Episcopal High School was founded in 1839 as the first high school in Virginia. The Rev. William N. Pendleton and three assistant heads initially taught 35 boys at the boarding facility which occupied 80 acres of land. It was originally known as The Howard School, from its location at the site of an earlier school. It became known affectionately as "The High School". The central administration building, Hoxton House, dates to around 1805, built by Martha Washington's eldest granddaughter, Elizabeth Parke Custis Law.
In 1840, Episcopal's student body tripled in size to accommodate more than 100 boys. It continued to grow until the Civil War, when it closed immediately after Federal forces occupied Alexandria in 1861. Some 500 students served as soldiers in the war, many like Rev. Pendleton (who became a Brigadier General) for the Confederacy. For the next five years, school buildings served as part of a large hospital for Federal troops. Poet Walt Whitman served as a nurse in the hospital.
The school reopened in 1866. Under the direction of Launcelot Minor Blackford (Principal, 1870-1913), the school initiated a modern academic curriculum as well as pioneered interscholastic team sports in the South, including football, baseball, and track. EHS competes against Woodberry Forest in the longest-running consecutive high-school football rivalry in the South and one of the oldest in the United States.
Beginning in 1900, every fall the Maroon and the Woodberry Forest Tigers have competed on the football field. The location of the game alternates each year; it is either in Orange or Alexandria. 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 this era, Episcopal also 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 1991, Episcopal began a transition to coeducation by enrolling its first 48 girls, a group commonly referred to as “The First 48.” . The first coeducational class graduated in 1993. Today, the School has an enrollment of 425 students, 45 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.
The School’s college preparatory curriculum requires that students take courses in English, foreign languages, mathematics, science, social studies, the arts, computer studies, and theology. To graduate, students must earn a minimum total of twenty-three credits in four years, including credits received for afternoon program activities.
For those students seeking additional academic challenges, EHS offers more than forty honors or Advanced Placement courses. AP courses are offered to students who have met specific departmental criteria for excellence, including test scores and grades in prior courses. Honors and AP classes are available in required courses such as English, math, social studies, science, and foreign languages, as well as in many electives. Last year, approximately eighty-five percent of students taking AP exams achieved a score of three or better.
Episcopal fields 43 boys’ and girls’ interscholastic teams in 15 different sports: football, field hockey, soccer, tennis, cross county, volleyball, basketball, squash, track and field, wrestling, baseball, crew, golf, lacrosse, and softball. Non-interscholastic sports, such as kayaking, rock climbing, dance, cross training, and strength training, are also available.
The boys’ teams compete in the Interstate Athletic Conference (IAC). The school has won 32 IAC Championships since 1979 and seven Virginia Independent School State Championships since 1996. Episcopal’s girls’ teams compete in the Independent School League (ISL). They have won 21 ISL Championships since 1993.
In the fall of 2008 the boys' varsity soccer team completed a perfect IAC season with a 23-0-0 record. It went on to become the number one team in the state of Virginia by defeating NSCAA-nationally-ranked #3 Norfolk Academy 4-0 in the VISAA Championship final. The team finished the season ranked as the #13 team in the country. In the 2009 fall season the boys' varsity soccer team finished the year with a double overtime win over Collegiate School(Richmond, VA) which brought two consecutive state championship trophies back to Alexandria. Episcopal was also the 2009 IAC champion and was ranked as the number 3 team in the country.
There are varsity, junior varsity, and, for some sports, junior-level teams. Students are expected to complete three seasons of sports as freshmen, at least two as sophomores and juniors, and at least one as seniors. However, these requirements may be met by participation in non-interscholastic sports or by serving as managers for the scholastic sports teams.
Episcopal offers arts courses in instrumental music, vocal music, acting, dance, ceramics, photography, drawing, painting, music theory, and music recording. All students entering as freshmen are required complete one credit in the arts, and older students must complete one-half credit in order to graduate.
