Entrance to the Upper School (2019)
56 East 93rd Street (Lower School)
22 East 91st Street (Middle/Upper School)
|Type||Private, Day, College-prep|
|Motto||Latin: Non scholae sed vitae discimus|
(Not for school, but for life we learn)
|Founder||Clara B. Spence|
|Head of School||Ellanor "Bodie" Brizendine|
|Student to teacher ratio||7:1|
|Color(s)||Blue, Gold and White|
|Athletics conference||AAIS (most sports)|
|Affiliations||New York Interschool|
Spence has about 740 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.
For the 2017-18 academic year, tuition and fees total $49, 980 for all grades. 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.
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. 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.
Spence offers a liberal arts and science curriculum, including programs in the arts and foreign languages. 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.
The Varsity Softball Team won the AAIS Tournament 2015, 2017, and 2018 and were regular season AAIS Champions in 2018.
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.
Spence captured the AAIS championship in 2013 and 2014, and finished as league runner-up in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and 2018. In 2013, Spence finished the season 21-0, capturing numerous titles: AAIS regular season champion, AAIS tournament champion and NYSAISAA champion. Spence also won the 2009 and 2010 NYSAISAA state championships, advanced to the state quarterfinal in 2011 and 2015, and advanced to the state semi-finals in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017.
The Spence Indoor Track team captured back-to-back AAIS Champions in 2018 and 2019.
In 2019, the Sabers’ Varsity Track and Field Team won their fifth AAIS title in the last 6 years, scoring a league record of 210 points. In 2018, Spence finished 1-2-3 in the 100m, making league history. The Sabers finished 3rd at the 2019 NYSAISAA State Championship, earning gold in the 4x100m Relay and the 4x400m Relay, sending both teams and a freshman individual athlete in the shot put to represent Spence at the NY State Federation Track and Field Championship, where the 4x100m relay team set a new school record with a time of 50.23sec and finished 4th in Division II. The team also finished 4th at the 2018 NYSAISAA State Championships. In 2016, the team claimed second in the AAIS, 5th in the NYSAISAA, and put two individual medalists on the podium at the NY State Federation Track Championship. 2018 marked the seventh consecutive year the team has had multiple student-athletes qualify for the NY State Federation Track and Field Championship. At the 2015 NYSAISAA Federation State Championship, the 4x400m relay team set a school record, breaking the magical four-minute mark.
In 2018-19, the Spence squash team finished 20-1, en route to winning 4 titles; AAIS Regular Season and Tournament Championship, the NYSAIS Coaches' Association Championship and the HEAD US Squash Division II High School Girls National Team Championship, capturing the first National Championship in school history.
This section does not cite any sources. (September 2011) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
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. On September 16, 2011, the Spence School announced the purchase of a fourth building, the Spence School athletic and educational facility—Spence 412—at 412 East 90th Street. It is currently under construction and slated for opening in fall 2020. The facility features a regulation-size gymnasium for volleyball and basketball; nine squash courts, including an exhibition court; a multipurpose room for the performing arts; as well an ecology center.
- Serena Altschul, broadcast journalist
- Madeleine Astor, Titanic survivor
- Frances Baldwin, artist
- Edith Bouvier Beale, socialite
- Georgina Bloomberg, equestrienne
- Doris Caesar, sculptor
- Eleanor A. Campbell, M.D., physician and founder, Judson Health Center
- Huguette M. Clark, artist and philanthropist
- Melissa Doi, businesswoman
- Elisabeth C. Draper, interior decorator
- Dawn French, British comedian, star of French and Saunders and The Vicar of Dibley
- Helen Clay Frick, philanthropist and art collector
- Caroline Gorman, singer
- Francine du Plessix Gray, author and literary critic
- Janet Hobhouse, novelist and biographer
- Nancy Hopkins, molecular biologist
- Jade Jagger, jewelry designer
- Bonnie Jenkins, public service 
- Jill Kargman, actress, author, writer
- Jane Kim, politician
- Margaret Carnegie Miller, philanthropist
- Alley Mills, actress
- Elizabeth Montgomery, actress
- Gwyneth Paltrow, actress
- Mary Ellis Peltz, music critic, poet, and first chief editor of Opera News
- Marjorie Post, philanthropist
- Sally Pressman, actress
- Louise Goff Reece, politician
- Evette Rios, lifestyle expert
- Emmanuelle Grey "Emmy" Rossum, actress
- Natalie Mai Vitetti, socialite
- Kerry Washington, actress
- Electra Havemeyer Webb, arts patron
- Caroline Beaumont Zachry, psychologist
- Amy Edmonson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School
- Jean Cottam Allen, Acting Division Director National Science Foundation
- Jessica Dueñas, 2019 Kentucky Teacher of the Year
- Maiken Baird, Academy Award Winning Film Producer
- Zoe Rogovin, Vice President of development for BRAVO
- Alicia Munnell, Peter F. Drucker Professor of Management Sciences at Boston College
- Judy Kim, First Korean-American Elected to NY Bench
- National Coalition of Girls' Schools
- New York State Association of Independent Schools
- New York Interschool
Spence in film and television
This section does not cite any sources. (October 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
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-): the main character Veronica Lodge recounts her past experiences at Spence throughout the show, though the school itself has not appeared.
- Spence School | At a Glance
- Survivor: The Manhattan Kindergarten by Kay S. Hymowitz, City Journal Spring 2001
- The Spence School | FAQ
- Laneri, Raquel (April 10, 2010). "A profile of one of America's 20 best prep schools". Forbes.
- The Spence School | History
- 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.
- CollegePrepUSA (from Worth magazine) Archived 2008-12-27 at the Wayback Machine
- "Frances Baldwin". SFGate. Hearst Communications. Retrieved 25 December 2015.
- 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
- "Dawn French bio". Retrieved June 2, 2007.
- Ciaran Brown (April 2008). "Ciaran Brown Meets the Stars(Dawn French)". Retrieved October 26, 2010.
- Bonnie Jenkins U.S. State Department bio (though no mention of Spence)
- "Elizabeth Montgomery Bio". Biography Channel(UK). Archived from the original on February 26, 2011. Retrieved October 26, 2010.