Unlike the majority of independent schools and private academies in Mississippi, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School was founded prior to 1954, the year of the United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. St. Andrew’s did not originate as a “white flight” school but as the brainchild of Sherwood Wise and Reynolds Cheney, two visionary former Naval officers who wanted to establish a small, independent school where students could receive individual attention and the benefits of a Christian atmosphere. Wise and Cheney persuaded their friends and fellow communicants of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church to join them in what was perceived at the time as a risky venture. Their vision became a reality in 1947, when St. Andrew’s Episcopal Day School opened its doors to 45 students in Grades 1 – 4.
From its earliest days, St. Andrew’s emphasized the need to pay individual attention to each student in order to discover and develop his or her unique talents and gifts. Adele Franks, the school’s energetic, creative founding Headmistress, developed a challenging curriculum that included foreign languages, art studies, and character-building programs designed to help the children become more tolerant and understanding of themselves and others. In 1955, Mrs. Franks initiated St. Andrew’s first scholarship program, enabling exceptional students with limited financial resources to become St. Andrew’s students.
In September of 1966, a new St. Andrew’s campus, described as an “architectural and educational wonderland,” opened on Old Canton Road. The new facility opened amidst the turmoil of the Civil Rights Movement. As private academies sprang up across the state and public schools fought integration, St. Andrew’s earned a reputation as a champion of equality. It was an unpopular stance for the times; St. Andrew’s took dramatic risks in admitting pupils of color during this racially charged, often violent era in Mississippi history.
During this period St. Andrew’s further cemented its commitment to diversity. While most private academies joined the Mississippi Private Schools Association, St. Andrew’s chose membership in the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA), which is composed largely of public schools. Membership in the MHSAA allows St. Andrew’s students to participate in academic and athletic competitions with students from public schools.
As St. Andrew’s academic reputation grew, enrollment increased. In 1976, St. Andrew’s acquired an option on 75 acres of open, rolling meadowland in south Madison County. In the fall of 1985, the Upper School moved to the new North Campus, and the Middle School and the school’s administrative offices followed in 1994. Enrollment today is at a record high, 1,200 students.
Throughout its 60-year history, St. Andrew’s has taken risks while upholding a standard of academic excellence and creating a nurturing environment open to students of every background.