Founding Head of School Julia Henry and a group of North Shore parents opened Roycemore School in 1915 at 640 Lincoln Street in Evanston. Miss Henry had been principal of the Lower School at Girton School for Girls in Winnetka, and many of the faculty and students followed her to Roycemore. The school was named after Miss Henry’s grandfather, Andrew Royce, who was a well-known Congregational minister in Barre, Vermont, in the 1800s. The Royce family crest was adopted for the school, inspiring the school’s colors of blue and gold, the motto “fortis et prudens simul,” or strength and careful judgement go together, and even the school’s mascot, the griffin.
One theory about the origin of the name Roycemore is that the large open field located to the north of the original school campus where the girls often took their physical exercise was considered to be a moor, however, there is no proof, so it remains Roycemore lore. That field is now Northwestern University’s Long Field.
Plans for Roycemore began to develop when concerns that several area private schools were to close prompted a group of parents to back Miss Henry and a new college preparatory school for their children. Mr. and Mrs. Robert W. Campbell were among the early supporters and their daughter Elizabeth was one of the school’s first pupils. Mrs. Campbell was the daughter of Judge Elbert H. Gary, a key founder of U.S. Steel, and for whom the city of Gary, Indiana, is named.
The school’s founders negotiated a 99-year lease for the property, owned by Northwestern University, and financed the construction of the building. The new school’s directors hired Lawrence Buck, a nationally known architectural artist, and instructed him to design a building that “would provide a maximum of light and air, and would preserve at the same time a home atmosphere.” Buck designed the building infused with English cottage elements, and then worked with the larger firm of Tallmadge and Watson to complete construction so that Roycemore could officially welcome students on the first day of school, October 16, 1915. The first graduating class of two young ladies was celebrated in June 1917.
Miss Henry was a vital force in the early days of the school until her death in 1919, a victim of the influenza pandemic. She was succeeded by Rebecca Ashley, who then served as principal until 1941.
Roycemore was officially founded as co-educational, but boys were never admitted to the upper grades. In the ‘30s it was incorporated as a non-profit school for girls, however by 1962 the school again began admitting boys. In 1968 the first boy graduated, alone in a class of six.
Roycemore moved from its original location to 1200 Davis Street in Evanston in late December 2011, having extensively renovated the building that was previously the home of the First United Methodist Board of Pensions. A full-size gymnasium was added to the site and the second semester of classes began at the current campus in January 2012.
In June of 2013, long-time Headmaster Joseph Becker retired (1976-2013), having ushered in a new era of Roycemore in time for the school to celebrate its centennial throughout the 2015-2016 school year.