What's in a (School) Name?

Discover the individuals behind local school names.

Agnes Irwin School

The all-girls college prep school, located in Rosemont, was originally known as West Penn Square Seminary for Young Ladies. It was later renamed in honor of its founder, Agnes Irwin, American educator and great-great-granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin.

Archbishop John Carroll High School

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Radnor’s Archbishop John Carroll High School opened on April 28, 1968 as two separate single-sex schools. In September 1986 the schools became co-educational under the name Archbishop John Carroll High School, named after John Carroll, the first Bishop of the Church in the United States.


Archbishop Prendergast High School

Archbishop Prendergast High School and Monsignor Bonner High School

Often referred to as “Prendie,” the Drexel Hill school occupies a landmark building formerly serving St. Vincent Orphanage, opened by Archbishop Edmond Francis Prendergast in May 1920. By 1952, the need for an orphanage declined and on the order of Reverend John O’Hara, the remaining orphans were moved to a smaller building in St. Davids and the orphanage was converted into a all-boys school. Three years later, a new building was erected on the same property and named Monsignor Bonner High School in memory of Reverend John J. Bonner. Bonner became a boys’ school, and “Prendie,” for girls. On July 1, 2006 the Office of Catholic Education of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced the two schools would operate as one administration, as a coeducational high school.

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The Baldwin School

In 1888, Florence Baldwin founded Miss Baldwin’s School for Girls, Preparatory for Bryn Mawr College, located at her mother’s home at the corner of Montgomery and Morris avenues in Bryn Mawr. In 1912, The Baldwin School began leasing the Bryn Mawr Hotel—a landmark on the Main Line—full-time. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 27, 1979.

Bayard Rustin High School

Located in West Chester and named one of Newsweek’s top 500 high schools in America, the school is named after area native, Bayard Rustin, a civil rights activist. As a leading activist of the Civil Rights Movement, Rustin helped organize the March on Washington in 1941, as well as a 1947 Freedom Ride. He was honored by Ronald Reagan, and most recently, President Obama posthumously awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Bishop Shanahan High School

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Downingtown’s Bishop Shanahan is another member of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Catholic school system. Opened in 1998, the school is the only archdiocesan school in Chester County, and is named after John W. Shanahan, the third bishop of Harrisburg, serving from 1899 until his death in 1916.

Owen J. Roberts

Cardinal O’Hara High School

The coed Catholic school in Springfield first opened in 1963 is a part of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and was named after John Francis O’Hara, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia from 1951 to 1960.

Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy

The pluralistic Jewish Day School was originally founded in Center City in 1946 under the name Akiba Hebrew Academy. In 2007 the campus was moved to Bryn Mawr. A generous donation from Leonard and Lynne Barrack of The Barrack Foundation for $5 million led to a name change in memory of Leonard’s brother, Jack.

Owen J. Roberts School District

This West Chester school district is named after a true Philadelphian. Owen J. Roberts graduated from Germantown Academy in 1875 and later graduated from University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1898. He went on to become a Supreme Court Justice in 1930, after being nominated by President Herbert Hoover. Roberts worked on a number of high profile events including the New Deal and Pearl Harbor.

Shipley Sisters

The Phelps School

Located in Malvern, the Phelps School carries the name of its founder, Dr. Norman T. Phelps. Founded in 1946, it is an all boys boarding and day school with limited enrollment.

The Shipley School

The Shipley school began as an all-girls boarding school founded by three sisters—Hannah, Elizabeth, and Katherine Shipley—to prepare girls for Bryn Mawr College. By the 1970s and 80s, Shipley discontinued its boarding its boarding and began admitting boys.

Our Best of the Main Line & Western Suburbs Party is July 25!