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 98 faculty members, another 50 coaches and staff members, and more than 650 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.
- The Crest
- The Lady and The Unicorn
- School Motto: Forte Et Gratum
- Red-Gold Rivalry
- Big/Little Sisters
- Class Flags
- Senior Commons and Courtyard
- Community Service
- Special Programs
When Helen Osborn, a member of the Class of 1906, became a teacher at CSG, she designed a crest for the school that first appeared in a school songbook in 1915. Miss Osborn originally coupled the red rose, earlier designated the school flower and symbol, with the unicorn from the Gothic legend, The Lady and the Unicorn. The floral symbol of girlhood is protected by the fierce Unicorn, with an open book bearing obvious significance for a school. The school motto is printed on a banner below the crest. The school colors, red and gold, were chosen earlier to symbolize the colors of the dawn. Since the 1970's the Unicorn no longer appears on the Crest, but is still used to represent CSG Athletics.
The unicorn, the symbol of purity in heraldry, is particularly appropriate as a symbol for a girl’s school. It was, however, as a figure in the old Gothic legend of The Lady and the Unicorn that it was chosen for the crest of the Columbus School for Girls’ coat of arms.
The best known representation of the Lady and the Unicorn legend is seen in the Cluny Museum in Paris, France, where there are six beautiful tapestries known by that name. The story that these tapestries tell is one of infinite charm.
In an enchanted wood dwells a lady, tall, of noble bearing, and wondrously fair. Around her, among the myriad little flowers, the beauties of the mystical forest circle, little animals disport themselves. On each side of the lovely lady, who is attended by a demure maid, stands, rampant, a faithful beast, upholding the standards of maidenhood. These guardians are the lion and the unicorn, but it is the swift, fierce unicorn that is especially famed, in many an old legend, as the protector of fair young womanhood.
In the coat of arms of the Columbus School for Girls, there are portrayed three roses, symbols of girlhood; and above them, rampant, as if on guard, is the protector of girlhood, the faithful and mythical unicorn. The unicorn was never used alone as a school symbol until the 1970s, when the increase in women’s athletics created the need for an active mascot of the school.
Beneath the Columbus School for Girls’ crest, on a banner, are the Latin words, Forte et Gratum. This school motto, which means strength and grace, ably reflects the way in which two progressive women, Mary Bole Scott and Florence Kelley, addressed the founding of a girls’ school in 1898. These women knew that the future education of young women would depend on strength of character being central to the academic experience. Today, that motto guides the school’s leaders in matters of philosophy, principle and curriculum.
The uniforms of Columbus School for Girls are probably the most visible tradition at the school, although they have changed over the decades. The tradition of wearing uniforms at CSG began at the turn of the last century when the students decided that they would all come to school for one day attired in white dresses. To their surprise, the faculty and headmistresses liked it so well that they determined that the girls should regularly come dressed in all white or, in winter, in a dark skirt. Soon thereafter, the middy blouse and pleated skirt became a winter uniform through 1931. In the fall of 1932, the tunic was introduced. The original blue was a bright medium blue, and the blouses were open at the neck. In 1948 navy blue blazers were introduced, with the school crest on the breast pocket. The fifties brought the light blue tunic, and saddle shoes were required except for seniors, who were allowed to wear penny loafers on non-formal days. The light blue tunics required ironing and starching. It was challenging work to get the pleats lined up straight. In the mid-sixties, the drip-dry fabrics were introduced. Mothers liked the easier care, but the fabrics were less resistant to grease and paint stains. As a result, in 1969 the Blackwatch (winter) and Campbell (fall and spring) plaid uniforms were introduced. The Lower School retained the tunic, while Middle and Upper School students wore the plaid skirt with a white blouse, making the uniform that you see today.
Alice Gladden, the daughter of a nationally renowned Congregational minister, and Grace Latimer Jones took the reins of school leadership shortly after it was founded. They worked together for nearly a quarter of a century, and after Miss Gladden’s death in 1926, Mrs. McClure continued alone for 12 more years to establish a way of life for their students. The influences of Miss Gladden’s and Miss Jones’ backgrounds are evident in practices that continue to distinguish CSG and to tie generations of alumnae to one another.
