Thomas Jefferson School was founded in 1946 by Robin McCoy, Charles E. Merrill, Jr., and Graham Spring. Their first goal was to establish, in the Midwest, a boarding school with academic standards equal to those of the famous New England schools; they chose St. Louis for its central location and active cultural life. The second goal was to create a school unique in this country for its governance, one in which much control of the institution rests with those who work there and must live with their decisions: the faculty.
The school's governance was patterned after the colleges that comprise Oxford and Cambridge Universities; each of those colleges is run by its faculty. At TJ, every teacher who remains beyond an "apprenticeship" period becomes a voting member of the Board. This experience in school management gives a teacher a broader understanding, which is reflected in his or her approach to the classroom and to the students. Several non-faculty trustees bring a crucial outside perspective to the faculty Board members and provide valuable expertise in business, law, marketing, public relations, and long-range planning.
For its first twenty-five years, TJ remained a boarding and day school for boys in grades 9-12 and established itself as the first-rate institution that the founders had envisioned, expecting far more of the student than most secondary schools and sending its graduates to top colleges. Unlike other schools, it remained small and personal. The school became coed in 1971. During the 1970's, the school also began admitting students as five-day boarders, an option that has remained popular for families who live in the "middle distance" and for some others who live closer to the school. With enrollment rising, the school added an eighth grade in 1976 and a seventh grade in 1981. TJ's middle-school program has thrived, providing a more challenging and interesting alternative to other seventh- and eighth-grade programs in St. Louis and elsewhere. The school has long held membership in the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the Association of Boarding Schools (TABS), and Midwest Boarding Schools (MWBS), and in 1997 TJ gained full accreditation by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS).
Robin McCoy remained Headmaster for 34 years, and Lawrence Morgan (TJ '53) succeeded him in the summer of 1980. A graduate of Thomas Jefferson and Harvard, Mr. Morgan joined the faculty in 1957, joined the Board in 1959, and served as Director of Admissions for 14 years prior to his election as Head. William C. Rowe (TJ '63), the school's Director of Admissions from 1980-2000, succeeded Mr. Morgan as Head of School in July, 2000.
The mission of Thomas Jefferson School is to give its students the strongest possible academic background, responsibility for their own learning, a concern for other people, and the resources to live happily as adults and become active contributors to society.
We recognize the profound impact of education upon the student's intellect and values. We will balance the challenges posed by the school's high standards for academic, personal, and social development with support from a nurturing community.
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