Our Founding

Girard College was formed by an unprecedented act of philanthropy shown by French immigrant and merchant, Stephen Girard.

At the time of his death in 1831, Stephen Girard was the richest man in America and his endowment for Girard College was, up to that point, the largest private charitable donation in American history.

In his will, Girard directed the city of Philadelphia to use his money to build a boarding school for poor, orphaned or fatherless boys so that they might be prepared for the trades and professions of their era. Girard College opened its doors in 1848.

Born more than 250 years ago, Girard could not have imagined the ways in which our country and its citizens would change over time. Sometimes that change has been tumultuous. Yet the heart of Girard’s intention remains a guiding principle for our community: to provide educational opportunities for under-served youth.

Learn more about Stephen Girard, the school’s historic campus, and our public resources on our Visitors page. Even better, schedule time to tour the Founders Hall Museum and learn more about the legacy of Stephen Girard.