Perhaps the oldest such practice is that of Chapel. From the earliest times, morning prayer was held daily, and services were written by the Headmistresses. Formal Chapels began when Miss Gladden adopted the form with which all alumnae are now so familiar. It opened with the Invocation, followed by a responsive reading, a hymn, a prayer, and closed with a Response. The responsive reading that first morning in 1904 is one still used nearly a century later. Today, once a week, each school division meets for a program that ranges from student presentations to professional performances and is intended to augment the girls’ studies.
The “dittoed sheet” used by our early headmistresses and the various editions of The Book of Services have evolved along with the school to reflect a range of religious and secular traditions.
In 1923, CSG purchased an 85-acre farm on North Yearling Road because of the need for playing fields. Until that time, the intramural Red and Gold Teams had been chosen by lots. There was relatively little competition with other schools at the time, and the competition between Red and Gold and between class teams was very important to CSG life. In order that class spirit might not be sacrificed to team spirit, it was voted that the sister classes should be members of the same teams. So in 1924, building upon the success of this idea, a system was begun that placed alternate classes in Red or Gold camps. Red Team members were graduates of even-numbered years; Gold Team members, odd-numbered years. Thus, the school was judiciously divided for friendly competition that would build school spirit. Red/Gold athletic contests are held throughout the year, and together with matches in scholarship and social services, earn team points toward acquiring the Team Cup.
The Big/Little Sister program was initiated in 1904 to encourage association between older and younger students. Each class in Forms VII-XII adopts the class six years its junior as its Little Sister class. Times of picnicking and service activities are set aside to nourish these special friendships.
Sister classes share the same class flag, song, and colors. Upon the graduation of the Big Sister class, the Little Sisters inherit these sacred symbols and share them with their own Little Sisters. The passing of the flags and songs takes place in a special ceremony during the Middle School Celebration at the end of the school year. Class presidents continue the tradition of carrying their class flags during Chapels and special programs while the Student Council President carries the American flag.
Head of School, Miss Grace Latimer Jones (later Mrs. McClure), initiated the use of school and class flags at CSG after a 1911 visit to a festival celebrated since the Middle Ages in Sienna, Italy. Individual class colors were combined with red or gold, and at commencement in June 1912, the flags were used for the first time. There had been class colors from the first, but 1911 saw the initial use of alternative red and gold classes, from which the Red and Gold Teams arose later. The class flags are carried by the student leadership of each class, and the American and school flags are carried by the student leadership of the school. They became an integral part of the regular chapel services. In a ceremony held during commencement week since 1912, the outgoing senior class presents its flag to the incoming Seventh Form. Thus, the tradition of class flags continues to be a part of Columbus School for Girls.
In 1972, the traditional Senior Stairs, located at the main entrance of CSG were enthusiastically traded for the senior commons, the room that opened onto the Senior Courtyard. After the major renovations and new construction in 1994, the seniors began to use again the Senior Stairs as access to their new commons area in the upstairs of the mansion.
The courtyard, which is still reserved for the seniors, contains a piece of marble that came from the same strata of rock that produced the Parthenon. The marble was given to the school by Katharine Sater, Class of 1925, and is mounted on Ohio sandstone. The focal point of the courtyard is a fountain sculpted by Carol B. Clark, who was the Upper School Art teacher and Chair of the Art Department for 24 years. It represents a young girl embracing a unicorn, which is the emblem of Columbus School for Girls. For a number of years, each senior created a sand casting that was personally designed and placed upon the courtyard walls as a memento of her life at CSG.
Each fall since 1972, the school has held a Scholarship Walk to support The CSG Scholars Fund, which provides financial assistance for approximately 20 percent of the student body. Students in the Middle School and Upper School collect pledges for the distance they walk (usually a 20km loop at a local Metro Park), and even the PYC and Lower School girls contribute donations for walking a 12 km route in the Bexley neighborhood near the school.
CSG has always emphasized the importance of community service, and Service Club is an important part of the school. Each student is expected to participate in class outreach projects, from tutoring, to Canned Food Drives, hospital work, and even building a house for Habitat for Humanity. This sense of noblesse oblige has been instilled in our students throughout the more than a century of educating young women at CSG.
In March, on the Friday before Spring Break, the seniors host a festive occasion called Senior Day, which was formerly held prior to the Senior May Programs. The seniors provide games and events in both gymnasiums for all the students of CSG in order to raise the funds for their class gift to the school. This joyous occasion has taken place almost since the school was founded, and demonstrates the graduating seniors’ understanding of supporting and giving back to their school.
