1984: The Vision
“Stuart Hall began as a dream in my heart,” declared William Gallop, our founding headmaster. “This dream was nurtured most carefully with prayer.” In 1984, following twelve years as Headmaster at the Academy of the Sacred Heart, Mr. Gallop felt the call to create a new school that would fill a need which had not previously been met in New Orleans. His vision was to offer a Catholic education for only boys in an independent, preparatory-school environment.
Mr. Gallop named his budding school for Janet Erskine Stuart, a religious of the Sacred Heart, who was an English educator at the turn of the twentieth century. She wrote extensively of a philosophy of education espousing faith, scholarship, leadership and honor--qualities upon which the Stuart Hall education is built. Her belief that “education is formation, not just information” became the cornerstone of the school’s mission.
Following a tiring period of research, planning, and public relations efforts, Mr. Gallop’s dream began to take shape. He leased classroom space at the Annunciation Episcopal Church property on Claiborne Avenue near Napoleon Avenue, and the school opened its doors for the 1984-1985 school year to 63 students and 10 faculty and staff members. The oldest boys were in first grade, and would go on to become the first graduating class of Stuart Hall in 1991. “School began with tremendous parental support and a feeling of optimism that was seen everywhere,” Mr. Gallop reflected. The school held its first auction in the spring of 1985, earning $30,000. The first Annual Fund campaign was also conducted, bringing in an additional $25,000 to ensure the school’s solvency.
1987-1989: The Journey to Carrollton Avenue
Just sixteen days before the fourth school year began, an order by the fire marshal forced the school to seek a new location. Mr. Gallop secured temporary classrooms and grounds at the former New Orleans Academy campus in Lakewood South. Parents, grandparents, faculty and friends worked long into the night over the next two weeks to prepare the campus for the first day of school. They succeeded, and the 1987-88 school year began on schedule. Mr. Gallop observed, “The real miracle I learned was that when people are committed to an ideal, you can accomplish anything.” In April 1988, the Carrollton Presbyterian Church and School campus became available, and a twenty-year lease was signed. In 1989, Margaret d’Hemecourt, who started as a teacher assistant, was welcomed as the first Head of Middle School, a great sign of growth for the school.
1994-2000: Building a Legacy
In 1994, the first Board of Trustees was convened. Mr. Gallop resigned as Headmaster in 1997, and upon his departure, he charged all constituents of the Stuart Hall community to help the school grow to its highest potential. That summer, Mr. Kevin Avin was appointed as Headmaster. In June of 1998, Stuart Hall was formally accredited as a member of the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS). Shortly thereafter, the Board of Trustees and Administration embarked on an expansion plan involving a long-term lease with Carrollton Presbyterian Church and the acquisition of property adjacent to the campus. They launched the “Building a Legacy of Leadership” campaign to fund the expansion and increase enrollment over the next decade.
2001-2005: Living the Vision
In 2001, school officials spent countless hours conducting surveys, securing permits, and securing City Council permission to proceed on the construction of new school buildings. Ground-breaking on the first building took place in 2002. This building was completed in 2004 and soon dubbed the Whelan Early Childhood Center, in honor of the Whelan family’s generous contribution to its construction. By the spring of 2005, the two-story multi-purpose gymnasium had been raised.
2005-2006: Weathering the Storm
In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina scattered the school population, flooded the ground floors of three main school buildings and destroyed all playground equipment. Once again, the Stuart Hall family demonstrated its resiliency. Students, parents and faculty began to reconnect through the Internet blog that Technology Director Bob Krieger built. Principal Cissy LaForge called an October faculty meeting. Teachers and parents returned in growing groups to gut, scrub, and refurnish the damaged buildings. Mr. Avin and Development Director Erin Beech sought funding from federal entities, private foundations, corporations, and insurance providers to expedite the school’s reopening.
Owing to the tireless dedication of the entire school family, Stuart Hall reopened on November 7, 2005. 90% of faculty and staff were retained and almost 60% of the student body returned that morning. Mr. Avin announced to all present, “During all that has recently occurred in the life of our school, I assure you we have not, and will not, waiver from our purpose--our mission.”
2013: Celebrating 30 Years of Forming Leaders for Life
Stuart Hall celebrates 30 years of "Forming Leaders for Life" by welcoming its first legacy student, Liam Van Vrancken, son of alum Jay Van Vrancken '93. Stuart Hall enjoys a near-capacity enrollment of 338 students in the Fall of 2013.