Our School

Mission & History

List of 1 items.

  • Mission

    Our mission is to prepare our students for college and for life in a community defined by robust academics, inspiration, engagement, and care.

Values and Beliefs

We foster personal accomplishment through effort. We expect our students to care for and respect one another, to accept personal responsibility, and to behave honorably. Steward’s commitment to small class size ensures focus on each student’s talents and passions. Students are required to articulate, share, and defend their opinions while considering the views of their fellow students. We believe a diversity of talents, abilities, and cultures among our student body offers a rich and well-rounded educational experience. We value our sense of community, made possible by our commitment to a relatively small population.

The Steward School's educational philosophy expresses who we were founded to be, who we are, and who we strive to become.

While we value and celebrate traditional academic achievement and intellectual accomplishment, we believe that each child is an individual and should be treated as such, and that this is a greater guiding principle than any linear scale.

We celebrate the fact that we have a student population of differing talents and abilities.

The essence of the school's culture is rooted in the ethic of care — care for oneself, for others, for the school community, and for a cause greater than oneself.

Competition exists and is important at Steward, as it is in college and life. Discovering the satisfaction that comes from becoming deeply and fully engaged and knowing that you are spending life in a meaningful way is an important life skill, regardless of whether one wins or loses.

At Steward, efforts are made to gauge the appropriate level of expectation and support for each student’s individuality.

Every child is unique. The importance of the individual — and treating each individual with the dignity to which he or she is entitled — is a theme which runs very deep in the Steward mission.

Steward has a vigorous commitment to preparing our students for new ways of thinking and innovations in the way we approach issues, the ways we value each other, and the ways that we relate.

The use and integration of technology into learning is essential to student growth and development.

Understanding and respecting differences is necessary to becoming fully educated. Genuine understanding of other cultures, their histories, and how members of different cultures think and view the world is essential to a global society.

At Steward, balance is a core value, if not the most important element of all. To the extent that we discover the individual, recognize and honor all facets of that individual, and help him or her form a self-respecting, meaningful, and rewarding relationship with the world, we will have succeeded. This is The Steward Way.

Our History

The Steward story began in 1972, when educational pioneer Helen Dixon founded the school in a church basement in the west end of Richmond, as a small, non-sectarian, co-educational alternative to the larger private schools in the area. During the 1972-73 school year, there were 12 faculty members and 90 students in grades K-10. The school soon moved to a new building at the corner of Gayton and Ryandale Roads, and in 1977, a graduating class of three students became the first Steward alumni.

Ronald Messersmith served as the first Steward headmaster, a position he held from 1972-75. With six organized sports teams in the school’s first year, the nickname “Spartans” was chosen, perhaps because the young school was characterized by the “austerity, frugality, simplicity, and courage” of its founding, according to the book "A Story of Success" by the school’s second headmaster, Paul R. Cramer. Mr. Cramer is considered to have transformed The Steward School during his 19-year tenure, 1975-94.

In 1994, the Board of Trustees named Stephen Stackhouse the third headmaster, and he remained in this role through 1997, coincidentally the school’s 25th anniversary. It was also in 1997 that Steward received an anonymous $15 million gift, setting the wheels in motion for significant improvements to the campus layout and serving as a true investment in the school’s future. At the time of the gift, 279 students were enrolled in grades K-12 at Steward.

Roger Coulombe was named Steward’s fourth headmaster in 1997, and his tenure was a period of time that saw extensive construction on campus. Mr. Coulombe served the school until his retirement in 2004, and was succeeded by Kenneth Seward as the fifth headmaster that same year. Mr. Seward remained in the position until 2013, when Dan Frank stepped into the head of school role.

The Evolution of our Campus

The Steward School established its current campus at Gayton and Ryandale Roads in January 1973. The original structure, Dixon Hall, included classrooms, a library, a multipurpose room, and administrative offices and is now home to the Lower School.

In 1974, a small two-room structure was built to house arts and science. Additions in 1982, 1988, and 2008 expanded the structure, resulting in the Middle School building as it is today.

G. Thomas Taylor Hall was completed in 1993 to serve as the math/science building, followed by Cosby Hall, a major addition to Taylor Hall, in 1999. Taylor and Cosby Halls now house the Upper School, which was renovated and expanded again in 2009 as a part of the capital campaign, "Building a Legacy. One Steward at a Time."

The original gymnasium, built in 1977, was torn down after the completion of the current Athletic Center during the summer of 2000. Athletic facilities now include three athletic fields, a state-of-the-art baseball stadium, and nine tennis courts outside, as well as two gymnasiums, a wellness classroom, the Ray M. Tate Weight Room, and a training room. In addition, the Spartan Shop is housed in the Athletic Center, and is a favorite spot for snacks and apparel.

The Paul R. Cramer Center for the Arts opened in the fall of 2002, establishing a dramatic focal point for The Steward School’s rapidly growing campus. Completed in the same year, Wilton Hall includes administrative offices, a boardroom, a technology lab, and the Middle and Upper School Library.

The school’s most recent addition, the Bryan Innovation Lab, is a 21st-century, problem-solving environment located on the southwest corner of the campus. Opening its doors in 2013, this cutting-edge facility includes two classrooms, a wellness studio, a teaching kitchen, and an extensive garden, surrounded by wetlands and a forest.

A half-century after its humble beginnings, Steward has grown to a student body of more than 650 in grades junior kindergarten through 12, a faculty and staff of 170, and it fills a sprawling 37-acre campus. As the school nears its 50th birthday, Steward is known as a top-tier school in the Richmond metropolitan area for the unique educational experience it provides its students and their families.
Copyright 2020 The Steward School