Over 100 years ago in the spring of 1894, a group of Summit, NJ, businessmen and fathers met at an informal dinner to discuss the establishment of a school for girls. They were determined that their daughters would receive an education equal in quality to that which was available for their sons. Their determination would alter the course of education for generations of young women to come. Later that fall, on an estate in the heart of Summit, which was once the summer home of New York State Chancellor James Kent (1763-1847), Kent Place School for Girls opened its doors to a small group of day students.
The operation of the entire school was confined to one building, and the tenure of its first principal, Amelia S. Watts, lasted only two years. Nevertheless, the Kent Place vision of fine academic training in a supportive setting was born.
When the school opened for its third year, in the fall of 1896, the trustees, then known as shareholders of the Summit School Company, announced the appointment of Mrs. Sarah Woodman Paul as principal of the school, and her sister, Miss Anna Sophia Woodman, as assistant principal. Meanwhile, Kent Place began accepting boarding students, a tradition that was to continue until 1968. Six boarders were among the 18 Lower School and 36 Upper School students enrolled at Kent Place in 1896.
|Early 20th Century|
Enrollment increased steadily over the subsequent years, and the trustees initiated matching growth in the physical plant. The gymnasium, which was restructured to become part of what is now the Arts Center, was originally constructed in 1904. The School House, which was also known as the Main Building and is now the new Middle School, was built in 1913.
|Becoming a Non-Profit|
In spite of the school’s growth, finances continued to be a major source of concern, and in March of 1917 the trustees took the historic step of dissolving the Summit School Company and reorganizing Kent Place School as a non-profit corporation. The school prided itself, as it does today, on its warm environment, outstanding faculty, challenging curriculum and wide range of recreational and social activities. Financial support for these advantages came largely from tuition and gifts from trustees. Annual giving, now of enormous significance to the school’s operation, was not introduced until 1955.
|Preparing Young Women for College|
Kent Place quickly proved itself as a college preparatory school, and by its 30th anniversary, hundreds of Kent Place girls had gone on to 21 different colleges, chiefly Vassar, Smith, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe and Wells.
A source of great strength to the school in the early years was the continuity of leadership provided by Mrs. Paul and Miss Woodman, who remained in their roles for 28 years. They were succeeded in 1924 by Miss Harriet Larned Hunt, who also led the school through the Depression, which did not greatly affect enrollment or finances, and through World War II, when courses in first aid and motor mechanics were added to the curriculum.
Under Miss Hunt’s leadership, Kent Place grew in numbers, facilities, in reputation and the proportion of graduates who attended college rose from 50 to over 90 percent. This pattern continued under the guidance of Miss Florence Wolfe, who served as headmistress from 1952 to 1965.
|The First Headmaster|
In 1965, the Kent Place Board of Trustees named the school’s first headmaster, Macdonald Halsey, who guided the school through the turbulent 1960s and 1970s and the decision in 1968 to dispense with boarding.
|The 1980s and 1990s|
Following Mr. Halsey’s retirement in 1980, Archibald R. Montgomery III became headmaster from 1980 to 1986. Under his leadership, a successful 90th Anniversary Capital Campaign permitted the construction of the Field House and Arts Center.
In 1986, ill health forced Mr. Montgomery’s premature retirement. The assistant head, Dorothy H. Dillon, ably assumed the role of Head of School from 1986 to 1987, maintaining the high standards of Kent Place while courageously initiating a timely re-evaluation of faculty compensation.
In 1987, Arlene Joy Gibson became Head of School of Kent Place and reaffirmed the school’s firm commitment to faculty excellence, improved faculty compensation and increased student body diversity. Kent Place launched The Campaign for Endowment and raised over $5 million for scholarships and faculty support. Under Mrs. Gibson’s leadership, Kent Place School became a founding member of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, an organization dedicated to advancing the values and advantages of all-girls schools.
Kent Place experienced a growth in enrollment during the late 1980s and early 1990s, which led the school to develop a long-range plan that would reflect an ongoing dialogue on issues and opportunities the school might face in fulfilling its mission of educating girls and young women.
