Sidwell Friends School Nurtures Love Of Learning: “Let The Light Shine Out From All”

Sidwell Friends School is known as “the Harvard of Washington’s private schools.” The Obamas have decided to send their daughters, Sasha and Malia, to Sidwell. Chelsea Clinton and Al Gore III (the former Vice President’s son) graduated from the school. Joe Biden’s grandchildren are current students. President Nixon’s daughter attended it.

Tuition at Sidwell is $28,442 per year in the lower school, and $29,442 in the middle school. There are just over 1,000 students.

Thomas Sidwell

Thomas Sidwell

The school this year celebrated its 125th year. It was started in 1883 by a 24 year old Quaker named Thomas Sidwell. In its first class, there were eighteen students.

Thomas chose a great motto for the school: Eluceat Omnibus Lux, meaning, “Let the light shine out from all.” The motto alludes to the Quaker concept of inner light. And the idea of bringing out this inner light in its students has been a consistent part of the school’s philosophy.

There must be a sweet story that binds together the first fifty years of the school. In 1885, Thomas hired a beautiful recent Vassar grad,Frances Haldeman, to teach Greek, English and history. Romance bloomed and in 1887 Thomas and Francis were married.

For the next fifty years, Sidwell School became a team effort of Thomas and Francis. They literally devoted their lives to teaching, administrating and building Sidwell School. Francis passed away in 1934 and Thomas continued at the school until his death in 1936.

Francis  Haldeman Sidwell

Francis Haldeman Sidwell

The school’s web-site says, “We are guided by the Quaker belief in ‘That of God’ in each person. We seek academically talented students of diverse cultural, racial, religious and economic backgrounds. We offer these students a rich and rigorous interdisciplinary curriculum designed to stimulate creative inquiry, intellectual achievement and independent thinking in a world increasingly without borders. We encourage these students to test themselves in athletic competition and to give expression to their artistic abilities. We draw strength from silence—and from the power of individual and collective reflection. We cultivate in all members of our community high personal expectations and integrity, respect for consensus, and an understanding of how diversity enriches us, why stewardship of the natural world matters and why service to others enhances life. Above all, we seek to be a school that nurtures a genuine love of learning and teaches students ‘to let their lives speak.’”

Mr. Sidwell with one of his early classes

Mr. Sidwell with one of his early classes


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