Mercersburg Academy

Coordinates: 39°49′34″N 77°53′54″W / 39.82611°N 77.89833°W / 39.82611; -77.89833
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Mercersburg Academy
100 Academy Drive


Coordinates39°49′34″N 77°53′54″W / 39.82611°N 77.89833°W / 39.82611; -77.89833
Former nameMarshall College (1836-65)
Mercersburg College (1865-93)
TypeIndependent selective college-preparatory boarding and day high school
MottoLatin: Integritas, Virilitas, Fidelitas
(Integrity, Virility, Fidelity)
Religious affiliation(s)Nonsectarian[1]
Established1836; 188 years ago (1836)
FounderWilliam Mann Irvine
StatusCurrently operational
CEEB code392570
NCES School ID01197796[1]
Head of schoolQuentin McDowell
Faculty58.3 (FTE)[1]
Enrollment444[1] (2017-2018)
 • Grade 981[1]
 • Grade 10117[1]
 • Grade 11114[1]
 • Grade 12132[1]
Average class size12
Student to teacher ratio7.6[1]
Hours in school day6[1]
Campus size300 acres (120 ha)
Campus typeRural[1]
Color(s)Blue and white   
Sports24 varsity teams
NicknameBlue Storm
AccreditationsMSA,[2] NAIS,[1] TABS,[1] PAIS
Endowment$397 million[3]
Budget$34 million[3]
School fees$310–$1,360
Annual tuition$72,925 (boarding)
$45,600 (day)[4]
Revenue$44.65 million
Nobel laureatesBurton Richter
Mercersburg Academy
Mercersburg Academy is located in Pennsylvania
Mercersburg Academy
Mercersburg Academy is located in the United States
Mercersburg Academy
LocationPA 16, Mercersburg, Pennsylvania
Area15 acres (6.1 ha)
Architectural styleClassical Revival, Late Gothic Revival
NRHP reference No.84003374[5]
Added to NRHPJune 21, 1984

Mercersburg Academy (formerly Marshall College and Mercersburg College) is an independent college-preparatory boarding and day high school in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, in the United States. Founded in 1893, the school enrolls approximately 444 students in grades 9–12, including postgraduates, on a campus about 90 miles northwest by north of Washington, D.C.


Main Hall

On March 31, 1836, the Pennsylvania General Assembly granted a charter to Marshall College to be located in Mercersburg. Dr. Frederick Augustus Rauch came from Switzerland to be the first president of the college under the sponsorship of the Reformed Church in the United States. Dr. Rauch served as president from 1836 until 1841. His successor in the position was John Williamson Nevin, who served until 1853 when Marshall College joined with Franklin College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to become Franklin & Marshall College. At this time, the preparatory department of Marshall College became known as Marshall Academy, which later changed to Marshall Collegiate Institute. In 1865, the name was again changed to Mercersburg College, under whose charter the school continues to operate. The historical tie to the church continues through Mercersburg's membership in the Council for Higher Education of the United Church of Christ.

Douglas Hale was appointed head of school in 1997, coming from Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he had been a teacher, assistant headmaster, and eventually headmaster since 1973. During Hale's tenure, Mercersburg's endowment grew from $64 million in 1997 to $251 million in June 2015.[6]

Hale was succeeded in 2016 by Katherine Titus, who was the first female head of school in the Academy's history.[7]

School structure[edit]

The school now offers 170 courses and has 106 faculty members (including 77 with master's degrees and four with doctorates). Mercersburg serves grades 9–12 and postgraduate. As of the 2019–2020 school year, 442 students have enrolled: 51 percent boys and 49 percent girls. Eighty-four percent of the students are boarding students, while 16 percent are day students. The school has a 33 percent acceptance rate.[8]


Base tuition for the 2021–2022 school year is $64,150 for boarding students and $38,025 for day students.[4] Fifty percent of Academy students receive financial aid (need- and merit-based). The school's total financial-aid budget is more than $7 million.[4] Mercersburg merit scholarships include the Arce Scholarships, the Guttman Scholarship, the Hale Scholarship, the Legacy Scholarships, the Mercersburg Scholarships, the Regents Scholarships, the Witmer Scholarship, and the 1893 Scholarship.[4]

Students come from around the world, representing 36 nations and 27 American states, and the District of Columbia. International students account for 20 percent of the student body, and 25 percent of domestic students are persons of color.[8] 78 percent of the Mercersburg Class of 2017 was accepted by one or more colleges defined as “Most Competitive” or “Highly Competitive” by Barron's Profiles of American Colleges, with 68 percent accepted by one of U.S. News & World Report’s Top 50 National Universities or Top 50 Liberal Arts Colleges.[8]


