St. John's School: Then and Now
W. St. John Garwood and Alan Lake Chidsey's dreams of creating a "school of exacting standards" in Houston became a reality at the end of World War II. In January 1946, Alan Lake Chidsey, former Headmaster of the Arizona Desert School and the post-war Assistant Dean of Students at University of Chicago, was asked to fly to Texas to speak at a gathering of interested members of the Houston community.
Frontrunners of the idea, 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 were among those present at the meeting. Chidsey excitedly convinced those present that the cause was worthy and its rewards could be great. 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 St. John the Divine's nursery school to create a school of academic excellence, dedication to the cultivation of leadership, commitment to the teaching of moral and spiritual values, and availability of this high caliber education to people of all different backgrounds, regardless of economic circumstance. And so the School was born. St. John's first 344 students filed into St. John the Divine's Chapel on Opening Day, September 27, 1946.
Today, SJS boasts over 1,400 gifted students. Although the School's size has grown, the number of students per classroom remains small, in alignment with the founders' original ideals of an individualized development of the "whole person." And because we are a small community with great opportunities, every student can make a difference; each has the potential to contribute in significant ways to the life of the School.
Bringing the School into the present while still revering its rich traditions is of paramount importance to St. John's as an organization. The School is constantly growing academically, technologically and, most noticeably, physically. Six acres in 1946 have dramatically grown to 42 in 2012. Making available the quality of a St. John's education to people of all different backgrounds continues to be a priority endeavor of the Board of Trustees. In the words of former Chairman of the Board, Jim Elkins III ’70, the School seeks to "build an inclusive community ethnically, culturally, and socioeconomically."
The founding tradition of excellence thrives in the classrooms of St. John's School today, cultivating competent, intelligent, and open-minded leaders prepared for a lifetime of personal fulfillment and contribution to society. St. John's students and graduates are making history, and we are proud to remember the firm foundation that has allowed for their immeasurable successes and will be forever grateful to the founders for creating these storied cloisters.