St. John's School (Texas)
|St. John's School|
|Motto||Faith and Virtue|
|Head of School||Mark Desjardins|
|Average class size||135 (Upper School)
120 (Middle school)
60 (Lower school)42 (Kindergarten)
|Student to teacher ratio||7:1 (Upper School)|
St. John's School (also known as St. John's or SJS) is a coeducational, independent K–12 day school in Houston, Texas, United States. The School was founded in 1946 and is a member of the Houston Area Independent Schools, the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS), and the Southwest Preparatory Conference (SPC). Though situated adjacent to St. John the Divine church, St. John's claims no religious affiliation.
As of June 2018, SJS's endowment is $78,113,000.
Toward the close of World War II, W. St. John Garwood and other prominent Houstonians sought to create in Houston a "school of exacting standards" in the development of individual, spiritual, ethical, intellectual, social, and physical growth of its students. In January 1946, these Houstonians invited Alan Lake Chidsey, former headmaster of both the Pawling School (today the Trinity-Pawling School) and the Arizona Desert School and the post-war Assistant Dean of Students at the University of Chicago, to travel to Texas to speak at a gathering of interested members of the Houston community. Mr. and Mrs. W. St. John Garwood, Sr., Mr. and Mrs. Merrick Phelps, Mr. R. E. Smith, Mr. J. O. Winston, Jr., and the Reverend Thomas Sumners of the Church of St. John the Divine Episcopal Church were among those present at the meeting. At Mr. Chidsey's persuasion, Mrs. William S. Farish immediately committed to her involvement with the School, and many others followed.
A proposal was drafted that entailed combining forces with the St. John the Divine nursery school to create the School. St. John's first 344 students filed into St. John the Divine's chapel on Opening Day, September 27, 1946. The entire campus, located on what used to be Michael Louis Westheimer's farm, was six acres (2.4 ha).
Today, St. John's covers 41 acres (17 ha) of land and educates approximately 1,416 total students supported by over 200 faculty and staff. The School's 41 acres includes 13 acres that were purchased in late December 2012 for approximately $90 million (the Taub Property). The School's student-teacher ratio is approximately 7:1. Despite its lack of religious affiliation, the School provides non-denominational chapel services at the church of St. John the Divine each Wednesday morning during the academic year. In recent years, the Chapel program has branched out to offer more multicultural services, hosting speakers from a diverse range of faiths and non-religious backgrounds, such as environmentalists, athletes, and faculty or student alumni.
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020, several St. John's alumni, several African-American and some non-African American, issued a letter to the administration to ask it to take measures against racism.
The campus itself comprises two campuses, divided by Westheimer Road, that are connected by two pedestrian tunnels underneath Westheimer. The Brown (South) Campus contains the Lower School (classes K-5) and the Georges Middle School (classes 6–8) as well as the Virginia Stuller Tatham (VST) Fine Arts Center and the Smith Athletic Center. The Cullen (North) Campus houses the Upper School (classes 9–12) and the focal point of the School, the Quadrangle. The Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools each maintain their own libraries. Upper and Middle School students share the Upper School cafeteria, and the Lower School has its own.
In addition, the school's primary athletic field, Skip Lee Field, and its track are located on the South Campus to the east of the Middle School and to the south of the Lower School. The School also owns two properties neighboring the South Campus that house athletic fields (Finnegan Field and Scotty Caven Field) for field hockey, soccer, and lacrosse.
Across Buffalo Speedway from the South Campus is the Taub Property, a 13-acre property acquired by St. John's in December 2012. The school's baseball field along with temporary offices are located on the property as of March 2015.