The Academy has an endowment of $397 million, making it one of the highest endowment-per-student independent schools in the country.[9] On October 10, 2013, Mercersburg alumna Deborah Simon '74 pledged $100 million to the school, making her gift the largest in the school's history and one of the largest ever to an independent secondary school in the United States.[10]

Curriculum and activities[edit]

Mercersburg offers 170 traditional courses, including more than 40 honors, Advanced Placement, and post-AP courses.[8]


Mercersburg baseball player, poster by Bristow Adams, 1903

Since 2000, Mercersburg has been a member of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL), which includes Blair Academy, The Hill School, The Hun School of Princeton, Lawrenceville School and Peddie School.

Alumni have competed for professional teams including the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles (MLB), Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL), and Harlem Globetrotters.[11]

Stony Batter Players (Theatre)[edit]

Mercersburg embraced the performing arts as early as 1899 with the formation of Stony Batter, the school's first drama group. Stony Batter was created by Camille Irvine, the wife of founding headmaster William Mann Irvine.[12] The name “Stony Batter” was adopted in honor of the place near campus where U.S. President James Buchanan was born. Today the group is known as Stony Batter Players. Recent productions have included Fiddler on the Roof, Mamma Mia!, Proof, The Real Inspector Hound, Chicago, The Diary of Anne Frank, Antigone: An Apocalypse, Legally Blonde: The Musical, Urinetown, Mere Mortals, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, World War Z, and Lend Me A Tenor, among others. In the spring, Stony Batter typically performs scenes from the classical or Shakespearean repertoire or a modern “10-Minute Play Festival.” Hollywood legend and Oscar-winner Jimmy Stewart '28 performed in Stony Batter productions while a student at Mercersburg.[13]


Music played an integral role at Mercersburg practically from the beginning. Dr. Irvine led the Mercersburg Academy Glee Club for several years, and in 1901 he published The Mercersburg Academy Song Book.[14]

School traditions[edit]

The Washington Irving Literary Society and John Marshall Literary Society—the school's oldest student organizations—trace their roots back before Mercersburg Academy was established. Before Marshall College moved to Lancaster to become Franklin & Marshall College, its students created the Diagnothian and Goethean literary societies. In 1865, after the founding of Mercersburg College, the Washington Irving Literary Society was born; within a year, the rival John Marshall Literary Society emerged.[15] William Mann Irvine helped revive the two societies at the Academy's founding, and the rival societies have competed against one another ever since. All students attending Mercersburg are members of one of the two societies; those with family members who preceded them at the school can choose to represent the same society. Otherwise, society officers meet early in the school year to select new students for each group. (This replaces the early practice of returning students racing to meet stagecoaches carrying new students to campus in hopes of convincing those students to join a particular society.)

What began as a midwinter debate competition has evolved into a week of intense competition in everything from basketball and swimming to chess and poker. The climactic event of the week is Declamation, a speaking contest where five representatives from each society deliver prepared monologues. Winners of each event during the week earn points for their respective societies, with the largest number of points awarded at Declamation. The winning society claims bragging rights for the next 12 months.[16]

Each year, on the Friday evening of Alumni Weekend (often held in October), students gather on the steps of Main Hall for Step Songs, which involves the singing of school songs and traditional cheers as a pep rally for the next day's athletic contests, usually against a Mid-Atlantic Prep League opponent. The tradition evolved into its present form from that of an annual concert given for visiting alumni by the Glee Club—under the direction of Headmaster Irvine. (Irvine suffered a stroke during Step Songs in 1928 and died a week later.)[17]


Mercersburg's 300-acre campus includes seven student residences and three main academic buildings housing 47 classrooms and labs; 10 playing fields (including a synthetic turf field); a gymnasium complex; a tennis center; a squash center; an outdoor track; and a 65,500-square-foot arts center.

The James Buchanan Cabin (believed to be the birthplace of the first Pennsylvanian to be elected president of the United States)[18] was originally located at Stony Batter, an early trading post about 2.5 miles west of campus, and was erected sometime before 1791. It was moved to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where it served various uses. To ensure that the cabin would be adequately stored and maintained, the school purchased it in 1953 and placed it near Nolde Gymnasium on campus.