In 1996, Karan Ashford Merry, the school’s first African-American Head of School, was installed. As former chair of the board of directors of the National Association of Independent Schools, Ms. Merry brought a rich history of educational leadership to the institution. Under her leadership the school experienced continued growth in enrollment and increased diversity within the student body, faculty and staff.
|A New Era|
On May 5, 2000, Kent Place installed Susan Collins Bosland as the 10th Head of School. Formerly the Director of the Primary School and Director of the Middle School, Mrs. Bosland has achieved milestones for Kent Place School that have been far reaching and long lasting, from supervising the expansion of the Middle School division to over 130 students, to creating advisor groups and grade-level teams.
Under her leadership, the Primary School has seen full enrollment with waiting lists for many grades. Mrs. Bosland can also be credited with advancing research and work on girls’ leadership styles, which has had an impact on curriculum development and provided support for the creation of the Girls’ Leadership Institute, a summer program for middle school-aged girls. As Head of School, her vision to provide a challenging academic experience for Kent Place students, one that combines long-held traditions and values innovation, continues the tradition of excellence begun over 100 years ago, when a group of fathers seeking a superior education for their daughters founded Kent Place.
With a community of over 800 students, faculty and staff, Kent Place continues to thrive today. Enrollment is the highest in the school’s history with approximately 650 students in Nursery through Grade 12. A school with a national reputation, Kent Place attracts students from over 72 different communities throughout northern and central New Jersey.
The campus reflects the growth in enrollment and a changing educational environment. Since the 1980s, the Field House and the Primary School building were built and the dining hall was renovated and enlarged. Kent Place has remained on the cutting edge of technology and is committed to providing a 21st century learning environment and a place where students learn to use technological tools though practical and real-life applications in all aspects of student life.
In 1998, Kent Place launched its website, www.kentplace.org. In 2000, the school received grant support that provided all students entering ninth grade with their own laptop computer for use in school and at home, and over the years, increased laptop cart access in the middle and primary grades. Observing the needs for growth and expansion, the 1:1 Laptop Program was extended to all Middle School students in 2010.
Arts & Athletics
In addition to academic excellence and a reputation for sending its students to the finest colleges and universities, Kent Place School champions women in the arts, providing myriad choices for self-expression, performance and creativity. The Kent Place Gallery, housed in the Hyde and Watson Theatre, hosts student and professional art exhibits throughout the year. Athletics also continues to thrive as part of student life with interscholastic teams in a number of sports. Kent Place solidified its commitment to the athletic program by upgrading the two regulation-size fields to artificial turf for multi-sport use in 2006.
In April 2007, Kent Place broke ground for a 45,000-square-foot addition to the existing Main Building and publicly launched a $25 million capital campaign. The largest fundraising effort in the history of the school, The Campaign for Kent Place School “Inspiring Tomorrow’s Leaders” has set the stage for multiple capital projects as well as an increase of our endowment.
In May 2009, the new Upper School opened its doors, showcasing state-of-the-art classrooms, university-level science laboratories and an impressive music center. The Upper School has been commissioned to achieve a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, which includes modernized recycling capabilities, energy and water conservation, electricity produced by wind power and improved indoor air quality. In September 2010, the Middle School moved into the renovated Main Building. In addition to classrooms and laboratories, the Middle School houses the Ethics Institute, a STEM lab and a fully restored commons area.
Commitment to Lifelong Learning
Kent Place School demonstrates its commitment to providing learning experiences for students, faculty and staff, within and beyond the school, through its Ethics Institute, its Adult Learning Institute, and through its global service learning and cultural immersion opportunities. The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School was launched in 2008 with a mission to promote the process and practice of ethical decision-making in primary and secondary school communities. In 2009, the Adult Learning Institute opened to share our educators' expertise, through workshops and conferences, with adult learners within and beyond the Kent Place community.
The success of Kent Place, its students and alumnae, is a fitting tribute to the many people who have supported the Kent Place vision. Today that vision is further endorsed by numerous studies verifying what the founding group of Summit fathers and businessmen knew in 1894: that a fine school for girls is, without question, the best educational environment for young women.
With Wisdom She Lights the Way
Historic School Motto
Manners Maketh Man
Green and Gold
Chumley the Dragon