Armed with vision, determination, courage, and foresight, Mary Caswell travels across the country to relocate to southern California and start a new life. Within two months of her arrival she starts the St. Margaret's School for Girls.
St. Margaret’s School for Girls flourishes in Pasadena, but Mrs. Caswell recognizes Los Angeles as a burgeoning city and in 1890 moves the school to a new location—the relatively new but empty Marlborough Hotel at the corner of 23rd and Scarff Streets, near the newly established University of Southern California. Adopting the name of its new location, Marlborough School comes into being. Enrollment increases from the very start, and within a few short years, the site reaches capacity. With the city expanding north and westward, Mrs. Caswell purchases land in the newly opened La Brea tract, and in 1916, for a cost of $70,000, Marlborough School opens at its new site on the corner of Third Street and a “surveyed driveway to be known as Marlborough Avenue."
By the early 1920s and with her health declining, Mrs. Caswell realizes that she needs to prepare for the day when she can no longer lead the School. In 1922, she invites Miss Ada Blake, then head of Louisville Collegiate School in Kentucky, to interview for the position of assistant principal. After journeying across the continent for a one-day interview, Miss Blake is immediately hired for the position, and upon Mrs. Caswell’s death in February 1924, Miss Blake becomes the second Principal of Marlborough School, a position she held for almost two decades. During Miss Blake's tenure, the curriculum expands significantly and Marlborough begins its evolution into a highly regarded college preparatory school, as each year more and more Marlborough students seek and are admitted to east coast women’s colleges. The Student Council is organized in 1924, uniforms become mandatory in 1926, and the School’s first student newspaper is launched, along with many dramatic, literary, and community service-related clubs.
In 1942, Miss Blake is succeeded by Mary Caswell’s daughter, Georgia Caswell Overton, who serves as Principal of Marlborough School for six years. Under her leadership, the boarding division is discontinued, the Honor System is formalized, and, in 1944, the School welcomes the arrival of legendary English teacher Cecil Carnes.
When Mrs. Overton retires in 1948, she is succeeded by Mrs. Helen Mitchell as Principal. Preparing Marlborough graduates for college is a high priority for Mrs. Mitchell, so curricular changes—such as a mandatory four years of English and History, and special honors seminars for seniors—coupled with personal outreach to both east and west coast colleges, results in Marlborough graduates’ placements in the nation’s most distinguished colleges and universities.
With the intention of one day building new School facilities, Mrs. Mitchell and her husband purchase Marlborough from the Overtons. Over the next decade, city building inspections became frequent, and new electrical equipment was way overdue. "The day I knew we had to have a new building was the day I blew a fuse three times in one morning!" said Mrs. Mitchell. In 1960, the Marlborough School Foundation was formed, and the Mitchells generously sold the School to the Foundation, assuring the development of new buildings and ensuring Marlborough's survival well beyond her years as its leader.
The 1960s were transforming times for Marlborough School. With Principal Virginia Jennings (1962-1965) and Headmaster Philip Perkins (1965-1970) leading the School, the newly created Board of Trustees launches the School’s first $4 million fund-raising campaign, “Marlborough of the Future,” to invest in new buildings, campus expansion, and endowment funds. Noted architects William Pereira and Associates create the most modern educational designs while preserving the School’s architectural tradition.
During Mr. Chumbook's tenure, Marlborough expands and enhances campus facilities as well as academic and non-academic offerings and opportunities. With vision and foresight, the School begins purchasing additional properties adjacent to the campus, and the trustees earmark endowment funds specifically for faculty salaries and student financial assistance.
With a Bachelor of Music degree from Michigan State University and a Master of Music Education degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder--where she also served as an Instructor--Barbara Wagner teaches music in a public school in Michigan for three years, and following completion of a graduate degree program at the University of Colorado and a year as an instructor at the University of Colorado
, she joins the staff at Graland Country Day School in Denver, where she serves successively as music instructor, Chair of the Fine Arts Department, Head of the Middle School, Assistant Head, and Interim Head of School.
A native of Michigan, Ms. Wagner comes to Marlborough School in the fall of 1989 as the Director of Upper School, and in 1990 she accepts the position of Head of School. In that role, she expands the academic and extra-curricular vision of the School, as well as its campus, overseeing the construction of Booth Field and Munger Hall, as well as the commencement of the Arden Project.
Marlborough celebrates its quasquicentennial with historical remembrances in the curriculum and in publications, as well as with a "Birthday Bash" celebration on campus.