St. Stephen's School

St. Stephen’s stu­dents tend to be adven­ture­some and indi­vid­u­al­is­tic. This inde­pen­dent think­ing makes the col­lege coun­sel­ing process at St. Stephen’s an excit­ing jour­ney for all involved. Learn all about St. Stephen’s School here, or read the brief his­to­ry below.

Celebrating six decades of ser­vice, St. Stephen’s builds on tra­di­tion for the 21st Century.

One can only imag­ine the impres­sion the scene would have made on a wan­der­ing cedar chop­per or a fence-rid­ing cow­hand from near­by Davenport Ranch.

It was a bleak, win­try St. Stephen’s Day, Dec. 26, 1949, in the sparse­ly pop­u­lat­ed Hill Country west of the state cap­i­tal. A pil­grim car­a­van pulled up at a remote plateau, and from the cars issued a stream of ladies in calf-length coats and furs, gen­tle­men in suits and wool over­coats, and cler­gy in bright vest­ments.

That mem­o­rable after­noon the group wit­nessed a ground-break­ing cer­e­mo­ny in which Bishop John E. Hines, head­mas­ter William Brewster, Trustees, and oth­er par­tic­i­pants turned spade­fuls of rocky soil on a spot that would come to be known sim­ply as the “Hill.” Biting winds did not cool the enthu­si­asm of Hines, Brewster, the Trustees, their fam­i­lies, and oth­er ded­i­cat­ed folk, who saw their dream of an Episcopal school in Central Texas final­ly real­ized.

This is a hap­py day for all of us,” the Rev. Brewster said. “We promise to ded­i­cate our­selves to edu­ca­tion that con­cerns the whole per­son: body, mind and spir­it.”

Hines was also touched by the expe­ri­ence. He lat­er wrote in his diary: “St. Stephen’s Day. Broke ground for St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. The sun came out just as the ground was being turned … sym­bol­ic, we all hope of the warmth and light which a Christian school is des­tined to cre­ate for the whole Southwest.”

On Oct. 23, 1999, St. Stephen’s, a coed­u­ca­tion­al board­ing and day school, com­mem­o­rat­ed the 50th anniver­sary of its ground break­ing in a cer­e­mo­ny on cam­pus attend­ed by alum­ni, par­ents, Trustees, and oth­er friends. Although much has changed since its found­ing, the school remains true to its ori­gins.

400 ACRES AND A BISHOP

Following World War II, many Texas Episcopal fam­i­lies expressed inter­est in a top-qual­i­ty board­ing school clos­er to home. A ques­tion­naire sent to con­gre­ga­tions in 1947 showed 63 chil­dren attend­ing board­ing school out­side the dio­cese.

The Rt. Rev. John E. Hines, then Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of Texas, and lat­er Bishop of the Diocese and Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, launched a cam­paign to cre­ate an Episcopal board­ing school that would pro­vide a rig­or­ous aca­d­e­m­ic and moral edu­ca­tion for the chil­dren of fam­i­lies in towns and ranch­es across the state.

The school site 8 miles from Austin was cho­sen because of its prox­im­i­ty to the University of Texas and the seat of state gov­ern­ment, as well as its remote­ness from the cor­rup­tion of city life. A look at vin­tage pho­tos reveals the wilder­ness qual­i­ty of the sparse­ly pop­u­lat­ed Hill Country loca­tion in the ear­ly years.

When the founders pur­chased the 400-acre tract, they took on the dai­ly strug­gle of liv­ing in a no-frills rur­al set­ting. Their neigh­bors were goats, cat­tle, and a vari­ety of crit­ters. Water was pumped from a 1,017-foot well. The only tele­phone was a mobile unit in an old car. When incom­ing calls caused the horn to honk, some­one had to go out­side to the car to answer.

The school’s orig­i­nal build­ings blend­ed south­west­ern ranch and mid-cen­tu­ry mod­ernist design. The native stone chapel, unadorned save for a huge tim­ber cross hang­ing over the altar, exem­pli­fies the school’s archi­tec­tur­al esthet­ic, which is meant to merge the cam­pus with the nat­ur­al set­ting. The chapel, at the cen­ter of cam­pus, sym­bol­izes the place of Christian spir­i­tu­al­i­ty in the life of the St. Stephen’s com­mu­ni­ty.

The scenic Hill Country and its unique flo­ra and fau­na con­tin­ue to frame the dai­ly expe­ri­ence at St. Stephen’s. Although urban sprawl has brought sev­er­al neigh­bor­hoods to the perime­ter, the cam­pus still offers hun­dreds of acres with hike-and-bike trails, as well as access to streams and the Colorado River along the school’s west­ern bound­ary.