About Us

Since 1839: A Brief History of EHS

Spanning Three Centuries

In 1839, Episcopal opened its 80-acre campus just west of the colonial port of Alexandria, Va., to 35 eager young men. Since then, the School has not only survived but flourished in the face of more than 180 years of historic obstacles: the Civil War, two world wars, the Great Depression, and sweeping social movements, to name only a few. Throughout our history we have steadfastly maintained clarity of purpose, preparing young people to become discerning individuals with the intellectual and moral courage to lead principled lives of leadership and service to others.
Just one year after its opening, Episcopal's student body tripled in size to accommodate more than 100 boys, and continued to grow until the Civil War. Immediately following the Federal occupation of Alexandria in 1861, the School was closed. Some 500 students served as soldiers in the war. For the next five years, the EHS buildings were part of a large hospital for Federal troops.

The School reopened in 1866. Under the direction of Launcelot Minor Blackford (Principal, 1870-1913), the School initiated a modern academic curriculum and pioneered interscholastic team sports in the South, including football, baseball, and track. Recognizing the need to improve its facilities, the School also undertook an aggressive building program that formed the foundation for the present-day campus.

During the same time, Episcopal instituted its Honor Code, one of the oldest among secondary schools. A committee of students and faculty members promotes understanding of the code and handles violations. The Honor Code has served as a foundation of the EHS community since its inception.    

In 1968 the School’s first two African-American students enrolled, thanks to the generosity of the Stouffer Foundation which assumed an active role in the recruitment and placement of African-American students in prep schools across the South. The enrollment of Regi Burns ’72 and Sam Paschall ’72 fulfilled this 1965 resolution by the Board: “Any and all applicants for admission shall be considered on an equal basis after giving due regard to their scholastic preparedness and their ability and desire to meet the standards of the school.” Since then, Episcopal has continually become more diverse and is consistently ahead of the national boarding school average for student diversity.

In 1991 Episcopal began the transition to coeducation by enrolling its first 48 girls, with the first coeducational class graduating in 1993. Determined to be more than a boys' school that admits girls, the School fully embraced coeducation, presenting its female students with equal opportunities for excellence and leadership in the classroom, on the athletic field, and in all facets of School life. This commitment yielded results with Lane Eastland '94 being selected to serve as the School's first female Head Monitor in 1993 and the appointment of Gretchen Byrd '95 to serve as the first female chair of the Honor Committee one year later. Today, the School enrolls roughly 440 students each year, 50 percent of whom are girls.

Episcopal has many accomplished alumni among its ranks, including Rhodes Scholars, Pulitzer Prize winners, Wall Street financiers, college presidents, actors, musicians, clergymen, and statesmen, including congressmen, governors, and ambassadors.

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