “poor, white, male, orphans.” The school remained for needy "white" boys for over a century. From May 1954, with the U. S. Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, there was increasing interest in racial integration of Girard College, as the city's public schools had long been. After an extended, bitter, 14-year civil-rights struggle (including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's speaking at Girard’s front gates in August 1965), the first four black boys entered the school in September 1968. Sixteen years later, the policy of an all-male student body was also changed, and the first girls, both black and white, were admitted in 1984. Current enrollment of the Girard College in the 21st Century is about evenly divided between boys and girls and about 90% African-American.
The Girard Estate remains open in perpetuity. Its endowment and financial resources are held in trust by the courts of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which provides much of the school's operating budget.
Girard College was founded in 1833, five years before the establishment of the second oldest public high school in America, the Central High School of Philadelphia, which soon became the capstone and flagship of the Philadelphia City Public Schools system and followed the first such secondary school in New England's Massachusetts, of the English High School of Boston in 1821, and six years before the third oldest such institution further south in Baltimore, Maryland, then named "The High School", (later renamed the "Male High School", then the "Central High School of Baltimore" when two female public high schools were established), and later The Baltimore City College, which is its title today, both are ensconced in landmark distinctive structures and are of the modern "magnet school" type, with college prep/academic curricula, strict admission standards, with noted faculty and famous alumni with respected roles in their cities and states, similar to Girard's historic role in Philadelphia along with later Central High and Girls' High. The buildings and classrooms for Girard took some time to design and construct with their expensive "Greek Revival" stone architecture, but were ready and opened on January 1, 1848, under provisions of Girard's will supervised by the appointed trustees, including banker and financier Nicholas Biddle, (1786-1844).
His vision as a school for poor, white, orphaned boys was unique in educating an entirely unserved population. Girard saw a chance to educate boys who might never reach their potential and to prepare them for useful, productive lives. Girard's vision for the school can best be understood in the context of early 19th Century Philadelphia. The city was then at the forefront of creating innovative American institutions designed to solve a specific social challenge, such as the newly founded and constructed Eastern State Penitentiary (humane incarceration), the Pennsylvania Hospital (mental illness), the Pennsylvania Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb (disabilities), and the Franklin Institute (scientific knowledge). Girard chose to dedicate his immense fortune to help educate young men of Philadelphia as Americans for the future.
The specific term "orphan" appears in the will, and Girard specified "poor, white, male" orphans.
However, in 1831, a mother who became a widow had no rights and resources, and "guardians" were often appointed by the "Probate" or "Orphan courts" of the city and state. In reality, Girard operated as a school for boys who were fatherless rather than children with no living parents or guardians. (The College in the 19th Century determined the legal definition of the term "orphan" was "a fatherless child.")  As the 20th Century progressed and women achieved full and equal rights and status including the right to vote, the descriptive term "orphans" became outmoded and deemed erroneous as a term of modern reference for Girard students.
Not part of the School District of Philadelphia, which had long been racially integrated (as being in a northern, formerly "free state"), Girard College was still considered "private" even though it had a very public educational mission, and was racially segregated long before the consideration of the "Brown v. Board of Education" legal case. Girard College was ordered to desegregate by the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 unanimous decision. Perhaps the key to the ruling was that Girard, following its founder's will, was administered by the "Board of Directors of City Trusts," and that public institution could not continue to maintain the historically out-dated entrance requirement.
For fourteen years, the legal battle to desegregate Girard College continued. Cecil B. Moore and the Philadelphia Freedom Fighters marched around the wall encompassing the campus for seven months in 1965. A highlight of these protests came on August 2 of that year when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to the front gates of Girard's campus and addressed the protesters.
The first female student was admitted as a first grader in 1984, following more adjustments to the admission criteria, so that the death of a father was no longer required. Girls were gradually integrated into the College over a 12-year enrollment period with subsequent new female students only permitted to enroll in the same graduating class as the first female student or a younger class. The first young women graduated with a Girard diploma in 1993. Girard's first female valedictorian was Kimberly Green. The graduating Class of 1996 was the first class to graduate with more female students than males, although it remains more or less balanced from year to year.
The College made history in May 2009, when it named Autumn Adkins as its 16th president, the first female chief administrator in its (then) 160-year existence. Adkins, now Autumn Adkins Graves, was not only the first woman but also the first African-American to head the College. She resigned three years later in 2012.
The current president, Clarence D. Armbrister, is the first African-American male to serve in this role.
All students live in single-sex dormitories arranged by grade level. Residential advisers occupy apartments in the dorm buildings. Girard requires that all students participate in the five-day program for the full benefit of its academic and residential curricula. All students go home on weekends. Girard is open to students of all religious backgrounds. Once a month at the beginning of the school day, however, all students attend a non-denominational assembly in the school’s Chapel, offering a continuing forum for spiritual and moral development.
