Harpeth Hall School
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|Harpeth Hall School|
Mentem spiritumque tollamus
Let us lift up the mind and spirit
|3801 Hobbs Road
|Type||Private all-girls college preparatory|
|Sister school||Montgomery Bell Academy|
|Head of school||Stephanie Balmer|
|Color(s)||Green and gray|
Harpeth Hall School is an all-girls private college preparatory school for grades 5-12 in Nashville, Tennessee. Known around the United States as one of the most prestigious all-girls schools, it serves to educate young women and foster these ideals: to Think Critically, Lead Confidently, and Live Honorably. Harpeth Hall is recognized even at the global scale for the scholarship and leadership embedded in the young women who graduate from this most intellectually challenging and stimulating college preparatory school.
Harpeth Hall’s history dates back to 1865 with the founding of Ward Seminary for Young Ladies. The school eventually merged with Belmont College for Young Women in 1913 and formed Ward-Belmont College.
In the spring of 1951, Ward-Belmont was forced to close when the board of directors transferred ownership of the school to the Tennessee Baptist Convention. A group of concerned citizens organized to see that a quality educational opportunity for girls continued locally. This group purchased the 26-acre (110,000 m2) Estes estate at the corner of Hobbs and Estes Roads. One of the founders suggested the name of the new school be Harpeth Hall, because an early settler in Middle Tennessee had given the name Harpeth to the sloping hills and little river valley to the south of the campus.
The original home on the property, now called Souby Hall, served as Harpeth Hall’s first school building. In the fall of 1951, the new school opened with 161 students in grades nine through twelve, almost all of whom transferred from Ward-Belmont. The first head of school, Mrs. Susan S. Souby, had previously headed the high school department at Ward-Belmont. Additionally, the first administrators and all but two members of the faculty were former members of the Ward-Belmont staff. By the next year, in December 1952, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredited Harpeth Hall. Early in its history, Harpeth Hall also gained membership in the National Association of Independent Schools, the Southern Association of Independent Schools, and the Mid-South Association of Independent Schools.
During the School’s first decade, the facilities were expanded to include additional classroom space, an auditorium, gymnasium and cafeteria. The student body also grew from 161 to 277, and the original staff of eighteen grew to 23. When Miss Idanelle “Sam” McMurry became the second head of school in 1963, the board of trustees agreed to raise the maximum enrollment to 320 as long as additional faculty could be secured to keep the average class size no greater than sixteen students. In 1968, Miss McMurry oversaw the opening of the Daugh W. Smith Middle School The 1970s saw a period of additional changes and growth on campus. With the advent of court-ordered racial integration in Nashville’s public school system, Harpeth Hall decided to add sixth grade in 1971 and later added a fifth grade in 1993.
When Ann Teaff became head of school in 1998, Harpeth Hall made further strides in integrating technology into the classroom. In the fall of 2000, the school introduced laptop computers into the curriculum. The school added a faculty position dedicated to the development of community service. In the spring of 2000, Harpeth Hall was one of only 66 schools nationally, and the only one in Middle Tennessee, to be given the National Service Learning School award recognizing the School’s outstanding community service program.
In 1998, a strategic plan was developed to address future program, faculty and new facility needs. In 2000, a five-year, $42 million capital campaign entitled the Campaign for Harpeth Hall was launched to address these needs. By 2005, significant improvements to facilities were completed including the new Ann Scott Carell Library, the Dugan Davis Track and Soccer Complex, Patton Visual Arts Center, and Daugh W. Smith Middle School. In addition, the following facilities were renovated: the Jack C. Massey Center for Mathematics and Science, George N. Bullard Gymnasium, Frances Bond Davis Theatre, Marnie Sheridan Gallery, and Souby Hall. The campaign also more than doubled the school's endowment from $9 million to over $21 million. Another milestone occurred on January 23, 2007, with the dedication of the new Hortense Bigelow Ingram Upper School.
Harpeth Hall comprises 671 students who arrive each day from 39 different zip codes throughout the Middle Tennessee region. Of this student body, 124 are new students for the 2013-2014 school year and came from 38 different schools (15 public/21 private/2 homeschools), and 12.7 percent of the student body are students of color.
