It was in 1898, on the horizon of the 20th century, that Mary Bole Scott and Florence Kelley established Columbus School for Girls. The school was designed to replace the traditional "finishing school" for young women by adopting a solid college preparatory educational program.
Miss Scott and Miss Kelley located their new school at 662 East Town Street, west of Parsons Avenue. Miss Jones strengthened the concept of an academically demanding education for girls and expanded the college preparatory curriculum. While the disciplines of English, mathematics, and foreign languages were stressed, Columbus School for Girls also included the vital disciplines of theater, music, and fine art. Miss Alice Gladden, a graduate of The Ohio State University, and Miss Grace Latimer Jones, a graduate of Bryn Mawr, succeeded Miss Scott and Miss Kelley in 1904. Miss Gladden, the daughter of the Rev. Dr. Washington Gladden, an internationally known Congregational minister and writer, founded the traditional services, which are still a part of the school. Dr. Gladden himself wrote the school hymn, Our Morning Song of Praise. The first graduating class consisted of two girls, both of whom attended Wellesley College in the fall of 1899. In 1901, the headmistresses signed a lease for a Georgian mansion that had belonged to George Parsons, a well-known attorney in Columbus. Although the school was named Columbus School for Girls, the stately mansion, situated on the corner of East Town Street and Parsons Avenue, was known as Parsons Place.
After Miss Gladden's death in 1926, Miss Jones, who had become Mrs. Charles F. W. McClure, continued as headmistress. It was primarily under her direction that the school became one of the most vigorous and progressive in the Midwest and was incorporated in 1927 as a nonprofit institution. Her concept of complete education (language, math, arts, and sciences) became the foundation of the dynamic philosophy that Dr. Samuel Shellabarger inherited in 1938. The new headmaster was an author who wrote many historical novels, including Captain from Castile and Prince of Foxes. A number of his works became major Hollywood films. Dr. Shellabarger wrote the official school song, Schoolmates, Lift Your Voices.
In 1946, Beatrice C. and Walter Rumsey Marvin became the new heads of CSG. After two years, Mr. Marvin returned to graduate school, and Mrs. Marvin continued as headmistress. It was under her guidance that CSG moved from its location at Parsons Place to the present site at East Broad Street and South Columbia Avenue in Bexley.
At Mrs. Marvin's untimely death in 1957, Dr. Arleigh D. Richardson III, a Columbus native and assistant dean at Yale University, became headmaster. He instituted a policy of open admissions, abhorring the national practice of segregation that existed in most independent schools across the country. A new wing, Marvin Hall, was added to the school in 1962, and the Kibler home, at 66 South Columbia Avenue, was purchased as the residence for the Head of School.
When Dr. Richardson left Columbus School for Girls, his assistant, Natalie B. Harper, served as acting headmistress until the autumn of 1966. At that time, John V. Chapman, former assistant head at the St. Paul Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, became headmaster. Under his guidance, the school expanded its enrollment and began a building program.
In 1969, ground was broken for a large addition on the Bexley site. The facilities, including a lower school, library, gymnasium with pool and locker room, fine arts complex, and theater-in-the-round were completed in 1970, providing the students and those hundreds yet to come with one of the finest preparatory school facilities in the nation.
In 1985, a new era brought Patricia T. Hayot, Ph.D., from her position as head of school at the International School in Paris, France to the helm at CSG. Throughout her eighteen years of leadership, she promoted an interdisciplinary style of learning, solidified the position of CSG as one of the most highly regarded girls' schools in the country, and, perhaps most important, guided CSG's decision to remain firmly committed to single-sex education.
During the tenure of Dr. Hayot, the endowment was significantly increased by the Centennial Endowment Campaign. The school also grew from one to three campuses, comprising more than 180 acres. The 10-acre main campus in Bexley houses the academic and administrative buildings, including the original Columbia Avenue mansion. The Kirk Campus, a 70-plus-acre athletic facility is nearby. The third campus, Cynthia's Woods, consists of nearly 100 acres of environmentally protected woodland.
After Dr. Hayot's retirement from CSG in 2003, Diane B. Cooper, Ed.D., former Head of School at Saint Edward's School in Vero Beach, Florida, accepted the position as head of the eighth administration of Columbus School for Girls. Selected for her record of accomplishment and her philosophy of excellence, her appointment continued the tradition of leadership grounded in vision and standards that have endured for more than a century. During her tenure, plans were made to renovate and expand the Bexley campus. She retired in June 2009.
Succeeding Dr. Cooper, Ms. Elizabeth (Liza) Lee assumed leadership in July 2009. Ms. Lee brought years of experience as Head of School, having formerly led Hockaday School in Dallas, Texas.
Then, in 2014, Jennifer M. Ciccarelli was appointed as the 13th Head of School. Jennifer’s commitment to serving girls’ schools and to a holistic development of girls is notable. She most recently served as the Assistant Director/Acting Director at The Winsor School, a highly regarded grade 5-12 girls’ school in Boston. Jennifer was previously the Academic Dean of The Girls’ Middle School in the San Francisco Bay area and spent the first 10 years of her career as a lower and middle school teacher at Greenwich Academy, another highly regarded girls’ school in the New York Metropolitan area.
From the founding of the school in 1898 to the beginning of its second century, the faculty and student body grew from 16 teachers and 25 students, to 78 faculty members, another 50 coaches and staff members, and more than 540 girls and young women.
Since its founding, Columbus School for Girls has developed and cherished traditions that unite generations of women.
The school works as a community to preserve the best of its rich history, embracing those practices that continue to connect students and alumnae and to reshape those for which the significance has changed along the way. These "ties that bind" endure longer in the memories of alumnae than any given curriculum or a period in history.