If history is supposed to provide some sort of context for institutions, Saint Ann’s School may never have an official history. The school’s reality lives in the minds of its students, its faculty, its parents, and its administrators as something continuously new and changing, something that deliberately challenges the context of tradition.
Defining the School has, understandably, been difficult all along. Saint Ann’s School was founded by the Vestry of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church. Their idea was to attract parishioners. The Rector of the Church, Canon Melville Harcourt, envisioned a non-sectarian school for the intellectually gifted (with, to be sure, religious instruction and uniforms). As for the sixty-odd children who came to the Clinton Street undercroft in September 1965, they thought of Saint Ann’s as a kind of amusement park (these words are from a graduation speech by one of them) — and, indeed, some of that early creative chaos has survived many years of institutional continuity.
It was the founding headmaster, Stanley Bosworth, who gave Saint Ann’s, from its first year, its four most remarkable commitments: psychometrics, gradelessness, curricular rigor and richness, and the familiar community style. There were to be neither grades in the sense of marks, nor grades in the sense of age-group classes.
It was also Stanley Bosworth who insisted that the curriculum range over all the major symbolic languages of the culture, instead of just words and numbers, and be entirely rigorous in each of them. Actors, painters, and musicians were hired who rapidly gained Saint Ann’s its reputation as an “art school” and a “theater school.” By hiring and example, the extraordinary social atmosphere in which so many seemingly antagonistic sets of values coexist was established.
Even in the 129 Pierrepont Street building, purchased in 1966, the atmosphere of the undercroft remained: a one-room schoolhouse expanding over thirteen floors, a one-man show with a highly calibrated staff of over one hundred, and an amusement park in which the amusements were Aristophanes, Darwin, and Baudelaire. When five of the twenty-one graduates of the Class of 1972 went to Yale, Harvard, and Princeton, it was clear that Saint Ann’s was more than an amusement park, but it has never been less.
In an administrative sense, the School did outgrow its parent. By mutual agreement of the Church Vestry and the School’s own Board of Trustees, a petition was sent to the Regents of the State of New York for a charter for “Saint Ann’s School,” and in September 1981 an absolute charter was granted. On May 1, 1982, Saint Ann’s School formally disaffiliated from the Church. Although the corporate structure changed, the administration, teaching policy, and the like remained unchanged.
The final transaction in the separation of the School from the Church took place on March 4, 1985. At this time the Church transferred the title to 129 Pierrepont Street to the School, and the School purchased The Rubin Building at 124 Pierrepont Street from the Church. Thus Saint Ann’s School achieved full independence from its parochial beginnings.
Saint Ann’s has continued to enlarge its reach. A preschool, located in the Alfred T. White Community Center at 26 Willow Place, was opened in 1982. Two facilities were leased in 1989 (one at 124 Henry Street for the youngest lower school children and another at One Pierrepont Plaza for the Computer Center) and two in 1994 (the Pierrepont Plaza Classrooms for middle and high school students and additional classrooms for lower school children at 122 Pierrepont Street).
In March, 2001, a seven-story building at 153 Pierrepont Street was purchased by the School. The Farber Building which opened at the start of the 2003-2004 academic year, provided a new home for the first through third grades, and released much needed space for the middle and high school in the main building. In the fall of 2009, 122 Pierrepont Street was purchased from the Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity. The building had been leased from the Church for a year prior to purchase and provides five additional classrooms.
Stanley Bosworth’s final year as headmaster was the 2003-2004 academic year. In the spring of 2007, the main building at 12 Pierrepont Street was dedicated to Stanley and named The Bosworth Building.
Stanley was succeeded as Head of School by Dr. Larry Weiss who brought to the school a commitment to the special qualities that characterize Saint Ann's, and who nurtured and developed the educational environment of the school.
Dr. Vincent Tompkins assumed the position as Saint Ann's third Head of School at the beginning of the 2010-2011 academic year. In the words of Peter Darrow, President of the Board of Trustees, "Vince has demonstrated throughout his career as a teacher and administrator how well he understands that the rich and complex interplay between outstanding faculty and students is the backbone of any great educational institution. He is intrigued by and will seek to foster the passion of our faculty and the curiosity of our students, the combination of which is the magic of Saint Ann's."
About the Bosworth Building