The William Stamps Farish Quadrangle, the first building constructed, has an exterior of Austin limestone and was designed by Hiram A. Salisbury. It was built beginning in late March 1946, with an interruption from June 13 to August 30 of that year due to a strike, with the end in March 1948. The two wings were West Farish and East Farish, the former the school's first wing and named after killed in action World War II soldier William Stamps Farish Jr., and the second named after his father, William Stamps Farish Sr. The money used to build the wings originated from the wife of Farish Sr., also the mother of Farish Jr. Due to a lack of housing in the area, initially a portion of West Farish was used as faculty apartments, but they were discontinued in 1952 and converted into offices and classrooms as additional non-school housing opened. The school announced in June 2004 that it would redevelop three sides of the Quadrangle. Leigh Cutler wrote in The Houston Review that "Although the exterior design of the new building is sympathetic to old construction, much of the original materials and limestone patterns cannot be repeated."
In late 2014 the school released its master plan for the campus that included the recently acquired Taub Property. The plan was developed with the assistance of Architectural Resources Cambridge and the input of faculty, students, and alumni.
Data released by the School reflects that, from 2010 to 2014, approximately 48% of St. John's seniors went on to matriculate at colleges and universities ranked by U.S. News and World Report as being in the Top 25 of National Universities or the Top 10 of Liberal Arts Colleges.
For years 2012 to 2015, more than half of each SJS senior class were recognized as National Merit Semifinalists or Commended Scholars: for 2012, the percentage was 68%; for 2013, 64%; for 2014, 59%; and for 2015, 64%. Data for the 2013–2014 academic year shows that SJS led all Houston-area schools in both number (49) and percentage (35%) of National Merit Semifinalists in its senior class.
Students and faculty
Enrollment for the 2018–2019 school year is 368 for the Lower School, 361 for the Middle School, and 697 for the Upper School. Approximately 13% of students are on scholarship or financial aid. Thirty-three percent of students self-identify as being of color. There are approximately 5,862 living alumni.
The total number of faculty at SJS is 208, 131 of whom have master's or doctorate degrees.
In 2011, St. John's adopted a House System whereby each student is sorted into one of six "Houses." Each House, comprising students of all grades, is named after one of six influential figures and institutions in the School's history. While House assignment is completely random, siblings are always assigned to the same House. The Houses are: Chidsey, Winston, Hoodwink, Mulligan, Claremont, and Taub.
St. John's sponsors teams in cross-country, volleyball, field hockey, and football in the fall season; soccer, basketball, swimming, and wrestling in the winter; and golf, tennis, lacrosse, softball, baseball, and track and field in the spring.
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Students can participate in the arts either in classes for academic credit, performing ensembles, or extracurricular organizations.
The oldest extracurricular arts organization at St. John's is Johnnycake, founded by first headmaster Alan Lake Chidsey in 1949, that originally produced and performed works written by Mr. Chidsey. Open to all Upper School students, Johnnycake provides opportunities in all aspects of theatrical production from technical crew to set and costume design to performance.
The SJS Academic Bowl Team won the NAQT High School National Championship in 2002, placed third in 2003 and 2004, and advanced to the semi-finals of the PACE NSC in 2004. Most recently, St. John's placed 2nd in the 2014 HSNCT National Championships
Dozens of other student organizations, from the Yearbook to Model United Nations to "Pots and Pans" (a moral/spirit group), are active throughout the academic year. Other examples of clubs include sports based clubs (baseball, hockey, soccer, curling), science (Science and Math Club, Faraday), cinematography (MavTV), academic (Speech and Debate Team, Quiz Bowl/Academic Challenge, Mathematical Problem Solving Club), government (Junior Statesmen, Model UN, Young Political Organization), international interests (Spanish Club, Italian Club, International Club), and general interests (Bread Club, Auto club, Anime Club et al.).
Community service is introduced in Lower School. Weekly canned food drives are held, and classes visit local food banks to see how their contributions are used. The annual drive to provide holiday presents to underprivileged families is a highlight of the year, culminating in a field trip to personally deliver the presents to the families.
In Middle School, additional community service projects are introduced. Students may be more involved in planning and helping with the organization of these projects. Upper School community service is mostly student-driven. Any student may submit a proposal to design and lead their own project and recruit other participants.
