Our History

Founded in 1901, The Cathedral School of St. John the Divine is a place where century-old traditions live on in vibrant, modern ways. As a school, we celebrate and honor our history as we integrate the technology and innovation that have redefined education—and our world.

The Cathedral School has always charged to the forefront of equity, justice, and social change. Originally founded by Bishop Henry Codman Potter as a boarding school for boys in the Cathedral’s choir, The Cathedral School grew into an independent, coeducational, Episcopal K-8 day school for children of all faiths during the 20th century. Well-known alumni include actors Burgess Meredith and Ben Stiller, singers Lanny Ross and Jan Opalach, cancer pioneer Dr. Gordon McNeer, and WNBA star Bethany Donaphin. 

The Choir School of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine was originally located in Guild Hall (now known as Synod Hall) on the Cathedral Close. The present school building, erected in 1913, provided accommodations for 45 resident Choristers, with musical training under the direction of the Master of Choristers and general education supervised by the Headmaster. Until the beginning of World War II, substantial endowments met all school costs, in return for which the Choristers sang two services each Sunday and four to five evensongs during the week. In 1964, the Dean of the Cathedral declared that the school would become a day school and admit non-singing boys—an idea that had been in discussion since 1928.

At a time when school integration was being challenged, The Cathedral School became one of the most substantially integrated independent schools in the country. Nine years later, in the fall of 1973, Bishop Paul Moore and Head of School Canon Harold Ransom Landon ushered in a new era as Cathedral admitted its first female students.

What has remained constant since 1901 is our school’s passionate commitment to academic excellence combined with the development of articulate, confident, responsible citizens of the world.

Throughout the whirlwind societal changes of the 20th century and the technological changes of the 21st, The Cathedral School has remained tied to its core traditions. Our students still use the 13-acre Cathedral Close as an outdoor classroom; family-style meals still nourish students’ bodies and souls; eighth graders still receive personalized “bookplates” from teachers prior to Commencement; and of course, the school continues to provide the children’s choir for the largest Gothic cathedral in the world.

Heads of School

Ernest Voorhis, 1903-1912
Mansur Beard, 1912-1919
Nathaniel H. Pride, 1919-1921
Wilson MacDonald (acting), 1921-1923
William Lester Henry, 1923-1927
William Dudley Foulke Hughes, 1927-1940
James Green, 1941-1952
Darby Wood Betts, 1952-1954
Alec Wyton, 1954-1962
Cuerte Voorhees, 1962-1964
Harold Ransom Landon, 1964-1978
Thomas Nevin Southard, 1978-1981
James Winfield King (interim), 1981-1982
Richard Whitlock Ackerly, 1982-1988
Molly Stark Strassner (interim), 1988-1989
Gerald Grossman, 1989-1995
Phillip G. Foote, 1995-2003
Marsha K. Nelson, 2003-Present

Organists and Masters of Choristers

Miles Farrow, 1910-1931
Norman Coke-Jephcott, 1932-1953
John Upham (interim), 1953-1954
Alec Wyton, 1954-1974
David Pizarro, 1974-1977
Paul Halley, 1977-1990
Johnson Flucker, 1990-2008
Bruce Neswick, 2008-2011
Kent Tritle, 2011-present
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