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 700 in grades junior kindergarten through 12, a faculty and staff of 170, and it fills a sprawling 37-acre campus. As the school celebrates 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.