Westminster School is a small, private, highly selective boarding and day school located in Simsbury, Connecticut.


Westminster School (Connecticut) - Centennial Performing Arts Center, Westminster School | GUND ...

Westminster School was founded by William Lee Cushing in 1888 as a boys' school in Dobbs Ferry, New York. The school celebrated its 125th anniversary in the 2012-2013 school year.

In 1900, as enrollment increased, Cushing moved the school to its current location in Simsbury, Connecticut. The land had been donated through a trustee of the school, Arthur M. Dodge, a member of an old Hartford family. Williams Hill, the new site, offered more than 230 acres (0.93 km2) with commanding views of the Farmington River. It also provided train service for students to New York and Boston, a boon to families from those areas.

A graduate of Yale University and a firm believer in the traditional form of English boarding school education, Cushing was strongly influenced by the Reverend Edward Thring, headmaster of Uppingham School in England.

In the early 1970s, Westminster School opened its doors to day students, and in 1971, girls were admitted to the school (first as day students and then, in 1977, as boarding students). Like many boarding schools, Westminster faced difficult times in the 1970s as it competed for a shrinking pool of boarding students. When Donald Werner retired in 1993, after serving as Headmaster for 21 years, he left a thriving school for successor Graham Cole. During the Cole years, enrollment for the school grew from 340 to 385 students, with 88 faculty, and the school's endowment grew from $19.4 million to $77 million. Significant building projects undertaken included:

  • Edge House. Designed by Westminster alumnus Graham Gund and built in 1996, Edge House houses 33 students and three faculty families.
  • Kohn Squash Pavilion. Completed in the Spring of 2000, The Squash Pavilion contains eight squash courts around a stepped viewing area with natural light from skylights above. The team rooms, locker rooms, and other support spaces are located on a second floor mezzanine overlooking the viewing area and squash courts below.
  • Sherwin Health & Academic Center. Completed in 2003, the Sherwin Health & Athletic Center, the Hibbard Aquatic Center and the Health & Counseling Center is a multipurpose building that further reinforces the connection between the athletic fields, residential precinct and academic core. The Aquatic Center contains a competition pool with support facilities and a viewing area on the mezzanine floor.
  • Armour Academic Center. This 85,000-square-foot Center houses the Humanities, Math and Science departments, library, and administration. Building features include a centrally located atrium, two-story library, classrooms and laboratories, 120-seat lecture hall, planetarium, faculty and administrative offices, and a variety of lounge spaces.

With Cole's retirement in 2010, Westminster appointed William V.N. Philip as its eighth Headmaster. Philip ascended to the top job after a 26-year career at Westminster as a teacher, coach, dormitory parent, college counselor, and most recently Associate and Assistant Headmaster.

Faculty and staff


  • William Lee Cushing (1888â€"1920), first headmaster and school founder
  • Lemuel Gardner Pettee (1920â€"1922), school faculty member for over 50 years and namesake of one of the school's gymnasiums
  • Raymond McOrmond (1922â€"1936), namesake of a faculty home
  • Arthur Milliken (1936â€"1956), namesake of one of the school's dorms
  • Francis Keyes (1956â€"1970), namesake of the Admission and Development building
  • Donald H. Werner (1970â€"1993), namesake of the Centennial Center, home to most of the arts on campus
  • W. Graham Cole, Jr. (1993â€"2010), namesake of the school's library
  • William V.N. Philip (2010 -)

Student activities


From the playing fields to the stage, Westminster students are active participants in an afternoon program that brings balance, enjoyment and competition to their lives. All Westminster students participate in an afternoon program during each term of the school year. The emphasis is on athletics; however, the afternoon commitment can include drama, stagecraft, dance, community service or another independent study project. The afternoon program is designed to encourage Westminster core values: community, character, balance and involvement. Students have the opportunity to compete, to be physically active, to perform, to hone their skills or to try something new.

Westminster's sports and recreation facilities include 35 acres of playing fields, 14 tennis courts, a 400-meter synthetic track, eight international squash courts, an indoor hockey rink, a new lighted synthetic turf field, baseball and softball fields, basketball courts and a state-of-the-art aquatic center that includes an eight-lane, 25-yard swimming and diving pool, a well-equipped fitness room and our professionally staffed health center.

Many students' favorite tradition, dating as far back as the 1920s, is stickball, a game in which teams made up of dormitory floors and day student teams compete in a baseball-like game on the quad and athletic fields in late spring. Each floor makes its own bat, usually a hockey or lacrosse stick that has been cut, or a wooden dowel of a large diameter. Generally the stickball "season" will culminate in a single-elimination tournament to crown the Hill Stickball champion.