Seasons at CSG are marked by special programs that highlight the balance between tradition and progress. Individually, these programs mark the high points of any given year; and, collectively, they contribute to the meaning of our academic seasons and serve to remind us of rich and cherished practices.
The school year is formally opens with a Convocation service. This tradition began in 1966 and is held on the first Friday of the school year. The entire school community is invited to join the students in welcoming a new year and to listen to messages from the Head of School, Student Council Presidents, and an esteemed guest speaker. In formal Chapel style, complete with flags, service, and dress uniforms, the opening exercises are an inspiring and distinctive tradition.
The Thanksgiving program stands as a testimony to a century of tradition. A favorite program of many, this service celebrates, in ever-changing expressions of thanks, the American holiday. Songs and prayers that have endured for more than 100 years provide the framework around which unique contributions from students and faculty create a memorable program for the entire school. Many young alumnae look forward to a reunion with friends at the program.
A highlight of the program each year is the presentation of Over the River and Through the Woods by the students from the Program for Young Children. This unpredictable and irresistible rendition by the youngest members of the CSG community is usually rewarded with a standing ovation from their schoolmates.
Another important segment of the program is the presentation to the head of School of the Scholarship Walk proceeds by the Service Club officers. This is also the time for presenting the Golden Foot and the Lead Foot Awards.
The Thanksgiving program culminates with selections from CSG musicians. In recent years, the choirs have been joined by the band and orchestra to present music that, for many, encompasses the essence of Thanksgiving and sets the tone for the upcoming holiday season.
In the earliest days of the school, the two founding headmistresses, Miss Scott and Miss Kelley, gave a Christmas party for the Junior and Senior girls. It was a very popular event, and a description was included in the 1902 Topknot. In 1906, Bryden Hall was the scene of the first Christmas party hosted by Miss Gladden and Miss Jones for the Upper School students, faculty members, and many returning alumnae. Over the years, the dinner has become a major function held in honor of the seniors. The toasts given each year originated in that gathering held in the school’s Bryden Hall at Parsons Place. As the Holiday Dinner evolved from the simple beginning, Trustees and parents of seniors were invited to join in the formal occasion. The evening includes the class flags, an address by a faculty member (whose identity is kept secret until that evening), a program by members of the graduating class and, of course, dinner.
The pursuit of excellence at the secondary school level is the hallmark of those elected to join the Cum Laude Society. CSG students and faculty have been among the ranks of the esteemed national organization since 1938. Students in the top 20 percent of their class are eligible for consideration by faculty members of the society.
An induction ceremony is held during a school assembly program. A member of the CSG community is honored as the event’s guest speaker and a reception for the new members, their families and faculty is held following the speaker’s remarks.
Lower School Day
Each year, the Lower School ceremony recognizes the Form V students as teachers read a summary that each girl has written about her elementary experiences. The traditional Senior Serenade is the Lower School’s farewell to the graduating class, with To Fill the World With Love being a favorite of Seniors and parents.
Middle School ProgramEach year, since the inception of the Middle School, a ceremony is held to recognize students who have achieved in the areas of citizenship, scholarship, and athletics. The ceremony is designed to promote the excellence that is a goal of CSG. It is, in a sense, a commencement for girls leaving the eighth form and entering the Upper School. During this program, the Senior Class processes for short ceremony to pass down their class flag, class song, and class mascot.
Upper School Night
This special evening during graduation week, is an occasion that honors those students who have worked toward excellence with the context of the expectations of the upper school forms. The evening also recognizes outstanding achievment in all areas of the education process.
The first school graduation in 1899 was the culmination of the founders’ dreams. Two girls received diplomas in a ceremony conducted in the schoolhouse on East Town Street. Dressed in white frocks and carrying field daisies, the graduates set the pattern for future celebrations. The daisies were replaced by red roses in 1905, but the long white gowns and many of the elements that contributed to the pageantry have remained.
Faculty, processing in order of seniority, adorned with hoods appropriate to their advanced degrees, have always participated in the event. After the school was incorporated in 1927, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees joined the ceremonies, and since that time has presented the graduates with their diplomas.
In 1996, Commencement returned to its original location, the school campus. The Seniors, in white gowns and carrying red roses, process to William Walton’s Orb and Sceptre. They receive their diplomas on the stately portico facing Broad Street. Form VI Little Sisters honor their Big Sisters as they form a line for the recessional and hold a garland on either side of the aisle. After a reception in the Spirit Courtyard, the Seniors are serenaded by their sister class.