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About Westtown School

Founded in 1799 by the Religious Society of Friends, Westtownmarker’s 600-acre campus is located in Chester Countymarker, PA, 25 miles west of Philadelphiamarker. Westtown is a coeducational, college preparatory day and boarding school for students in grades pre-K – 12. Boarding is required in 11th and 12th grades.

Westtown is a Quaker school, but it does not discriminate on the basis of religious affiliation. Students are required to attend weekly Meeting for Worship (once a week for day students, and twice a week for boarding students). Westtown uses the traditional Quaker practice of consensus in making many high-level decisions.

Westtown has been a coeducational school since its founding in 1799. Over 20% of students are Americanmarker students of color, and another 20% are Quakers. Students come from more than 25 states and 20 foreign countries.


Westtown School first opened in May, 1799. It was founded by Philadelphiamarker Quakers who raised the money to build a boarding school and purchased 600 acres of land in rural Chester Countymarker—a full day’s coach ride from Philadelphiamarker—where they could provide a “guarded” education in a healthy environment away from the secular influences of the city. For many years Westtown was nearly self-sufficient, with the campus providing raw materials used in construction of its buildings and food for the people who lived and worked at the school.

Although they had separate classes until about 1870, the education Westtown offered boys and girls was much the same even in the early years of the school, reflecting the Quakers’ belief in the equality of all people. Students studied reading, penmanship, grammar, mathematics, geography and science. Boys learned practical skills such as surveying and bookkeeping, and girls had sewing class.

The rolling hills and farmland on which Westtown School was—and still is—situated lent itself to many hours of exploration and recreation for the students and teachers. Camp suppers, hiking, birding, sledding, and ice skating on the pond were among the activities enjoyed by students. One young student, Samuel L. Allen, who attended Westtown from 1852-53, never forgot the joy of coasting down the snow-covered hills at Westtown. While working in later years on sled designs for his manufacturing company, Allen sent models to be tested on the hills of Westtown. One of these sleds was the Flexible Flyer, patented in 1889.

The 1880s brought great physical changes to Westtown. The main building was replaced with a structure designed by architect Addison Hutton, which was completed in 1888 and is still in use today. During the 20th century, the student body and the curriculum both became more diverse. Visual and performing arts were added, for example, and non-Quakers, African-American, and international students were admitted. Westtown also created the Work Program and Service Network.

Westtown’s Esther Duke Archives is a facility dedicated to collecting and maintaining materials relating to the people and history of the school. Students and historians alike use the Archives for historical research.

Westtown’s Program

In Westtown’s Lower School, reading and writing are emphasized, with daily workshops at all grade levels modeled on the Reading and Writing Project of Teachers College, Columbia University. Westtown uses the Chicagomarker Math curriculum, a program designed for K-6 students which is widely used across the nation. Classes are small (with a maximum of 18 students), and there are teachers for science, technology, Spanish, art, visual and instrumental music, physical education and reading and math support. All Lower School students attend weekly Meeting for Worship and take part in service projects.

In Middle School, along with the core subjects of English, math, social studies and science, all students take a world language (Spanish, French, German, Mandarin, or Latin) and participate in physical education or interscholastic athletics on a daily basis.

In Westtown’s Upper School, the core curriculum in 9th and 10th grades provides a foundation of yearlong courses in each area of study. Eleventh and 12th grade students pursue a program of elective options. Westtown no longer uses the AP designation for its advanced classes. Senior students take part in a Senior Project, which is a 1-4 week project proposed by the student as an alternative method of learning. Senior projects vary widely, from music study, to overseas humanitarian aid, to TV network internships.

Westtown's Upper School runs on the demerit system. Demerits are assigned for infractions such as being late to class, missing class, missing one's workjob, violating the dress code, or being extremely rude or disruptive. Racking up certain numbers of demerits results in punishments such as detention, "Hourbook," a Small Discipline Group hearing, or at very high levels, suspension or expulsion. Students may work off demerits by volunteering for service in the community or in the school; one hour of work clears one demerit. Demerit counts are reset at the start of every trimester.

Co-Curricular Activities

  • Athletics: Every student takes part in the school’s program, which includes 21 varsity teams. Westtown requires interscholastic competition for all Middle and Upper School students. The school’s athletic facilities include a large Athletic Center dedicated in 2007 (with solar panels installed on the roof), 14 tennis courts, 2 cross country courses, 10 playing fields including one softball and two baseball diamonds, and an all-weather track.

  • International Student Program: There are nearly 60 students in the Upper School coming from 20 different countries. There are three levels of ESOL classes. New international students are placed with roommates from another language group, and the numbers of students from any one country are limited, except South Korea. Students from South Korea comprise 10% of the total Upper school population. There is an International Student Coordinator and a host family program that matches international students with local families. Also offered are support for taking the TOEFL and in applying to American colleges; support for banking, travel, and documentation; and a student-run club, the International Student Organization (ISO).

  • Residential Life: Students are allowed to board at Westtown starting in the 9th grade. Boarding is required for all students in the 11th and 12th grades. Westtown has 6 dorms: Stone House, a separate building designated for new 9th and 10th grade boys; Boys 3rd, located on the Main Hall; Boys 2nd, also located on the Main Hall; Girls 3rd (Main Hall); Girls 2nd (Main Hall); and Balderston House, a separate building designated for new 9th and 10th grade girls. All dorms are assigned same-sex faculty to be Dorm Parents, and each dorm has its own Dorm Head. In addition, students can run for election as prefects or proctors in the dorms.

