Vision & History


Although our founder, Mary Caswell, opened the doors of Marlborough over a century ago, her vision for an educational community that would prepare women for lives of meaning and purpose as well as ensure the continued growth and innovation of the school has remained an inspiration for her eight successors and solidified Marlborough's place as a national leader in secondary education.

Mission Statement

Marlborough School, founded in 1889, is an independent, urban day school serving a diverse group of young women. The School is committed to delivering a superior college preparatory education in an environment imbued with high ethical values. Marlborough is dedicated to the philosophy that academic excellence, leadership skills, and confidence flourish best in an environment exclusively devoted to the education of young women. The Marlborough community enables each student to develop her fullest potential so that she may become an actively engaged global citizen.

Core Values

Marlborough School is a diverse and inclusive community of students, families, faculty, staff, alumnae, and friends. Through experiences offered within our community, the young women at Marlborough learn to face the world with courage, compassion, flexibility, and commitment.

Marlborough School serves as a model of educational excellence and strives to inspire and support each student to achieve her “personal best.”

Marlborough School offers an environment in which students are encouraged to discover their potential, increase their competence, develop leadership skills, and expand their self-reliance.

Marlborough School’s culture is infused with honor, trust, individual responsibility, and mutual respect. The School’s long-standing Honor Code, inspired and created by Marlborough students, serves as a daily reminder of the importance of honesty and integrity in the community.

Strategic Plan

As Marlborough neared successful completion of its 2000-2010 Strategic Plan, the School’s Board of Trustees embarked on the process of envisioning our future for the next decade. Students, parents, alumnae, and employees were surveyed to assess and identify the School’s current strengths, as well as areas of improvement for the future. The Trustees led an 18-month-long planning process that included examining the survey results, revisiting the School’s mission, analyzing data comparing Marlborough to other independent schools, and meeting with college admissions officers, educators, researchers, and other consultants. This process led to our Strategic Plan, “The Next Ten Years at Marlborough 2010-2020.” Executing the Plan keeps Marlborough not merely at the forefront of educating young women, but at the forefront of independent school education in the nation.

We look to assertively pursue the following goals:

  • Preparing Marlborough Girls for the Future
  • Growing, Developing, and Sustaining Marlborough
  • Leading Marlborough Today, Leading Marlborough Tomorrow
  • Engaging Locally Leading Globally

The Understanding

Marlborough School is a community built on honor, trust, individual responsibility, and mutual respect. The School feels strongly that self-discipline is more valuable than imposed discipline and expects good conduct and behavior from every member of the School community. It is the responsibility of all members of the community to follow established rules so that the School functions safely and individual needs can be met and respected. A student represents Marlborough School when she is on or off campus. Therefore a Marlborough student must take responsibility and will be held accountable for her actions at School, at a School-related function (on or off campus), in the neighborhood or vicinity of the School, while wearing Marlborough apparel, and in other circumstances where the student's conduct may reflect back upon the School, its students, faculty, staff, or community.

Honor Code and Pledge

Marlborough School supports an Honor Code. We believe that to be honorable we must demonstrate honor and pride within ourselves and trust throughout our School community. Each student must respect herself as well as the rights and property of others. The Honor Principle means that we not only abide by these values, but that we support and encourage others to uphold them. A common understanding of these expectations must exist among employees and students.

Our School believes in the utmost importance of honesty and integrity. Students and all other members of the Marlborough community must believe in these values and follow the standards that define them.

Parents and students affirm their support of all School rules, including the Honor Principle, in the Student Handbook of Expectations when they sign The Understanding each fall. The Honor Ceremony, held at the beginning of the School year, explains the Honor Code to new students and heightens awareness for returning students.

Non-Discrimination Policy

The school provides students of any race, religion, color, sexual orientation, national origin, and ethnic origin with all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, sexual orientation, national origin, or ethnic origin in the administration of its educational policies, tuition assistance programs, athletic programs, and other school-administered programs.


Mary Caswell was ahead of her time. In 1888, then a young teacher from Maine, newly widowed and accompanied by her young daughter and niece, Caswell traveled across the country to relocate to California and start a new life. Within two months of her arrival in Los Angeles, Mrs. Caswell founded what would soon become Marlborough School, now the oldest independent girls' school in Southern California.