Arts courses take place in the Ainslie Arts Center, named for former headmaster Lee S. Ainslie ’56. The building opened in 2003 and includes a black box theater and a recording studio.
The school regularly offers student and professional art shows, concerts and workshops. The National Chamber Players perform at the school several times each year, and student musicians often perform with the Youth Symphony Orchestra.
Students are required to attend a 15–20-minute chapel service three times a week. There is a voluntary church service each Sunday, and once a month there is a mandatory vespers service on Sunday evenings. The Friday chapel service is usually student-led. Students of all religions are accepted to the school and allowed to lead Friday Services should they wish to do so. The school is informally affiliated with the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, yet all are welcome. Often there will be a guest speaker in the chapel services. Among these speakers are former student Tim Hightower and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
There are several student run clubs and organizations at EHS. Among the most active are The Young Republicans and Young Democrats, The Environmental Club, Spectrum (a club dedicated to student diversity), and The Students' Association of Performing Artists (known as S.A.P.A. throughout campus). Spectrum is one of the most influential clubs on campus, sponsoring several activities such as "In The World This Week" during Community Meeting, cultural meals, Halloween Dance, Valentine's Day carnation fundraiser, dress-down days, school-wide movie and discussion nights, Breast Cancer Awareness, Africa Outreach, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Assembly. Members of the club also participate in the Alexandria Diversity Forum. S.A.P.A. is another very active club, hosting a variety of weekend activities. Past events include musical open mic nights (known as coffee houses), charity concerts, air guitar competitions, a Faculty-Student poker tournament, and video game tournaments. However, with the membership of a wide majority of The High School, The Young Republicans continues to stand as the most popular club on campus.
The comprehensive tuition fee for the 2011-12 school year is $45,300, in addition to the technology fee ($250), cost of books (about $700), and spending money. Student activities are included in the tuition, although there are some exceptions.
Each student is also required to purchase a laptop from a designated vendor before entering the school as part of the school’s laptop program. The computers are frequently used in the classroom.
The school offers financial aid in the form of grants, based on financial need and the individual student’s merit. About 30 percent of the student body received aid for 2010-1, with a total of over $4.3 million awarded.Stephen Ailes, Secretary of the Army (1964–1965)
Louis Bacon, hedge fund manager, Member of the Forbes 400
Dominique Badji, Forward, Colorado Rapids
Newton D. Baker, Secretary of War (1916–1921), Founder of Baker Hostetler
Cass Ballenger,Republican congressman from North Carolina
T. Berry Brazelton, pediatrician and creator of the Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale
Gaston Caperton '59, former governor of West Virginia and president of the College Board
Danny Coale, NFL Wide Receiver, Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts
Virginius Dabney, editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch (1936–1969) and winner of the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing
Paul DePodesta, former GM, Los Angeles Dodgers
Todd Gray, Chef and Owner of DC's Equinox Restaurant
Tim Hightower, NFL Runningback, Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins
James Addison Ingle, first Bishop of the Missionary District of Hankow, China
Lester Kinsolving, Political Talk Show Host on WCBM and Member of White House Press Corps
John McCain '54, Republican senator from Arizona and the 2008 Republican Party candidate for President of the United States
R. Walton Moore, United States House of Representatives (D-VA), (1919–1931)
Sean Nelson, Vocals for the alternative rock group Harvey Danger
Forrest Pritchard, New York Times bestselling author and sustainable farmer
Arinze Onuaku, NBA forward, Orlando Magic
Julian Robertson, financier
Quentin Roosevelt, youngest son of Theodore Roosevelt
Bryson Spinner, NFL QB, San Francisco 49ers
Ernie Stires, musician and composer
Ernest M. Stires, Episcopal Bishop of Long Island
Robert E. L. Strider, president of Colby College (1942-1960)
LTG Thomas J. H. Trapnell, WWII hero and Bataan Death March survivor