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A Message from President Armbrister

October 2014

To the Girard College Family,

As I begin my third school year as President of Girard College, I reflect on what has been an extraordinary journey.

In July 2012, I joined a community unlike any other I have known in my personal or professional life. Defined by our founder’s vision and generosity, by a unique mission, by a proud alumni body, by breath-taking architecture, by its place in Philadelphia’s history, by a respected cadre of professionals and by students who aim to change the trajectory of their lives … Girard College inspires me today as much as it did on the first day I entered its gates.

Thinking back on just a few specific moments of inspiration, I recall:

• The “bring-down-the-house” performance by the Lower School choir at the NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) convention in Philadelphia;

• The selfless act of compassion of one of our juniors who asked that her holiday “gift” be the delivery of a hug to the citizens of Newtown, Conn.

• ... and the teacher who went out of his way to fulfill that request;

• The “can do” attitude of the Mock Trial teams who earned the title of #2 in the city in only their second year of competition.

As a community, we have celebrated these joyful moments, but we have also struggled with change, particularly when the change came in the form of loss. In February, we lost one of our giants, Rick Leek, veteran teacher, coach and friend. And in June, several of the longest-tenured and most honored staff members retired.

Undoubtedly, many members of our community struggled with a proposed change, raised by the Board of Directors of City Trusts, to temporarily alter the school’s structure. As most of you have read elsewhere, in late August, Orphans’ Court Judge Joseph O’Keefe issued an order denying the petition.

At the opening meeting on Tuesday, September 2, I asked all staff members the following question, “How will the Judge’s decision change the way you do your job?” Overwhelmingly, the short answer was, “Not at all.” The longer answer was that the Girard staff is firmly committed to focusing on providing the best education possible to our students, so that they become informed, ethical and productive citizens.

My message to them then – and my message to the entire Girard family now – is that we will continue working towards excellence in all facets of our venerable institution.

For more than 18 months, we have been engaged in training academic and residential personnel to improve our methods of teaching the children entrusted to our care. During a four-day In-Service in the first week of September, our staff enthusiastically engaged in the latest stages of training. At this point in time, the staff has logged more than 13,000 hours of professional development. Simultaneous to this training, we have invested thousands of hours in the redesign of our curriculum so that we will be better prepared than ever to provide the highest quality education.

As we move forward, I commend staff, family, alumni and friends who have worked so hard to assure the most positive future for Girard College and its students. I ask all of you to continue to support us as we embrace excellence in all we do as a learning community.

Hail Girard!

Clarence D. Armbrister


Girard College is pleased to hold memberships in several key educational organizations:




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