As an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, Lausanne's academic curriculum is vertically aligned from age 3 through 12th grade. This allows for foundation building from year to year and subject to subject, giving students more breadth and depth in the learning process. The school is currently scheduled to become the 19th school nationwide to receive PK through 12th grade International Baccalaureate accreditation. Building blocks of the IB Diploma Programme can be seen across the Lower, Middle and Upper School.
Each class in Lower School incorporates activities for individual levels of readiness to allow for children to grow at their own rate and pattern. Units of inquiry and hands-on projects are designed to enhance students' preparation to thematic teaching. Small class sizes, daily Mandarin and Spanish classes and a project approach to learning are highlights. The Lower School is currently scheduled to add Primary Years Programme accreditation by fall of 2018.
Middle School builds students pursuit of academic excellence, self-advocacy and time management abilities as their independence builds with age. Subjects are thematically tied together. Lausanne was the first school in the Mid-South to implement the House System in 2006, building bonds across student groups. The Middle School is currently scheduled to add Middle Years Programme accreditation by fall of 2018.
The IB Diploma Programme and single IB Certificate Course in Lausanne's Upper School provide students a challenging and well-rounded education while encouraging the pursuit of individual special interests to prepare for the college and university level. Students complete most graduation requirements during 9th and 10th grade years, enabling them to create schedules during their 11th and 12th grade years to enhance their college admittance to their school programs of choice.
Lausanne Collegiate School evolved from a select girls’ school to become a culturally diverse, co-ed, technology-oriented, collegiate prep school.
In 1926, Emma DeSaussure Jett, Bessie Statler, and two other veteran teachers left St. Mary's Episcopal School and founded their own small private girls’ school at 1649 Central Avenue in Memphis.
Originally named Lausanne School for Girls, the school was named after the Swiss city of Lausanne, a city that prided itself on elite education (see Education in Switzerland), and the area from which Mrs. Jett’s DeSaussure ancestors had migrated to America.
In the 30's during the Great Depression, maintaining the private school was difficult. The women marshaled forward, lead by their vision of providing the best education possible. But even with the return of prosperity following World War II, Lausanne’s viability remained tenuous. Luckily, the physical plant of recently dissolved Pentecost-Garrison School at Union Extended and Hollywood became available in 1952, and Lausanne secured a favorable lease on the property.
To facilitate the school’s continuation, Principals Statler and Jett converted what had been their proprietary school to a not-for-profit educational foundation. During the early years on Union, there were problems with the school’s management, its enrollment declined, and it again seemed in danger of becoming defunct. Lausanne families, however, fought back. They held fund raisers like carnivals and spaghetti suppers to help generate revenue. More productively, Mrs. Nelse R. Thompson, a long time patron of the school and a member of the educational foundation’s board, determined to make the school financially secure. Working in tandem with Headmistress Myrtle Cobb, whom the board had hired away from a tenured position at Memphis State College, Mrs. Thompson pulled off a near miracle. Her personal donations and astute solicitations insured the raising of sufficient funds for a new beginning as a boarding school. Within two years, Lausanne had purchased a twenty-acre campus site on Massey Road and had also acquired the funds necessary to build an impressive physical plant.
Mrs. Thompson’s plan for the school to provide a prestigious boarding environment was successful, and for a number of years brought in significantly more income than its operations cost.
Shortly after the school moved to Massey Road, Mrs. Cobb resigned as headmistress, and the board hired Walter R. Coppedge as Headmaster and the only male member of the faculty. Although he had no administrative training or experience, Coppedge proved a strong choice. He was generally popular with the school’s board, faculty and staff, students, and parents. A cultured child of the Mississippi Delta, he was also a well-traveled former Rhodes Scholar. His innovations included: marvelous open letters to the school’s various constituencies and a high profile lecture series that brought in international caliber visiting lecturers including William Buckley, Jr., Dr. Margaret Mead and Aldous Huxley. He also expanded the school's push towards international education with annual traveling summer courses held in Europe and Mexico and other major educational travel experiences. Coppedge’s five-year tenure took Lausanne to new levels of intellectual openness, community exposure and general excellence.
Thomas Eppley, a Lausanne history teacher with excellent academic credentials, became headmaster in 1965 and his 21-year tenure brought many additional changes. Notable among these were: racial integration, a strong Montessori program, the school’s gradual conversion to coeducational status and eventual growth away from the Montessori Method.
Although boys had been enrolled in Lausanne’s kindergarten program as early as the 1930s, the expansion of the Montessori Method through lower school expanded enrollment of boys in all grades pre-kindergarten through sixth. Extensive investigation led faculty, administration and board members to conclude that coeducation was preferable to single-sex education in many respects. The Upper School became gender integrated in the late-1970s, and Lausanne graduated its first co-ed class in 1981.
The boarding school brought ethnically and regionally diverse students into the Lausanne community (enriching its informal learning) and its athletic and arts programs. Flags hanging in the Tully Dining Hall recognize 65 different countries represented by Lausanne students over the decades. Despite achievements and milestones during Eppley’s administration, in his last few years the school faced declining enrollments and financial stresses. Eppley stepped down, replaced by Charles Henderson, who had been successful as headmaster at two other schools. Problems persisted, however, to the point that Lausanne strongly considered a merger with Hutchison School.
In 1992, the board hired George Elder to run Lausanne. Using stringent measures, a rapid expansion of enrollment and superb, community-wide salesmanship, Elder turned Lausanne’s precarious financial situation around. The school was then able to add Tanner Hall, Shockey Hall and the Elder Performing Arts Center. He also expanded the arts, athletic and academic programs, especially strengthening the areas of technology, mathematics and science. After an interim headmaster, current Headmaster, Stuart McCathie, took Lausanne’s helm in 2005.
McCathie has continued to expand the school’s enrollment and financial viability, its physical plant (the Upper Middle School Building designed by The Crump Firm, the 60,000 square-foot library and indoor sports complex, a centralized technology center, the Blue Heron Café and outdoor sports complex renovation) and its athletic programs. He also expanded the cafeteria, built a new library and gym, and placed a mini-café in the lobby of the new library (2012). In 2010 Lausanne became Tennessee’s first and only private-independent school designated as an International Baccalaureate World School (IB).
In 2016, the school announced that they would open their second campus, Xiamen #1 Lausanne International School, in Xiamen, China in the fall of 2017.
The school's technology program, specifically its one-to-one laptop program has been internationally recognized through its operation of the Lausanne Laptop Institute since 2003. In 2013, the program was renamed the Lausanne Learning Institute to focus more on new styles of pedagogy for classrooms using technology.Joan Jeanrenaud, cellist, formerly of Kronos Quartet
Jodie Markell (1977), actress, director of the 2009 film The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond
Ginnifer Goodwin (1996), actress, best known for Zootopia, the ABC series Once Upon a Time and the HBO series Big Love.
Andrew VanWyngarden (1996), musician and founder of the acclaimed Psychedelic Rock MGMT
Marc Gasol (2003), professional basketball player for the Memphis Grizzlies, 2007 Los Angeles Lakers 2nd round draft choice.
Cameron Payne (2013), college basketball player for Murray State from 2013-2015. He was the 14th player drafted in the NBA draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Skal Labissière (2015), professional basketball player for the Sacramento Kings.
Several scenes for the 1993 movie The Firm were filmed on the campus. The most notable is the playground scene featuring Jeanne Tripplehorn and Gene Hackman, where the school's main buildings can be seen in the background.