The Harpeth Hall School sits on 40 acres in the heart of a residential neighborhood in Green Hills. The campus is centered on Souby Lawn, a gentle downward slope bordered by Souby Hall, the Ann Scott Carell Library, the Hortense Bigelow Ingram Upper School and the Daugh W. Smith Middle School. The Marnie Sheridan Gallery, which houses the Davis Theater, sits on the other side of Souby Hall. The Patton Visual Arts Center is located behind the library and the upper school. The Kirkman House, which currently houses Stephanie Balmer, Head of School, sits behind the middle school.
In 2005, significant improvements to facilities were completed including the new Ann Scott Carell Library, the Dugan Davis Track and Soccer Complex, Patton Visual Arts Center, and Daugh W. Smith Middle School. In addition, the following facilities were renovated: the Jack C. Massey Center for Mathematics and Science, George N. Bullard Gymnasium, Frances Bond Davis Theatre, Marnie Sheridan Gallery, and Souby Hall, the administrative building.
In 2007, the Hortense Bigelow Ingram Upper School was renovated. Additionally in 2007, the school was the first girls’ school in Tennessee to install AstroTurf, a synthetic playing surface, and the first school—girls, boys or coed—in Tennessee to install a synthetic field specifically for soccer and lacrosse.
In August 2013, Harpeth Hall launched the public phase of anew capital campaign: The Next Step -Strengthening the Mind, Body, and Spirit. The goals of the campaign are to construct a new Athletic and WellnessCenter, acquire contiguous property, increase endowment, and sustain a strongAnnual Giving program.
Harpeth Hall's college preparatory curriculum offers 27 Advanced Placement and Honors courses and an average student-teacher ratio of 8:1. Recently, the school has boasted National Merit Finalists, an Intel semifinalist, a Davidson fellow and Presidential Scholars.
Students at Harpeth Hall must complete four years of English, and at least three years of mathematics, science, foreign language, and history, in addition to two electives. Students must also take physical education or dance every year, although an exemption program is in place for extracurricular athletes and dancers. One full credit in the fine arts is also required for graduation, which may be filled by taking studio art, photography, drama, chorus, rock band, or AP Art History.
In 2009, Harpeth Hall became one of the founding members of the Online School for Girls, a system of online classes offered to students as independent electives. Harpeth Hall students participated in the inaugural year of the Online School, taking classes in Multivariable Calculus, Differential Equations, Computer Programming and Genetics. In 2011, the school founded the Center for STEM Education for Girls to increase the number of girls pursuing college degrees and careers in the STEM fields.
Each January, Upper School students participate in Winterim, a three-week program designed to give students a perspective on academic and career opportunities outside of the classroom.
Freshmen and sophomores are required to stay on-campus, where they take specialized courses taught by faculty or guest teachers. Courses in the past have covered topics including the anatomy of the heart, the Kennedys, genocide, Gilmore Girls, bookbinding, pottery, French cooking, Greek and fencing. Upperclassmen go off-campus on internships or independent studies in Nashville. Internship experiences in a lab or shadowing a doctor are popular, as are internships at local media outlets like The Tennessean or NewsChannel5. Students also have the option of going on school-sponsored academic travel or exchange. In recent years, off-campus trips have gone everywhere from England and Ecuador to Japan and Fiji.
100% of graduating seniors enroll in college. In recent years, students have gone on to attend a broad range of schools, from the original Belmont University to SEC and Ivy League schools to St. Andrews University in Scotland and the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. Students from the classes of 2009 and 2010 are attending Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, Brown University, University of Pennsylvania, Ole Miss, Georgetown University, Northwestern University, Boston University, New York University, Tufts University, Pitzer College, Pomona College, Vanderbilt University, University of Southern California, Denison University, Kenyon College, University of California Berkeley, Colorado College, Duke University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Texas Christian University, Dartmouth College, Vassar College, Middlebury College, Furman University, Washington University in St. Louis, and many others.
The college counseling program at the school provides individual assistance to students and parents. College Nights are held at grades 9-11 for students and parents preparing to apply. Juniors and seniors participate in additional college workshops during the school year. Varied seminars are held for seniors in the second semester to assist in the transition to college.
Harpeth Hall students participate in a broad range of extracurriculars. The theater department produces four shows a year: a spring musical, a fall classic, a spring contemporary and student-produced One-Acts at the end of the school year. The Harpeth Hall Dance Company puts on two concerts a year, one in the fall and one in the spring. Logos, the school newspaper, Hallmarks, the literary magazine, and Digitalis, the online literary magazine, have won state awards in recent years. The Youth in Government club sponsors student involvement in Model United Nations and Youth Legislature conferences. The Real World Committee holds monthly guest speaker events and assemblies designed to promote diversity. Harpeth Hall's Science Olympiad team competes at the state and local level in both Middle School and High School divisions. Both teams have advanced to the state competition in recent years. The Harpeth Hall Knitting Club is one of the many charity based clubs. They donate knitted items such as hats and scarves to organizations. Other information can be found on their website here. Other clubs include Mock Trial, the Cooking Club, the Justice League, the Knitting Club, Leaders OnLine (LOL), and the Chess Club, which recently held a human chess game on Souby Lawn.