Over the century that followed, the school has grown and changed in many important ways. Today's student body is representative of the talent and diversity of greater Los Angeles, academic and athletic programs have expanded, college matriculation is highly competitive and distinguished, and campus facilities have kept pace with the educational innovation taking place inside the classroom.



1889 – Marlborough School, originally called St. Margaret's School for Girls, is founded by Mary Caswell.

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.

1890 – Marlborough moves to a new location at the corner of 23rd and Scarff Streets.

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."

1924 – Miss Ada Blake becomes the second Principal of Marlborough School.

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.

1942 – Miss Ada Blake is succeeded as Principal by Georgia Caswell Overton, daughter of Mary Caswell.

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.

1948 – Mrs. Helen Mitchell becomes Principal, focuses on preparing Marlborough graduates for college.

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.

1958 – Helen and Kenneth Mitchell purchase Marlborough School.

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.

1962 - Marlborough ushers in a new era as a non-profit foundation with its own Board of Trustees.

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.

1968 – The “new” School is completed, and two years later, Robert Chumbook (1970-1990) becomes Headmaster.

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.

1989 - Barbara Wagner joins Marlborough School.

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.

2014 – Marlborough Celebrates 125 Years

Marlborough celebrates its quasquicentennial with historical remembrances in the curriculum and in publications, as well as with a "Birthday Bash" celebration on campus.

2015 – The Arden Project breaks ground as the final phase of a campus expansion envisioned in the 1960s.

With the Arden Project, adjacent houses owned by the School are razed and the campus expanded to include a new garden, a full-size, multipurpose field, expanded tennis courts, the Caryll Mudd Sprague aquatics center, the Seaver Pool, a fitness and wellness facility, and additional surface parking. This project completes the current Master Plan for the School and doubles the size of the original campus. For more information, photos, and video, please visit

2015 – Dr. Priscilla G. Sands becomes Head of School

Dr. Sands joined Marlborough in 2015 from the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, where she served as President since 2011. Dr. Sands began her independent school career teaching drama and English at her alma mater, the prestigious Agnes Irwin School in Philadelphia, where she rose quickly through the ranks, overseeing the community service program, serving as Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, and eventually being named Assistant Head of School. In 1996, Sands was tapped to lead another highly respected girls’ school in Philadelphia, Springside School, and in 2011, when Springside merged with the all-boys Chestnut Hill Academy, the new Board appointed Sands President of the combined institution, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.

More information about Dr. Sands:

Marlborough Announces Next Head of School

The Board of Trustees and the Head of School Search Committee are delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. Priscilla G. Sands as Marlborough’s next Head of School.

Dr. Sands joins Marlborough from the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, where she has served as President since 2011. Dr. Sands began her independent school career teaching drama and English at her alma mater, the prestigious Agnes Irwin School in Philadelphia, where she rose quickly through the ranks, overseeing the community service program, serving as Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, and eventually being named Assistant Head of School. In 1996, Sands was tapped to lead another highly respected girls’ school in Philadelphia, Springside School, and in 2011, when Springside merged with the all-boys Chestnut Hill Academy, the new Board appointed Sands President of the combined institution, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.

Among many other notable accomplishments, during Dr. Sands’s 19-year tenure at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy enrollment grew 63%; a fully transformed and unified campus was unveiled; extensive sustainability initiatives earned the school “Green Ribbon” status from the U.S. Department of Education; and, most recently, she established the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, a standout program that enhances the school’s core curriculum and has garnered national attention.

“On behalf of the entire Marlborough Board of Trustees, I am delighted to welcome Dr. Sands and her family into our school community,” said Christine Ewell, President of the Board of Trustees for Marlborough School. “Her strong commitment to the education of girls, deep understanding of the changing landscape of 21st century education, and thorough knowledge of the expectations of highly selective colleges and universities make Dr. Sands an ideal fit for Marlborough.”

“I am honored and excited to have been chosen as the next leader of Marlborough,” said Dr. Priscilla Sands. “As a strong believer in the power of all-girls education, I look forward to working with the talented and dedicated administration, faculty, and staff to further the important mission of the School.”