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Calhoun History

The Calhoun School History

Calhoun was founded in 1896 by educator Laura Jacobi. The Jacobi School, as it was known at its founding, was located on West 80th Street and soon evolved into an all-girls school. The school had a reputation for high standards and excellent faculty, and from the beginning sought to excite its students and engage with the vibrant surrounding Upper West Side neighborhood.

Despite the fact that in the early 20th century most women were not expected to go to college, an impressive number of Jacobi alumnae had professional careers and participated in philanthropic work. In 1916, Laura Jacobi chose Mary Edwards Calhoun to succeed her as headmistress. A former teacher and editor of the Women’s Page at The Herald Tribune, Mary Calhoun carried on the school’s commitment to serious intellectual development and social engagement. The school was renamed for Calhoun in 1924.

In 1973, The Calhoun School appointed Eugene Ruth as Head of School and broke ground on its innovative, open floor plan facility on West End Avenue. The newly coeducational school was dedicated to “learner-centered instruction,” an educational philosophy with deep roots in the progressive tradition dating to John Dewey and others.

Calhoun has evolved over the course of its long history, but it continues to be a place that puts students at the center of the learning journey, and where we remain grounded in the values of diversity, social justice and community engagement. As we continue to learn from and honor the past, we remain open to the future and how we might shape it together.