About Shipley

The Shipley Self-Portrait

The Shipley School is an independent, coeducational day school in Bryn Mawr for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.

Through a strong college-preparatory curriculum in the humanities and sciences, our school encourages curiosity, creativity, and respect for intellectual effort. Shipley upholds and promotes moral integrity, a sense of personal achievement and worth, and concern for others at school and in the larger community.

Our small classes nurture individual learning. With an average of 15 students per class and a student-to-teacher ratio of 7:1, every student has access to the teachers’ time and attention—and every teacher is able to support and challenge their students as individuals.

Teaching with Learning in Mind

We teach with the individual in mind, so all types of learners are able to thrive. While students may experience our curriculum in unique ways, a Shipley education remains rooted in a fundamental idea: We believe in a rigorous educational standard, one designed to foster not only creativity and individual thinking, but a sense of preparedness and emotional development that equips students for success.

We Focus on the Journey

When you focus solely on the end product, you miss the steps that make a student stronger along the way. Important lessons emerge from everyday challenges. Lifelong passions develop in unexpected ways. There’s so much intellectual and personal growth to be explored before an outcome is reached—and that’s why we focus on the journey.

Through a balance of rigor and support, our students become confident, successful individuals who are better prepared to meet future challenges, and continue the journey that began here at Shipley.

Shipley's History

Shipley was founded in 1894 by three sisters, Hannah, Elizabeth, and Katharine Shipley, to prepare students for Bryn Mawr College. The Shipleys, strong-minded and well-educated Quaker ladies, believed firmly in what was then a controversial idea—education for women. Their establishment was to be far more than a finishing school. In the fall of 1894, when the School opened with six students and nine faculty members, a philosophy of education was established that would guide the School for over a hundred years, up to the present time.

In their first catalogue, the Shipley sisters stated that it would “be their aim to fit [the student] to enter college with a mind trained to habits of scientific study and a character qualified, in as far as possible, to receive the highest culture.” That mission, rephrased for successive generations, has remained. We have always taught critical thinking. the School was and is concerned with what we now call “the whole child.” Both mind and character are important.

By 1950 the School was enrolling some 340 students, one third of whom were in Pre-School through Grade Seven. Half of the Upper School students were boarders from all over the country, as well as Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Shipley graduates were going to colleges beyond Bryn Mawr—to the other traditional women’s colleges as well as coeducational schools.

Over the years, the School added land, buildings, playing fields, science labs, gymnasiums, and a theater. But the aims expressed in the 1950 catalogue had not changed much since 1894: “Each girls’ development as a useful, interesting, happy, and increasingly mature person is considered of first importance. Intellectual curiosity and a sense of individual responsibility are encouraged in every way.”

In the 1970s and ’80s Shipley underwent two dramatic changes. It started accepting boys and it closed the boarding department. The last boarding students graduated in 1982 and by 1984 the School was fully coeducational, with equal numbers of boys and girls. Starting in the 1990s, and increasingly since then, we have augmented our traditional teaching methods and facilities with growing technological expertise and equipment of which the three Shipley sisters could never have dreamed.

For over a hundred years Shipley and its mission have had the flexibility to keep up with changes unforeseen in 1894. We have always known that our students would need to be equipped to deal with constant challenges and change. It has been and continues to be our mandate to prepare them for their future.

The Shipley School Song

Music: “Annie Lisle,” William H. Goodyear

From afar as strangers came we
With our aims of youth.
Love and friendship do we owe thee;
Friends we are in truth.

Hail our colors! Speed them onward!
Shipley, hail to thee!
Green for hope we always cherish,
Blue for loyalty.

Worthy standards hast thou brought us;
Steadfast will we be.
Truth and honor hast thou taught us;
Thanks we give to thee.

Hail our colors! Speed them onward!
Shipley, hail to thee!
Green for hope we always cherish,
Blue for loyalty.


October 3, 1894 Hannah, Elizabeth, and Katharine Shipley take their first pupil to pre­pare her for Bryn Mawr College entrance examinations. The School begins with six students and nine faculty.
1895 Main School Building is purchased.
1916 Alice Howland and Eleanor Brownell purchase The Shipley School and become co-heads.
1932 Shipley is incorporated as a not-for-profit institution and the first Board of Trustees purchases the School, its buildings and property from the "Hownells."
1937 Townsend House is purchased.
1940 Brownell House is purchased.
1942 Mildred and J. Russell Lynes become heads of Shipley.
1943 Shipley Alumnae Association is founded.
1944 Margaret Bailey Speer becomes head of Shipley.
  Gladwyne Farm and Athletic Fields are deeded to the School by the "Hownells."
1945 Howland House is purchased.
  Augusta Wagner comes to Shipley as Associate Headmistress.
1948 Alumnae Office opens.
1952 Addition to the Main School Building is completed.
1956 Beechwood House is purchased for grades 1-3.
1959 Wagner House and 919 Montgomery Avenue are purchased.
1961 841 Montgomery Avenue, the Head of School's house, is purchased.
1964 Middle House is dedicated for grades 4-7.
1965 Isota Tucker Epes '36 becomes head of Shipley.
  Margaret Bailey Speer Library and Classroom Wing are dedicated.
1966 Fuller property is purchased.
  New School House is dedicated.
1967 Shipley School Endowment Fund is established with $9,000.
1972 First boys are admitted to Shipley, in grades K-3. First males graduate from Shipley (four one-year seniors from Episcopal). Nancy E. Lauber becomes head.
1977 Yarnall Gymnasium is dedicated.
1978 Riely Theatre is dedicated.
1979 Frederic L Chase III assumes headship.
1980-1981 Foulkes property is purchased and playing fields are constructed.
1981 Squash courts are dedicated.
1982 Last boarding student graduates from Shipley.
1985 Gary R. Gruber becomes Head of School.
1987 Founders' Chair, Shipley's first endowed teaching chair, is established.
1992 Steven S. Piltch becomes Head of School.
  Yarnall Gymnasium is rededicated in memory of Hester Yarnall.
1993 West Middle School opens for grades 6-8.
1993-1994 Shipley's year-long Centennial celebration.
1995 Snyder Science Center and Upper School renovations completed.
1997 Margaret Bailey Speer Distinguished Teachers Fund established in memory of Miss Speer.
1998 Avery Silverman Dining Hall addition and Riely Theatre renovation completed.
  Elizabeth Gwinn Field at the Farm dedicated.
2002 20 Million Dollar Capital Campaign Completed
  Beechwood House Opening
  Lower School Additions and Renovations Completed
2006-2007 Turf fields installed at the Farm and the Lower Campus


The Shipley School

814 Yarrow Street, Bryn Mawr PA 19010
T: 610.525.4300 F: 610.525.5082
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