is a private philanthropic boarding school
on a 43 acre (170,000 m²) campus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
in the United States
. The school is for academically capable students, grades 1 through 12, and grants full scholarships to eligible students from families with limited financial resources, headed by a single parent or guardian.
Girard’s mission is to prepare students for advanced education and life as informed, ethical and productive citizens through a rigorous educational program that promotes intellectual, social and emotional growth.
As of 2004, there were 669 students enrolled, 268 elementary school students (grades 1-5), 211 middle school students (grades 6-8), and 190 high school students (grades 9-12). Girard employs a total of 124 faculty members: 72 academic teachers and 52 residential advisors. It is a residential education program that seeks to provide great academic opportunites to children who would otherwise not be able to afford it.
Girard College was founded in 1833
and opened on January 1
under provisions of the will of financier Stephen Girard
, who acquired his wealth as a sea captain and was possibly the wealthiest man in America at the time of his death in 1831
. Originally instituted for the education of poor white orphan boys, the school now welcomes girls and boys of all races. A peculiar provision of the will prevents any ecclesiastic, missionary, or minister of any sect from having any connection with the college, and clergy are not even allowed to enter the grounds (Girard was an atheist).
This provision of the will and others like it led to a number of rumors about the contents of Girard's will. One widely believed but ultimately apocryphal "provision" was that the financier demanded the College be surrounded by a 20-foot wall. To be in absolute compliance with his will, his benefactors built the wall, but sunk it 10 feet below the ground, so it would appear at a less extreme height.
Not part of the School District of Philadelphia, the school was segregated well after Brown v. Board of Education up until it was ordered to desegregate by the Supreme Court. The first African American student was admitted in 1968.
The first female student was admitted as a first grader in the 1980s. Females were gradually integrated into the school over a 12-year period with subsequent new female students only permitted to enroll in the same graduating class as the first female student or a younger class. The first females graduated in 1993. The graduating class of 1996 was the first class to graduate with more females than males.
Graduates (or, in some cases, former students) of Girard College include:
- Lawrence Cunningham, author and professor
- Harry Davis (baseball player), former Major League Baseball player.
- Myer Feldman, aide to President John F. Kennedy.
- Al Harker, 1934 FIFA World Cup and professional soccer player. Member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
- Richard Harris, prospector-first major gold discovery in Juneau, Alaska.
- Gary Hodgson, former Major League Baseball player.
- Russell Johnson, actor, "the professor" on Gilligan's Island.
- Franz Kline, an American Abstract Expressionist painter from the 1940s and 1950s.
- Ed Mako, author.
- Tracey Lee, rapper.
- Johnny Lush, former Major League Baseball player.
- John "Jocko" Milligan, former Major League Baseball player.
- Robert Williams, banker
- Walter K. Durham, one of the most popular Main Line architect/builders of the twentieth century.
- James Hamilton Windrim, artist/architect-designed The Bank of the United States.
- Ashton Youboty, NFL Cornerback for the Buffalo Bills.
- Joseph Hallman, composer
- Mike Freeman, Actor/Journalist