Spence School

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Spence School
56 East 93rd Street (Lower Sch)
22 East 91st Street (Mid/Upp Sch)

New York City (Manhattan), New York 10128
United States
Coordinates 40°47′03″N 73°57′25″W / 40.784146°N 73.956958°W / 40.784146; -73.956958Coordinates: 40°47′03″N 73°57′25″W / 40.784146°N 73.956958°W / 40.784146; -73.956958
Type Private, Day, College-prep
Motto Latin: Non scholae sed vitae discimus
(Not for school, but for life we learn)
Established 1892
Founder Clara B. Spence
Head of School Ellanor "Bodie" Brizendine
Faculty 210 (2014-15)
Grades K12
Gender Girls
Enrollment 736 (2014-15)
Student to teacher ratio 7:1
Campus Urban
Color(s) Blue, Gold and White
Athletics conference AAIS (most sports)
Nickname Sabers
Accreditation NYSAIS[1]
Tuition $43,000 (2014-15)
Affiliations New York Interschool

The Spence School is an American all-girls independent school in New York City, founded in 1892 by Clara B. Spence.[2]


Spence has about 688 students, with grades K-4 representing the Lower School, 5-8 representing the Middle School, and 9-12 representing the Upper School. Lower school average class sizes are 16-18 and middle and upper school average class sizes are 13-14. The student: teacher ratio is 7:1 and students of color in all grades make up approximately 33 percent of the student body.[3]

For the 2017-18 academic year, tuition and fees total $49, 980 for all grades. [4] Its sister schools are the all-girls Brearley School, the all-girls Chapin School and the all-boys Collegiate School, all in New York City. Forbes magazine ranked Spence ninth on its "America's Best Prep Schools" list in 2010.[5]


The Spence School was founded in 1892 by Clara B. Spence, who was its head for 31 years. The school's motto is "non scholae sed vitae discimus" (Latin for "Not for school, but for life we learn"). The first building was located on New York City's West 48th Street.[6]The school once had a boarding option, but all current girls are day students.

Clara B. Spence described her school as: "A place not of mechanical instruction, but a school of character where the common requisites for all have been human feeling, a sense of humor and the spirit of intellectual and moral adventure."

The school has been located on East 91st Street since 1929.[7]


Spence offers a liberal arts and science curriculum, including programs in the arts and foreign languages. Computers are integrated into the curriculum in the Kindergarten class and continue through the twelfth grade. In addition, English courses include Asian, African, African American,Caribbean, Latin American, and Middle Eastern Literature. In the Upper School most students, even though not required, take four years of math and science. Beginning in 2007-08, Mandarin Chinese was added to the teaching of French, Spanish and Latin. Foreign language requirements begin in the third grade with either French, Spanish, or Chinese and in the seventh grade both Latin and Mandarin Chinese become electives as the students continue their study of foreign language. A specialized computer/robotics course also becomes an elective in the seventh grade.

In a Worth magazine study, out of the 31,700 private and public high schools in the United States, Spence ranked the sixth most successful school in the country in placing its graduates in Harvard, Yale and Princeton.[8]

Co-curricular activities[edit]

The Varsity Softball Team won the AAIS Tournament 2015 and 2017. The Varsity Tennis team won the 2011 Athletic Association of Independent Schools of New York City (AAIS) Tournament Championship during the 2010-2011 school year, and went undefeated and won the 2012 AAIS League Championship during the 2011-2012 school year.

The chess team in April 2008 finished first in the National All-Girls Chess Championship in Dallas, Texas, while the Grade 6 chess team finished second in that tournament the following year.

The Varsity Volleyball team finished first in the New York State Championships in 2008-2009, 2009-2010 and 2013-2014 school year.

The Middle School Swim Team has won the AAIS Championships 9 out of the last 10 years.