Theater has always been an integral part of the Westminster experience, dating back to when Headmaster Cushing's son wrote and directed productions each winter before he launched a very successful career as a Broadway producer. The theater program at Westminster offers students the opportunity to experience all aspects of theatrical performance and production in the theoretical setting of the classroom and the practical arena of department productions.

Each year the theater program stages three productions in the Werner Centennial Theater: one dramatic production spanning the varied genre of Western theater, a musical production, and the student-directed performances, which offer advanced students the opportunity to direct. Each of these productions offers many opportunities for student involvement and leadership, both on stage and backstage.

As Westminster prepared to mark its centennial, the school decided to address its demand for expanded and technically improved dance, music and theater facilities. Sit u at ed in a prominent location at the northeastern corner of the campus’s central quadrangle, Centennial Center consciously brings the performing arts into the physical and academic mainstream of campus life. The 30,000 square-foot building includes a two-story lobby, a 400-seat, multiuse Shakespearian-style theater, music and dance studios and rehearsal room, dressing rooms, a scene shop/laboratory and other production support spaces. Particular to the “courtyard” theater form, all 400 seats are within 40 feet of the front of the stage, and there is built-in flexibility for both audience size and style of production. As a result, the theater provides an exhilarating yet intimate experience for audience and performer alike.

Campus Facilities

Westminster School (Connecticut) - Hibbard Aquatic Center, Sherwin Health & Athletic Center and Kohn ...


  • Cushing Hall - 1900 (originally named Main Building)
  • Memorial Hall - 1928 (remodeled in 1998)
  • Squibb House - 2013
  • Gund House - 2013
  • Milliken House - 1973
  • Edge House - 1996

Academic / Arts Facilities

  • Hamilton Art Studios (houses studio art and architecture classrooms)
  • Werner Centennial Center & Theater - 1989 (houses theater, dance studios, band/music rooms, practice rooms, and scene and prop shops)
  • Armour Academic Center - 2009

Athletic Facilities

  • Pettee Gymnasium
  • Jackson Hockey Rink
  • Hovey Field - 2012
  • Kohn Squash Pavilion - 2001
  • Sherwin Health and Aquatic Center - 2005
  • Michelini Field and Brooks Family Track
  • Osborn Baseball Field
  • Wilbraham Field, Harrison Field, Sawyer Field, and other multi-purpose sports fields
  • Gow and Haynes Tennis Courts

Other On-Campus Facilities

  • Andrews Memorial Chapel - 1961
  • Timken Student Center
  • Barnes-Bristow Observatory

Former Buildings

  • Hay Chapel - 1909-1961
  • East Cottage - unknown-2008
  • Baxter Academic Center - 1964-2009
  • Original Squibb House - demolished 2013
  • Andrews Dormitory - demolished 2013


Notable alumni include:

  • Lake Bell '97, actress
  • Eric Boguniecki, NHL Hockey player
  • Ethan Brooks '91, NFL Football player
  • Joy Bryant '92, actress
  • Tommy Cross '08, Boston Bruins 2nd round draft pick
  • David Doubilet '65, National Geographic photographer
  • Jack Du Brul, writer
  • Andrew Firestone, The Bachelor TV series
  • Peter Fonda, actor
  • Bryan Nash Gill, '80, artist
  • Graham Gund '59, architect
  • Alec Musser, actor
  • Ben Smith '06, NHL Hockey player
  • CAPT George N. Thompson '72, Former Commanding Officer/Leader at United States Navy Band
  • John V. Tunney '52, former United States Senator and Representative from the state of California
  • Wellesley Wild '90, writer and executive producer of Family Guy


  • A seventh season episode (713) of the MTV show Made was filmed over three June days on Westminster's campus. It was the episode where the spoiled girl, Katrina, tried to become a soccer player.
  • In the 1990s the Centennial Theatre Festival was held in the summer on campus.
  • Cole Porter attended many early Westminster dramatic productions at Simsbury's Casino.
  • Before becoming coed, Westminster performed their dramatic productions with girls from The Ethel Walker School, including Oscar-nominated actress Sigourney Weaver.


Further reading

  • Rinker Buck. Enrollment Shift Could Burden Farmington Valley Towns: From Private to Public Schools. Hartford Courant, 25 Mar 2009.
  • The True Life: Westminster School 1989-2013 by Charles E. Griffith III
  • Westminster School Viewbook: A Guide to Westminster School

External links

  • Westminster School

  1. ^ Griffith, Charles E. Griffith III. "The True Life". Issuu.com. Westminster School. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  2. ^ "Westminster School Viewbook". Issuu.com. Westminster School. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 

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