More than 100 years of ambitious, creative education

In 1907, Polytechnic School became the first nonprofit, independent school in Southern California, enrolling 106 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. True to its name and to the educational philosophy of the day, Poly’s curriculum emphasized both academics and manual arts—from English and math, to sewing and woodworking.

The original school buildings were designed by renowned architect Myron Hunt and feature his revolutionary “open air” school design with residential-scale classrooms and adjacent courtyards and playgrounds. These buildings continue to form the heart of the Lower and Middle School campus more than a century later.

Fifty years after the school’s founding, the decision was made to expand the educational program through the 12th grade. Poly’s Upper School campus opened in 1959, and in 1962, the first senior class graduated.

Today, Poly remains an ambitious, forward-thinking school community—one devoted not only to scholarship but also to the creative arts, the camaraderie of team sports, the joy of service to others, and the welcoming spirit of friendship—here on our historic campus and around the world.

Poly principals and heads

List of 11 items.

  • Virginia Pease Hunt, Principal (1907-1915)

    "The individual, not the class, is the unit of the teacher's interest, and the development of the child's power to think and to do, rather than the following of a certain course of instruction, is the direct aim of every teacher and the excuse for every lesson."
  • Grace Henley, Principal (1915-1946)

    "It pleases us to have so rich a start and so bright an outlook after the first 20 years endeavor ... We have made great gains in our understanding of the child, physically and mentally."
  • Katherine Lee, Principal (1946-1950)

    Gregarious individualist who is well known for transforming Gosney Hall from a study hall into an auditorium by having the fixed desks removed.
  • Appleton A. Mason, Jr., Principal (1950-1955)

    Remembered for his warm and friendly manner and his remarkable height; during his tenure, a building program culminated in the construction of the new primary classroom on the north campus.
  • Willis Stork, Headmaster (1955-1976)

    Under the direction of Willis Stork, the achievements of Poly's graduates in colleges and universities throughout the country established the school's national reputation.
  • John R. Bergen, Headmaster (1976-1980)

    John Bergen brought to the school a deep and abiding commitment to excellence that has been expressed in a supportive, caring environment for students, an advocacy for faculty growth and development and the continual improvement of the curriculum.  
  • Alexander B. Babcock '48, Headmaster (1980-1998)

    Consummate educator, fundraiser, force on campus as illustrious student, president of the student body, teacher and all-encompassing head of Polytechnic School—all done with warmth and genuine savoir-faire.
  • Sarah L. Levine, Head of School (1998-2001)

    Sarah's tenure at Poly was characterized by a reinvigorated strategic plan and increased compensation for faculty.
  • Greg Feldmeth, Interim Headmaster (2001-2002)

    "We at Poly, no matter where on the developmental path we contact students, from the 5-year-olds in kindergarten through the 18-year-old seniors, need to keep focused on the wonderful and important opportunity we have to teach children and young people."
  • Deborah E. Reed, Head of School (2002-2014)

    "A school must be a place that nurtures and encourages students' dreams .... At the heart of every school is the relationship between the student and the teacher, and good teaching is at the heart of Polytechnic School. It is what I value."
  • John W. Bracker, Head of School (2014-present)

    "It is in excellent schools where students learn how to be brave in the face of disappointment, humble in the face of success, and fierce in the face of hypocrisy because the educational program is vivid, thoughtful, rigorous, and compelling."

Poly Milestones

1907 - Polytechnic School established as first nonprofit, independent school in Southern California; Virginia Pease Hunt appointed as school’s first principal
1910 - First scholarships offered, establishing one of Poly's earliest traditions
1915 - Grace Henley began her long tenure as principal
1917 - Poly Pet and Hobby Show debuted
1921 - Endowment fund created at Poly
1946 - Katharine Lee named as Poly’s third principal
1950 - Appleton A. Mason assumed leadership of school
1955 - Willis Stork appointed as Poly’s headmaster
1959 - Upper School incorporated into educational program
1960 - Varsity sports introduced at Poly
1962 - First senior class graduated
1971 - Poly Alumni Association established
1976 - John R. Bergen named as Poly’s sixth headmaster
1980 - Alexander B. “Mike” Babcock ’48 installed as seventh head of school; first issue of the Oak Tree Times is published by parent volunteers
1984 - Garland Theatre and Fine Arts Center created to support and expand fine and performing arts program
1988 - First issue of The Paw Print newspaper published by Upper School students
1990 - Skills Enrichment Program founded as a summer outreach program for public school students
1998 - Sarah L. Levine installed as head of school
2001 - Hixon Internship Program established as mentorship program for Pasadena Community College students pursuing a teaching career
2002 - Deborah E. Reed appointed as ninth head of school
2006 - Poly swimming pool completed
2007 - Poly Centennial celebrated, advancing school into its second century
2008 - The Next 100 Years campaign is launched to update and transform both the North and South Campuses
2011 - Construction complete on the new and renovated areas of the North Campus
2012 - Construction complete on new and renovated areas of the South Campus
2013 - Thousands of donors and volunteers celebrate successful completion of The Next 100 Years campaign
2014 - John W. Bracker appointed as 10th head of school
Polytechnic School | 1030 East California Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91106 | Phone 626.396.6300 | Fax 626.796.2249
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