The Spence School campus is currently located in three buildings in the Carnegie Hill Historic District on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The Upper School (9–12) and Middle School (5–8) are housed a half block from Central Park/5th Avenue at 22 East 91st Street, next to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. The Lower School (K–4) is housed in the renovated landmark building William Goadby Loew House on East 93rd Street between Park Avenue and Madison Avenue. On April 28, 2008, the Spence School announced the acquisition of a third building through the purchase of the Wanamaker Munn townhouse at 17 East 90th Street, directly behind the Upper and Middle School facility. The new townhouse is connected to the main 91st Street building, and construction will be completed during the 2011–2012 academic year, with much of the new facility already being used for various academic programs. On September 16, 2011, the Spence School announced the purchase of a fourth building, a very large space located at 412 East 90th Street, that will become a state of the art physical education facility (with multiple gyms, courts and fields) within the next several years.

Notable alumnae[edit]

Affiliated organizations[edit]

Spence in film and television[edit]

The main building of the Spence School (the Upper and Middle School) is on East 91st Street, one half block from 5th Avenue/Central Park, adjacent to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum (originally the Andrew Carnegie mansion), and across the street from the Consulate General of Russia. The location (5th Avenue and 91st Street) has been used as a backdrop in several movies and television shows including

  • The Anderson Tapes (1971, starring Sean Connery): This movie was directed by Sidney Lumet who later sent his eldest daughter (Amy Lumet) to Spence. She graduated from Spence in 1982.
  • Marathon Man (1974, starring Dustin Hoffman): the opening car chase ends in a ball of fire that was filmed directly in front of Spence.
  • Arthur (1981, starring Liza Minnelli and Dudley Moore): The Cooper-Hewitt Museum played the role of Arthur's family mansion, and there is a good view of Spence in the background.
  • Working Girl (1988, starring Melanie Griffith, Sigourney Weaver and Harrison Ford): Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford crash a wedding filmed in the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, but Spence is clearly visible.
  • A Perfect Murder (1998, starring Michael Douglas and (Spence alumna) Gwyneth Paltrow). Their residence is the building across the street, but Spence is visible in some shots. During filming Gwyneth visited Spence and a photo of her embracing her HS advisor was printed in the NY newspaper.
  • Uptown Girls (2003, starring Brittany Murphy and Dakota Fanning): the exterior serves as Dakota Fanning's character's school.
  • Gossip Girl (2008–2011): the exterior serves as a backdrop to many episodes of the television series, and, as the producers of the show have noted, many aspects of the Spence School have been highly influential in the creation of the show, including the green plaid jumpers and blue skirts, which are the official Spence uniform styles for the Lower and Middle schools, respectively.
  • Riverdale (2017-): while Spence itself hasn't been featured onscreen and may not be, Veronica Lodge is stated to have gone there while she lived in New York.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spence School | At a Glance
  2. ^ Survivor:The Manhattan Kindergarten by Kay S. Hymowitz, City Journal Spring 2001
  3. ^ The Spence School | FAQ
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Laneri, Raquel (April 10, 2010). "A profile of one of America's 20 best prep schools.". Forbes. 
  6. ^ The Spence School | History
  7. ^ Timeline, Spence School, retrieved October 5, 2010, At this location, the Carnegie family donated their tennis court to be used as a playground for Spence. When the school wanted to expand and build on the lot in the 1990s, they built a new playground on the roof of the new building to meet the stipulations of the gift. In 2008, the Lower School (Kindergarten through Grade 4) was moved to a beautifully restored landmark five-story building at 56 East 93rd Street. 
  8. ^ CollegePrepUSA (from Worth magazine)
  9. ^ "Frances Baldwin". SFGate. Hearst Communications. Retrieved 25 December 2015. 
  10. ^ Bill Dedman, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Loss of one of the World's Greatest Fortunes, London: Atlantic Books, 2013, pp. 105-108
  11. ^ "Dawn French bio". Retrieved June 2, 2007. 
  12. ^ Ciaran Brown (April 2008). "Ciaran Brown Meets the Stars(Dawn French)". Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  13. ^ https://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/126045.htm Bonnie Jenkins U.S. State Department bio], though no mention of Spence].
  14. ^ "Elizabeth Montgomery Bio". Biography Channel(UK). Retrieved October 26, 2010. 

External links[edit]