Entering 2016, student enrollment at Girard is projected to be 311; of these, 122 are Elementary School students (grades 1 to 5) and 89 are Middle Schoolers and 100 will attend the High School (grades 9 to 12). Girard employs 127 faculty members; of which 71 are academic teachers and 56 are residential advisers. Class sizes range between 12 and 20 students in the elementary school and 16-22 students in the middle school. In the high school, honors classes have 15 students, and regular classes - 20 to 25 students.
Girard’s performance-based curriculum is in accordance with national standards. All grade levels and subject areas have specific benchmarks and content standards that measure successful student outcomes and achievements. Girard is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. It also holds membership in the National Association of Independent Schools, the Association of Boarding Schools, and the Coalition for Residential Education.
Virtually all of Girard's graduates are accepted into accredited colleges and universities with approximately 95% continuing to higher-education institutions, a percentage far higher than most public high schools in the School District of Philadelphia.
Founder's Hall, Girard College
Founders Hall (1897)
|NRHP Reference #||69000158|
|Added to NRHP||August 4, 1969|
|Designated NHL||August 4, 1969|
Founder’s Hall at Girard College (1833–1847) is considered one of the finest examples of American Greek-Revival architecture. School founder Girard specified in his will the dimensions and plan of the building. Nicholas Biddle (1786–1844) was chairman of the School’s building committee, banker and financier and president of the later revived and reorganized Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia.
Girard’s will demanded an architectural competition for the school's design. Endowed with his $2-million contribution, the 1832 competition was the first American architectural competition to have truly national participation. The winning architect was Thomas Ustick Walter (1804–1887). After the Girard commission, Walter went on to design the dome of the United State Capitol in Washington, D.C. He later returned to Philadelphia and became an assistant architect on the City Hall and, in 1857, a founding member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
Founder’s Hall was the school’s original classroom building. It has three main floors, each measuring 14,000 square feet (1,300 m2). The plan for each floor, according to Stephen Girard's specifications, consists of a 100-by-20-foot (30.5 m × 6.1 m) front hall, four 50 ft. square rooms with 25 ft. ceilings arranged two-by-two, and a back hall that is the same size as the front hall. The scale of the spaces was impressively large when the building first opened.
Resulting from his association with architect Walter, Nicholas Biddle hired him in 1834 to convert the Biddle country seat, Andalusia, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, from a large Pennsylvania farmhouse into an exemplary domestic Greek-Revival structure.
Graduates (or, in some cases, former students) of Girard College include:
- Lawrence Cunningham, author and professor
- Eugene Daub 1960, sculptor
- Harry Davis, former Major League Baseball player
- Joseph Hallman 1998, composer, musician
- William H. Hancker, M.D. physician and Superintendent of the Delaware State Hospital at Farnhurst, Delaware
- Al Harker, 1934 FIFA World Cup and professional soccer player
- Richard Harris- Alaska pioneer involved in the founding of Juneau, Alaska
- George Hegamin, former National Football League player
- Russell Johnson, actor, "The Professor" on Gilligan's Island
- Franz Kline, Abstract Expressionist painter
- Tracey Lee, rapper
- Johnny Lush, former Major League Baseball player
- Harry "Moose" McCormick, former Major League Baseball player
- John "Jocko" Milligan, former Major League Baseball player
- Wesley Morris, film critic
- John Nolen, city planner and landscape architect
- James Hamilton Windrim, artist/architect, designed the Bank of North America
- Ashton Youboty, NFL Cornerback for the Jacksonville Jaguars
- Staff (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- "Girard College Civil Rights Landmark - PHMC Historical Markers". Historical Marker Database. Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
- "Stephen Girard". Ushistory.org. 1995-07-04. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
- DiFilippo, Thomas J. "The Will, No Longer Sacred". "Stephen Girard, The Man, His College and Estate". Joe Ross. Retrieved 2009-05-03.
- Romano, Louis A. (1980). Manual and industrial education at Girard College, 1831-1965. Arno Press. pp. 138–139. ISBN 0-405-13450-9. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
- "School Desegregation and Civil Rights Stories: Girard College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania". NARA. Retrieved 2007-02-20.
- "Graves to step down as Girard College president". Philly.com. Retrieved 2012-04-17.
- "Girard College". Philadelphia on Stone. The Library Company of Philadelphia. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
- Miller, Arthur P, Jr.; Miller, Marjorie L. (2003). Guide to the homes of famous Pennsylvanians: Houses, museums, and landmarks. Stackpole Books. p. 59. ISBN 0-8117-2628-2. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
- "Pulitzer Prize awarded to Globe film critic Wesley Morris". Boston.com. Retrieved 2012-04-17.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Girard College.|
- Official website
- Listing, drawings, and photographs at the Historic American Buildings Survey
- The Winterthur Library Overview of an archival finding aid on Girard College.
- Report of the Committee on Clothing, Diet, &c. to the Board of Trustees of the Girard College for Orphans (1835)