A Brief History of Bishop Seabury Academy
In the early 1990’s some Lawrence families became interested in the idea of an independent high school in Lawrence that would both challenge students academically and promote the development of strong character. In May 1993, a Steering Committee was developed which included two Episcopal priests and several lay Episcopalians. Consequently, the group decided to join the long tradition of Episcopal schools in America. The organizers received permission to form the school as an Institution of the Diocese of Kansas. Throughout the summer and fall of 1993 these organizers worked to write a Mission Statement and Bylaws. In January 1994, the organization filed for incorporation in the State of Kansas as a not-for-profit institution called “New Episcopal High School, Inc.” A year later the name of the school was changed to Bishop Seabury Academy, in honor of the first Anglican bishop in America.
In 1996, the Board of Trustees conducted a nationwide search for a headmaster and hired Mr. J. Kristian Pueschel, who assumed his duties in June. He proceeded to find a site, establish curriculum, and hire a faculty. The original site for the school was the former Kaw Valley School, four miles east of Lawrence. A Board member purchased the facility and leased it to the school. Other trustees helped renovate the school and build additional classrooms.
In the fall of 1997, thirty-two students, six teachers, and one headmaster embarked upon an educational journey and opened the doors of Bishop Seabury Academy. On November 19 of that same year, the Rt. Rev. William Smalley, Bishop of Kansas, consecrated the school at the first annual Bishop Samuel Seabury Day Convocation. In 2000, the school received its accreditation from the Independent Schools Association of the Central States, and Mr. Chris Carter was hired as its new Head of School. In the spring of 2002, Brendan Mark became the school’s first graduate. One year later a class of eleven students received their diplomas, five of whom had been with the school since 7th grader.
The Kaw Valley site was a wonderful place for the young school to begin, but as the student body grew, the facilities quickly became inadequate. The building had originally been designed for elementary students, and it was simply too small. In the fall of 2000, the Trustees learned that a Lawrence Racquet Club in mid-Lawrence might be a possible site. After a quick and intense Capital Campaign that raised nearly 2.7 million dollars, the school purchased the property in August 2002 and renovation of the existing facilities began. The new campus opened its doors on August 20, 2003 with 113 students in grades 7-12.
In 2006, the school successfully raised funds for a new building, Reese Hall, which would house Seabury’s fine arts and foreign language departments as of 2008. Dr. Don Schawang, a member of the faculty, was hired as the new Head of School in 2007.
In 2011, to correlate with a shift in the public middle school grades, a 6th grade was added to the school. In 2012, the school leveraged a FEMA grant and a challenge pledge from a private donor to drive a successful Campaign to raise 1.18 million for campus expansion and renovation, including a FEMA emergency shelter outfitted as locker rooms and dressing rooms.
In 2016, Bishop Seabury Academy was named the #1 Private School in Kansas by NICHE, a national organization that reviews colleges and K-12 schools, and Seabury has remained in this position for almost every year since. By 2018, the population had reached 224 students, doubling the student enrollment in the space of 15 years and demanding further campus expansion. The school launched an ambitious 5.2 million dollar capital campaign and began construction on a significant campus expansion to be completed for fall of 2020.
In a little over two decades, Bishop Seabury Academy has grown from a dream to reality, undergone significant changes, and become a leader in independent education in the Midwest.