Over 175 Years of Excellence in Education
Dedicated to education for nearly two centuries, we are one of America's oldest private schools.
The Pennington School (then the Methodist Episcopal Male Seminary) first opened its doors in 1838 in the small town of Pennington, New Jersey. At its founding, the School was housed in one building and enrolled just three students under the tutelage of one teacher.
Developing strong habits of mind
The New Jersey Conference of the Methodist Church, which founded the school, chose this site for its rural setting, which it believed conducive to health and learning. Early on, the founders identified three guiding principles: "the education of the physical, the training of the mental, and the grounding of the soul in character." Their principles reflected the vision of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, who envisioned schools as places that cared for the whole individual; central to this philosophy was the belief that the real purpose of education is not just to fill students with information but to enable them to think. These principles continue to guide The Pennington School today.
A changing student body
In 1853, The Pennington Female Collegiate Institute is added as a “female department.”
Originally founded as a college
preparatory school for boys, Pennington officially became a coeducational
institution in the fall of 1854. The School was empowered by the New Jersey
legislature to confer the degrees of Mistress of English Literature and
Mistress of Liberal Arts upon young ladies who had finished their course of
study. In March of 1910, it was announced that, with the coming fall,
Pennington would again become a preparatory school for boys; it was not until
1972 that Pennington once again became a coeducational institution.
The legendary Dr. Green
Dr. Green — beloved headmaster for over 25 years.
One of the School's most influential
and beloved headmasters was Dr. Francis Harvey Green, who accepted the
headmastership in 1920 and served for over 25 years. His well-remembered and
oft-repeated advice to students to stimulate their intellectual curiosity was,
"Look it up!" He was a friend to American literati like Robert Frost
and Edwin Markham and hosted them in his campus home, Lowellden, which was restored in 2014 and renamed the Wesley Alumni House.
Dr. Green is
remembered as an inspiring teacher and a dedicated leader through the difficult
years of the Depression and Second World War, when tuition monies were scarce. He
found creative ways to continue Pennington's mission and welcomed students from
all walks of life, including veterans returning from the war who needed to
finish their educations.
International students arrive
By the late 1800s, international
students were attracted to the School, introduced by businessmen with contacts
in the United States and by Methodist missionaries in all parts of the world.
Dozens of South Americans, Asians, and Europeans had their first introduction
to America as students at The Pennington School and then went on to university
education before returning home. Eventually, the School created its English as
a Second Language program to formalize instruction for non-English speakers. Today,
Pennington is proud of its extraordinarily diverse and global community of
The Center for Learning
In 1975, in response to the
recognition that there were bright and capable young people who did not have
access to a traditional college preparatory program because they learned
differently, the School took another innovative step by opening its Center for
Learning, a college preparatory program for bright students with learning
differences. Long before schools in general began to identify and serve this
population, Pennington developed a small and selective program to prepare them
for college and achieved a 100% success rate for admission.
New facilities are built
Campus Center, today's social hub and showcase for the arts.
In January of 1980, the School
suffered a devastating blow when O'Hanlon Hall, built in 1901, burned to the
ground. At the heart of the campus, this columned building housed
administrative offices, classrooms, science labs, faculty residences, and the
Shaw Memorial Chapel. In response to this disaster, Stainton Hall, a classroom
and administration building named for Ocean City, NJ, businessman and generous supporter of the The Pennington School, Howard S. Stainton, was built in 1981;
a new dormitory, Buck Hall, dedicated to alumnus Franklin Buck, was opened in
1982. In the summer of 1992, construction was completed on Corson House, the
Headmaster's residence, and the Health Center was opened to patients in the
fall of 1993. Autumn 2004 saw the completion of a Campus Center that is the now
at the heart of our campus, with a large student center and expanded and
centralized facilities for the arts.
Today, we are proud of the new Kenneth Kai Tai Yen Humanities Building, which opened in January 2016. For more information about this project, please click here. Over the summer of 2016, classrooms were renovated in Stainton Hall, the Campus Center, and Meckler Library, The student lounge in the Campus Center was also updated. The Middle School has a new home in brand-new classrooms in Stainton Hall, and even boasts its own lounge for Middle School students.
A historical truth
What remains permanent about
Pennington is the personal, individualized attention we give our students, our warm
and close-knit community of learners, our acknowledgment that all our students deserve
the best education we can provide, and the success that our students achieve
here and carry on throughout their lives.
See our online flipbook (right) for a longer history of The
, and an illustrated timeline of events.
Click here to download and print your own copy of our School history (PDF).