Nickname and mascot
The St. John's nickname and mascot have had a controversial history. The original nickname, "Crusaders," lasted only three years due to its religious connotations. "Rebels" was selected as the replacement nickname in 1949, with Confederate symbol Johnny Reb as the mascot.
In 1990, the Upper School students voted to discontinue the mascot and nickname. A year later, all symbols of the Confederacy were disassociated from the School, although the nickname "Rebels" was retained with the hopes it could be connected with the American Revolution or more generally as an invocation of nonconformity and independent thinking.
In the spring of 2004, by a unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees, St. John's School officially changed its nickname to Mavericks in order to further distance itself from any Confederate implications while still retaining the association with independence and individualism. The change was supported by a majority of faculty, though some students and alumni opposed the change. Today, the Maverick nickname is widely used and accepted,.
In 2008, St. John's began using a horse mascot known as Maverick in its pep rallies. In a school-wide pep rally, taking place the day before the annual Kinkaid football game, the Maverick chases a Falcon from the field.
In the media and popular culture
National media reports about selective private schools in the United States have mentioned St. John's. For example, SJS was featured in a Forbes.com story titled "America's Elite Prep Schools." In November 2007, the Wall Street Journal listed St. John's in a chart accompanying an article titled "How to Get into Harvard." The chart reported that 9% of SJS graduates in 2007 went to one of eight elite colleges (specifically identified as Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Williams, Pomona, Swarthmore, the University of Chicago, and Johns Hopkins). St. John's and fellow SPC member St. Mark's School of Texas were the only Texas schools on the list.
Nationwide rankings of private high schools regularly include St. John's, with recent rankings as follows:
- No. 18 - Best Private K–12 Schools in America, Niche.com (2019–20)
- No. 23 - Top 25 Private High Schools in the Country, Town & Country (2016)
- No. 7 - The 50 Smartest High Schools in the U.S., Business Insider (2016)
St. John's received media attention during the U.S. presidential campaign of 2000 as part of the press's reporting on the academic background of then-candidate George W. Bush when it was reported—and confirmed by Bush after he had consulted with his parents, former President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush—that he had applied to SJS as a child and had been rejected.
In 1998, Wes Anderson '87 directed the loosely autobiographical Rushmore, based on a screenplay co-written with Owen Wilson. In directing the film, Anderson based the fictitious Rushmore Academy on St. John's. As reported in The Atlantic, "When Wes Anderson scouted locations for the all-boys prep school..., he looked as far as the U.K. in search of the perfect location. It wasn't until he saw some photos of St. John's, his own high school, that he realized the places he had been imagining were the ones he knew from going to school there." Like protagonist Max Fischer, Anderson as a child had staged numerous epic action plays, with titles like The Five Maseratis and The Battle of the Alamo. Seen in Rushmore are the North Campus's Quadrangle and circle driveway, the Upper School library, and chapel service at the Church of St. John the Divine. Anderson also used a number of students and alumni as extras in the film.
Much of the 2015 horror comedy Clinger, directed by Michael Steves, was filmed on the middle school campus at St. John's. Clinger premiered at the 2015 Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. It was announced during July that Clinger would premiere in theaters in October.
This alumni list may not follow Wikipedia's verifiability policy. (April 2019)
- Wes Anderson (1987), writer, film director
- William Curtis Bryson (1963), Jurist, Senior United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
- Katherine Center (1990), New York Times bestselling author
- William Stamps Farish III (1957), former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom
- Kristin Fisher (2001), journalist, television news presenter for Fox News
- Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (1993), United States Representative (D-TX)
- Christy Haubegger (1986), founder of Latina magazine and film producer
- Zachary Heinzerling (2002), Academy Award-nominated documentary film director
- Elizabeth Holmes (2002), currently indicted founder of Theranos.
- Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (1964), anthropologist
- Molly Ivins (1962), journalist and pundit (who described herself as feeling like a "Clydesdale among thoroughbreds" in comparing herself to her fellow students at SJS)
- Ken Keeler (1979), mathematician and television writer, Late Show with David Letterman, The Simpsons, and Futurama
- Benjamin Moser (1994), Pulitzer Prize-winning author
- Laura Moser (1995), author and political activist
- Indy Neidell (1985), historian, host of The Great War
- Peter Roussel (1960), former deputy press secretary to U.S. President Ronald Reagan and media commentator
- Sidney Shlenker, businessman
- Ashlee Vance (1996), business journalist, author
- Carl W. Vogt (1954), 15th President of Williams College
- Justise Winslow (2014), professional basketball player for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies
- Alan Lake Chidsey, 1946–1966
- Elwood Kimball Salls, 1966–1976
- Thomas Read, 1976–1981
- James R. Maggart, 1981–1991
- E. Philip Cannon, 1991–1998 (1991–1992 as interim headmaster)
- John Allman, 1998–2009 (followed by interim headmaster Jim Hendrix, 2009–2010)
- Mark Desjardins, 2010–present
- Cutler, Leigh. "William Stamps Farish Quadrangle at St. John's School" (PDF). The Houston Review. 3 (2): 35–37. - Profile
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- Buckley, Kyra (June 15, 2020). "Houston Private School Alumni Demand Anti-Racist Policies And Curriculum". Houston Public Media. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
- Cutler, p. 35.
- Cutler, p. 36.
- Cutler, p. 37.
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- "Long-Range Campus Plan". St. John's School. Archived from the original on November 14, 2014. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
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- "National Liberal Arts College | Rankings | Data | US News". Colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
- "St. John's School : Resume" (PDF). Sjs.org. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
- "National Merit Semi-Finalists in Houston - The Houston School Survey - School Research, Reviews, & Forum". The Houston School Survey. September 29, 2014. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
- "Team Pages | St. John's School". Sjs.org. Archived from the original on October 6, 2014. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
- " Archived July 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
- "NAQT | 2014 High School National Championship Tournament | Team Standings". www.naqt.com. Retrieved October 31, 2018.
- "St. John's School ~ Community Service". Archived from the original on April 15, 2013. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- "The Review : Official Newsletter of St. John's School" (PDF). Sjs.org. 2012. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
- "America's Elite Prep Schools". Forbes. June 4, 2009. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
- "WSJ.com". Online.wsj.com. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
- "2019–20 Best Private K–12 Schools in America". Niche. Retrieved March 5, 2018.
- "The Same Private High School Has Been Ranked the Best in America 3 Years in a Row". August 8, 2017. Retrieved March 5, 2018.
- "The 50 smartest private high schools in the US". Retrieved March 5, 2018.
- "George W. Bush's Journey: The Cheerleader: Earning A's in People Skills at Andover". Partners.nytimes.com. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
- "Tour Wes Anderson's High School, a.k.a. the Set of 'Rushmore'". The Atlantic. June 20, 2012. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
- "about katherine center « Katherine Center". Katherinecenter.com. May 27, 2011. Archived from the original on October 12, 2014. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
- "Previous Recipients | St. John's School". Sjs.org. Archived from the original on October 17, 2014. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
- "Meet Lizzie Fletcher".
- "St. John's legacies have left their mark on school's history - News - Houston Community Newspapers". Yourhoustonnews.com. November 21, 2010. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
- Ivins, Molly (February 10, 2010). Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? - Molly Ivins - Google Books. ISBN 9780307434418. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
- Brown, Steven (September 4, 2014). "Houstonian hosted 'The Great War' series on Youtube". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
- "Deaths: Sidney Shlenker, ex-Astros executive". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
- "Justise Winslow's Houston high school experience key in development".
- Jeff Ritter. "News | St. John's School". Sjs.org. Retrieved May 20, 2015.[permanent dead link]