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Roycemore Celebrates its 107th Anniversary

Community News Thursday, 06 Oct 2022

On October 6th, 2022, the Roycemore community celebrated the school’s 107-year anniversary. 

Roycemore was founded in 1915 by a group of Northwestern professors who were looking for a place for their daughters to receive an excellent education. Roycemore is a long-standing Evanston institution with very few older than it, such as Northwestern University (1851), City of Evanston (1863), and Evanston Hospital (1891).  

When Roycemore was founded, only a few private schools were coeducational. Most restricted their admissions to a single-sex and by far the largest number of these educated only women.  Roycemore was one of nine private female schools in the Chicago metropolitan area.  In 1915,  the schools most like Roycemore were the Chicago Latin School for Girls, the Faulkner School for Girls, and the Brooks School, all in Chicago, and the Girton School for Girls in Winnetka.  Each of them educated students in grades 1-12 and accepted only day students.

Julia S. Henry served as the first Secretary of Roycemore. She had been invited to serve on the Board of Directors because it was felt that her experience as Principal of the Lower School at the Girton School for Girls in Winnetka would be of great value when organizing the new school. So impressed were the other stakeholders with Henry’s advice that they not only went on to hire her as Principal but also allowed her to name the school “Roycemore” after her grandfather, The Rev. Andrew Royce, a preacher and educator who had founded Barre Academy in New England.  

To assist with teaching at Roycemore, Miss Henry recruited six of her former colleagues. She was able to convince Rebecca Ashley to transfer from Washington, D.C. to Roycemore as Associate Principal of the Lower School. Julia Henry continued to play a pivotal administrative role at Roycemore until she passed away during the 1919 influenza pandemic. The choice of Mrs. Ashley proved exceedingly fortuitous for she was able to take over as principal of Roycemore following Miss Henry’s passing, and effectively directed its activities for the next twenty years until her retirement in 1941. 

In 1939 when it became desirable for the ownership of the school to be converted to non-profit from that of a privately held corporation, the name was changed to Roycemore Girls School. Roycemore’s policy of educating women continued until the early 1960s when coeducation had become so commonplace that the directors reluctantly agreed to join the trend. At that time, on Dec. 21, 1960, the name was changed back to Roycemore School. The change to coeducation was gradual, however, as it was decided to add boys progressively throughout the upper school. In 1968, the first young man graduated from the school in a class of six students total (5 girls and 1 boy).

Roycemore’s previous campus at 640 Lincoln Street in Evanston was built on land owned by Northwestern and occupied by Roycemore pursuant to a 99-year land lease that, under its terms, expired on June 30, 2014. Roycemore trustees and administration began the search in earnest for a permanent location. Roycemore’s new home was found – 1200 Davis Street, Evanston.  Roycemore celebrate

The building had previously housed the General Pension Board of The United Methodist Church, but its growth precipitated a move to a larger facility in Glenview, providing the ideal opportunity for Roycemore to remain in Evanston. Roycemore signed a purchase agreement for 1200 Davis in June 2008. 

The Board approved the bond financing to renovate the building into a school, the bonds were issued in July 2011, and renovations moved rapidly, transforming drab offices into bright, beautiful classrooms and adding a gymnasium and an additional staircase on the southeast wing. Campus construction was completed in late 2011 and a well-orchestrated move to the new site took place over winter break, allowing the first classes to be held at the new location in January of 2012. Parents, students, and faculty all joined in to help with the physical move to 1200 Davis, demonstrating the sense of community and commitment that has been a part of the ethos of Roycemore since the early days of the school’s founding. While the campus looked different, Roycemore continued to provide high-quality education to students PK-12.

Over the last 10 years, the school has continued to grow in size, opening the 2022-2023 school year with 265 students. Today, the school enjoys a much different demographic landscape than when it was founded. According to Niche 2023 rankings, Roycemore’s Upper School has been named the #1 Most Diverse Private High School in the state of Illinois for the second consecutive year. The ranking for diversity goes beyond race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender, and sexual orientation, as students from various socioeconomic backgrounds attend Roycemore through the offering of scholarships and financial aid.

Roycemore School continues to provide a high-quality education for students ages 3 through Grade 12. The 1200 Davis location remains home for Roycemore School and its families and is continuously evolving to best serve students, both in physical space and curricular capacities. Due to the launch of the school’s first capital campaign in more than a decade,  Currently, Roycemore is renovating a 6,000-square-foot space, previously used as storage, into an Innovation Center. Here students will discover their passions, think without limits, find their voice, and live courageously for decades to come.

This Roycemore Day, we celebrate the history of Roycemore School and the many successful years to come!

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