Burgin Center for the Arts[edit]

Standing on the former site of Boone Hall, the Burgin Center for the Arts opened in the fall of 2006, providing dedicated space to house the school's entire theatre, music, dance, and visual arts curriculum. The 65,500-square-foot facility is named for alumnus and former headmaster Walter Burgin '53 and his wife, Barbara. Designed by Polshek Partnership, the Burgin Center hosts concerts, theatre productions, guest speakers, and all-school meetings.[19] Violinist Itzhak Perlman performed at the building's opening gala.[20]

The Carillon and Organ[edit]

Irvine Memorial Chapel

The Swoope Carillon in Barker Tower of the Irvine Memorial Chapel is one of 163 traditional carillons in the United States.[21] A gift of Mr. Henry B. Swoope, the original 43 bronze bells were cast in 1926 by the English firm of Gillett and Johnston of Croydon. The bells contain bits of historic metal collected worldwide by alumni and friends of the school, including copper coins, metal from Old Ironsides, pieces of artillery shells gathered from the fields of France in World War I, a shaving from the Liberty Bell, and bits from Admiral Nelson's flagship at Trafalgar, HMS Victory. The tower is named for Bryan Barker, the school's carillonneur for more than 50 years.[22]

The Chapel organ was a gift of Mr. and Mrs. George A. Wood. Built by the Skinner Organ Company of Boston in 1925, the organ has 55 stops, about 4,000 pipes, 27 couplers, and 33 adjustable combination pistons.[22]

Notable alumni[edit]

Medal of Honor recipients[edit]

Nobel Prize recipient[edit]

Olympic gold medalists[edit]

Academy Award winners[edit]

Rhodes scholars[edit]


Arts and literature[edit]


Government and politics[edit]



Performing arts[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Search for Private Schools – School Detail for Mercersburg Academy". National Center for Education Statistics. Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  2. ^ "MSA-CESS -> Member Resources -> Membership Directory".
  3. ^ a b "At a Glance". Mercersburg Academy. February 21, 2019. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d "Tuition and Financial Aid". Mercersburg Academy. February 21, 2019. Retrieved December 6, 2022.
  5. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  6. ^ "Mercersburg Academy – At a Glance". Archived from the original on April 9, 2014.
  7. ^ [1] Mercersburg Academy names first woman as head of school, accessed December 2, 2015
  8. ^ a b c d "Quentin McDowell Appointed Head of School". March 3, 2022.
  9. ^ "Boarding Schools with the Highest Endowment Per Student (2020-21)".
  10. ^ [2] Pa. private school gets $100 million donation, accessed October 10, 2013
  11. ^ "Mercersburg Academy – Pro Athletes". Archived from the original on July 20, 2014. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
  12. ^ One Hundred Years of Life, David Emory, p. 90
  13. ^ "Biography |". Archived from the original on July 28, 2014. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
  14. ^ One Hundred Years of Life, David Emory, p. 94
  15. ^ [One Hundred Years of Life, David Emory, p. 84]
  16. ^ "Mercersburg Academy – Irving and Marshall Societies". Archived from the original on April 9, 2014.
  17. ^ "Mercersburg Magazine - Summer 2013". Issuu.
  18. ^ "Presidents' Places: James Buchanan".
  19. ^ "Mercersburg Academy – Burgin Center for the Arts". Archived from the original on July 20, 2014. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
  20. ^ "Mercersburg Magazine - Spring 2007". Issuu.
  21. ^ "GCNA - About Carillons". Archived from the original on September 28, 2013. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
  22. ^ a b "Carillon". June 18, 2019.
  23. ^ Richter, Burton, UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. Accessed July 11, 2007. "Richter's early education was at Far Rockaway High School in Queens, New York, and the Mercersburg Academy in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania."
  24. ^ Seabrook, Charles Courtney, Accessed December 21, 2023. "Seabrook graduated from Bridgeton High School in 1927 and joined his older brother at Mercersburg Academy, a college preparatory school in Pennsylvania."
  25. ^ [3]. Accessed November 15, 2018. “Steven Zhang Presiding Over Inter Milan”
  26. ^ Stewart Hoffman Appleby biography, United States Congress. Accessed July 11, 2007.
  27. ^ Mr. Coolidge's Week, Time (magazine), June 30, 1924
  28. ^ "Dick Foran, N. J. Boy", Herald News, December 28, 1939. Accessed December 21, 2023, via "Dick was born John Nicholas Foran at Flemlngton, N. J. His father is State Senator Arthur Foran. He received his first schooling in Flemington, then attended Merrersberg Academy and Hun School to prepare for entrance into Princeton."
  29. ^ [4], Accessed October 1, 2015. “He spent his freshman year of high school… at Mercersburg Academy, a Pennsylvania boarding school…”
  30. ^ List of Boston Red Sox broadcasters#1940s

External links[edit]