  • Exchange Programs: Annual exchanges occur with sister schools in Celayamarker, Mexicomarker, Normandy or Martiniquemarker, and Stuttgartmarker, and Westtown also offers exchanges during some years in Ghanamarker, Italymarker, Japanmarker, and Russiamarker. Additionally, Westtown is one of only five American schools affiliated with Round Square, a worldwide association of more than 50 schools on five continents sharing common goals.

  • Senior Projects: All seniors are given the opportunity to go on a Senior Project, a self-selected educational or experiential project that lasts between 2 and 4 weeks, beginning in late February and extending through Spring Break. Senior projects are optional, but nearly all seniors elect to complete one. All students attending Senior Projects must submit a proposal to have their project approved, document their experience during the fact, and write an evaluative essay once the project is completed. School-organized trips are available, but students may also design independent projects.

  • Theater Program: Each Lower School class presents a play every year, and the Middle School alternates all-school musicals with grade-level productions of Shakespeare’s plays. In Upper School, students present two fall plays, a musical, and the Senior Play, and they also direct their teachers in the annual Faculty Play.

  • Clubs: Clubs at Westtown are student-organized and reflect student interests. Student organizations in the Upper School, all of which have an adult sponsor, include such groups as Amnesty International, Model UN, Multicultural Coalition, Latino Leadership, Drama Club, Philanthropy Club, Rainbow Alliance, Sexual Health Awareness Educators, Step Club, and Ultimate Frisbee. Some, such as Robotics, work together intensively in preparation for competitions. Students in Earth Service recently organized the first Friends Schools Day of the Earth, a two-day conference attended by representatives from Friends Schools across the country.

  • Service Learning: All students are given the opportunity to participate in community service projects throughout the school year. Established service sites include local Quaker retirement communities, West Chester Community Center and Head Start, the Westtown Lower and Middle School after-care programs, Elwynmarker (a school for people with developmental disabilities), and La Comunidad Hispana.

  • Work Program: Work Program was originally developed as a response to the labor shortages of World War II. It is required for all Middle and Upper School students. Students are assigned daily or weekly unpaid jobs which rotate through 6 different shifts during the school year. Work program jobs include custodial jobs in the kitchen, janitorial jobs in the classrooms and dorms, tending the school's Mini Farm, organizing books in the library, and other related tasks. A faculty member is assigned to be Work Program Coordinator, and students can also run for election as Work Program Heads. Failure to complete one's workjob on time results in two demerits and a "Green Sheet," which assigns the student to a mandatory kitchen job at an upcoming meal. Failure to complete the assigned job results in another demerit. Failure to complete one's workjob at least four times in a term results in a Small Discipline Group hearing.

  • Summer Sessions: Westtown offers an array of summer programs for students of all ages. Westtown’s Summer Sessions also offer some classes for high school credit.

Notable alumni

  • Charles Polk, Jr. (1788 – 1857), served twice as Governor of Delaware.
  • Martha Coffin Wright (December 25, 1806 – 1875) was an American feminist, abolitionist, and signatory of the Declaration of Sentiments -- sister to Lucretia Mott.
  • John Howard Pugh (1827 - 1905), Member, United States House of Representative, representing New Jersey's 2nd congressional district (1877-1879).
  • Richard T. James (1914 – 1974), with his wife, invented the Slinky.
  • Edwin Bell Forsythe (1916 - 1984), Member, United States House of Representatives, represting the State of New Jersey (R).
  • Herb Pennock, Class of 1915, Major League Baseball player and manager, baseball Hall of Fame
  • Edward Binns, character actor in the 1950s through the 1980s, appearing in "12 Angry Men," "North by Northwest," "Patton," in television episodes of "Twilight Zone," "The Rockford Files," and "M*A*S*H," among many other film and television credits.
  • Jim Fowler, Class of 1947, Conservationist and wildlife correspondent/show host - Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom
  • Piers Anthony, Class of 1952, best-selling author in the science fiction and fantasy genres.
  • Collin Wilcox, Class of 1953, actor, Broadway, TV roles, movies: To Kill A Mockingbird, Catch-22, Jaws 2 and more; founding artistic director of the Instant Theatre Company.
  • Garrick Utley, Class of 1957, the correspondent for CNN’s New York bureau, after serving three years as ABC News’ chief foreign correspondent and 30 years covering international news with NBC News.
  • Holland Taylor (born January 14, 1943) is an Emmy Award-winning American actress, known for her film, television and theatre work. She is perhaps best known for her roles as Ruth Dunbar in Bosom Buddies, as Judge Roberta Kittleson in The Practice and as Evelyn Harper in Two and a Half Men.
  • Livingston Taylor, singer-songwriter.
  • Mary Jean Eisenhower, the granddaughter of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Chief Executive Officer of People to People International [PTPI].
  • Marysol Castro (b. September 29, 1976) is the weather anchor for ABC's Good Morning America Weekend Edition; since 2005, she has been the street reporter for Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve.
  • Colin Harrison, Class of 1978, bestselling novelist: Bodies Electric, Manhattan Nocturne, The Havana Room, Afterburn, editor at Scribners.
  • Don Wildman, Class of 1979, the current host and narrator of Cities of the Underworld on History.

Photo Gallery

Image:WesttownChimineys.JPG|The chimneys of Main Hall.Image:FlowerPath.jpg|The Westtown campus is surrounded by several acres of woods.Image:W esttownTrees.jpg|The campus is filled with trees, often filled with climbing students.Image:SnowyChimneys.jpg|Main Building in the snow.Image:WesttownGeese.jpg|Geese flying over Main Hall.

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