More than 52 percent of upper school and 90 percent of middle school students compete on an athletic team. Harpeth Hall fields 11 interscholastic sports in the upper school and 10 in the middle school.
Harpeth Hall has garnered:
- 85 State Champion athletes in individual sports
- 49 State Championships in eight sports
- 37 total upper and middle school teams
- 20 All-American Athletes
- 6 Coach-of-the Year recipients
- 3 Olympic Athletes
- 2 Robert Inman Awards for Girls All-Sports Harpeth Valley Athletic Conference (Middle School) Champion (as of 2013)
11 students from Class of 2009 are competing at the collegiate level.
In 2010, the school announced plans for a new Athletic and Wellness Center that would house two new indoor gyms, multipurpose rooms and new locker rooms.
Several of the traditions established at Ward-Belmont were carried over to Harpeth Hall.
The Lady of the Hall is a senior elected without nomination by the student body as the lady most representative of the ideals of the school. Each year, a new Lady of the Hall and court is elected. Ladies of the Hall have their names engraved on a plaque in the Upper School. Each class also elects a representative to the court. The Lady of the Hall and her court are honored each year at Step Singing.
Step Singing is a long-established year-end event that began at Ward-Belmont in the 1900s. Seniors lined the steps of the academic building to sing traditional songs a capella, hence Step Singing. These days, both the senior and junior classes participate in Step Singing and will sing their class songs in front of the Ann Scott Carell Library. The Step Singing ceremony begins with the presentation of the Lady of the Hall and class representatives, who process down Souby Lawn in long white dresses with a single magnolia flower. The Lady of the Hall gives a speech, and later the junior class is officially recognized as the new senior class and joins in reciting the leadership pledge to the school. Step Singing is typically held the Sunday night before graduation. Juniors and seniors wear short white dresses.
George Washington’s Birthday Celebration has happened at Harpeth Hall since 1922. Today, the George Washington Celebration is performed by the 7th-grade class as its American history studies curriculum coincides with the pageant. Every member of the class participates as a sailor, soldier or minuet dancer(Lady or Gentlemen). The seventh-graders also choose two members of the eighth-grade class to play the roles of George and Martha Washington.
The Four Clubs (Angkor, Ariston, Eccowasin and Triad) have existed since the days of Ward-Belmont. During that time, the clubs were social clubs for the day and boarding students, similar to sororities. In the early years of Harpeth Hall, (and pre-Title IX), the clubs competed against one another in athletic competitions. Today, every girl is placed in one of the four clubs and students of alumnae are placed in the same club as their mothers, grandmothers or aunts. Today’s clubs serve as spirit and community service clubs. They operate separately in the Middle and Upper Schools, although club affiliation persists. In the Middle School, clubs are instrumental in Field Day. In the Upper School, clubs compete in a song competition at Awards Day each year, at which the entire club performs a routine choreographed by the club president and co-president. Scarves and sweaters emblazoned with the club colors and insignia are available at the bookstore.
The Katie Wray Valedictory Award is a prestigious award bestowed upon a senior at graduation. The Katie Wray Award, named for Ellen Kathleen Wray who died of cancer in 1955 during her last semester in high school, is presented to the senior with the highest academic average. Recipients have their names engraved on a plaque in the Upper School.
Famous Harpeth Hall alumnae include:
- Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon, Minnie Pearl, country entertainer
- Tracy Caulkins, 3-time gold-medal-winning Olympic swimmer
- Willa Fitzgerald, actress
- Amy Grant, Grammy & Dove Award winning Singer and Songwriter
- Mildred T. Stahlman, neonatology surgeon
- Reese Witherspoon, Academy Award winning actress
Founding member of the Online School for Girls. Also a member of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, National Association of Independent Schools, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Southern Association of Independent Schools, Council of Spiritual and Ethical Education, Tennessee Association of Independent Schools, Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools, National Association for College Admission Counseling, Southern Association for College Admission Counseling, and the College Board.