Throughout the years, members of the Episcopal community have researched and shared accounts of the School’s founding and history. Many of these efforts have been comprehensive and collaborative, and they have even involved our students delving into Episcopal’s archives as part of their work in U.S. History courses and other social studies electives.
A particular focus was placed on this research in the years leading up to our commemoration of 50 years of integration, with the establishment of an Office of Community and Equity in 2017, and with the work of the Board Task Force on Racism, Understanding, and Belonging commencing in 2020.
Most recently, this ongoing research has borne increased clarity about the role enslaved people played in our School’s pre-Civil War history. Earlier this year, Head of School Charley Stillwell and Chair of the Board of Trustees Lee Ainslie ’82 P’14 ’17 established the School History Working Group to explore what we have learned and to advise the Board on a thoughtful path forward. Specifically, the Group is charged with identifying key takeaways from the research conducted thus far to inform the Board as it considers how to acknowledge that history, how to continue the research, and how to discuss implications of our past in relation to the School today and in the future.
The School History Working Group will meet throughout the 2021-22 school year and will engage members of the EHS community, experts in American history, and leaders from institutions that have pursued similar work. In the coming months, the extended Episcopal community will have an opportunity to provide input. A report will be presented to the Board in the Spring of 2022. Given the complexity of the research, and the School’s commitment to a thorough and comprehensive process, it is anticipated that some of the work may extend into the following year.
There is much to be proud of in our School’s storied history, and the Board believes it is important to have a full and complete understanding of Episcopal’s past so that we may truly honor the powerful legacy we have inherited with integrity, respect, and honesty.
We thank former Trustee Billy Peebles ’73 for agreeing to serve as Chair of the Working Group. In addition to his devotion to EHS, Billy brings the perspective of a highly-regarded school leader, having served as a head of school for over 30 years. Billy led Powhatan School from 1985 to 1992, Asheville School from 1992 to 2002, and Lovett School from 2003 to 2018. In retirement, he served as interim head of school at both Palm Beach Day School and Powhatan School. Billy’s career in education began at Virginia Episcopal School, where he worked for Sandy Ainslie ‘56 as a history teacher, dorm parent, coach, and admissions officer.
Joining Billy are the following members of the Episcopal community, who comprise the School History Working Group: Jonathan Beane ’88, P’24 ’24, Trustee and Chair of the Racism, Understanding and Belonging Task Force; Lenora Gant P’96, Trustee 1996 - 2002; Bailey Patrick ’79 P’11 ’12 ’14, Trustee 2004 -10, Board Chair 2011-17; Louis Smith P’19 ’22 ’23 , Director of the Office of Community and Equity; and Bobby Watts P’98 ’00, faculty member 1992 - 2014. We appreciate the thoughtful work this group is undertaking and the ongoing dedication each continues to show for Episcopal.
We look forward to reporting on the Group’s progress throughout the year.Update links:February 24, 2022