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Western Reserve Academy

Western Reserve Academy
Lux et Veritas
Light and Truth
Hudson, Ohio
Type Private Boarding and Day
Established 1826
Head of School Christopher Burner
Faculty approx. 69[1]
Enrollment approx. 370[1]
Average class size 12[1]
Student to teacher ratio 6:1[1]
Color(s) Hunter Green and White
Athletics 23 interscholastic[2]
Team name Pioneer
Endowment $113 million
Western Reserve Academy
Location Roughly bounded by Aurora St. and both sides of Oviatt, High, Hudson, Ohio
Area 58 acres (23 ha)
Architectural style Greek Revival, Federal
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 75001539[3]
Added to NRHP June 30, 1975

Western Reserve Academy (WRA or simply Reserve) is a private, mid-sized, coeducational boarding and day college preparatory school located in Hudson, Ohio. A boarding school, Western Reserve Academy is largely a residential campus, with 280 of 400 students living on campus and the remainder attending the day program as day students.[1] In that population, students matriculated from 21 states and 15 countries. 87% of the faculty hold advanced degrees. Approximately 90% of the faculty members reside on campus in either faculty homes or dormitory apartments. Reserve also participates in an annual exchange program with the Caterham School in Surrey, England.


  • History 1
  • Traditions 2
    • Saturday Classes 2.1
    • Dress Code 2.2
  • Chapel and Loomis Observatory 3
  • Ong Library 4
  • Boarding 5
  • The Arts 6
    • Theater 6.1
    • Music program 6.2
  • Clubs and activities 7
  • Athletics 8
  • Notable alumni 9
    • Politics, government and law 9.1
    • Literature and journalism 9.2
    • Arts and entertainment 9.3
    • Business 9.4
    • Miscellaneous 9.5
  • Notable faculty 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12


The gates at Chapel Street
The chapel

Western Reserve Academy was established on February 7, 1826 as the Western Reserve College and Preparatory School in Hudson, Ohio, on a 190-acre (768,930 m²) plot of land set aside via charter by the Ohio legislature.[4] The institution’s name comes from the area in which it was built, the Connecticut Western Reserve, as it was the first of its kind in Northern Ohio. The settlers from Connecticut wanted to build a school of the same caliber as Yale University and the same design, with brick buildings and the same motto, Lux Et Veritas. People called it “the Yale of the West.”[5] The first class of the school included eleven students at the college level and eight at the preparatory level.[6] In 1882, the college section moved north to Cleveland, Ohio, and became Western Reserve University, later merging with the Case Institute of Technology to become Case Western Reserve University. Reserve is the 27th oldest preparatory boarding school in the United States, and the oldest outside of the Northeast.[7]

Western Reserve Academy remained open for another twenty-one years, until 1903, when it was forced to close due to financial problems. In 1916, however, the school reopened due to the graces of benefactor James Ellsworth, a former student and Hudson resident who had returned after making millions of dollars in the coal industry. The "Ellsworth Era" was marked by significant construction, namely Seymour Hall (the newly appointed academic building), the Bicknell Gymnasium, and Ellsworth Hall, a dormitory and dining hall. In 1922, Western Reserve Academy became an all-boys' institution, staying this way for fifty years, until 1972, when girls were introduced into the junior class, once again becoming a co-ed institution.

The historic "Brick Row"

In the late 1990s and into the early 21st century, under the direction of Headmaster Dr. Henry "Skip" Flanagan, Western Reserve Academy again underwent a major construction period, eclipsing even the growth of the "Ellsworth Era." During this time the following projects were completed:

  • Renovation of Nathan P. Seymour Guest House (1998)
  • Expansion/construction of the Metcalf Center (1999)
  • Construction of the John D. Ong Library (2000)
  • Construction of Long House Dormitory (2000)
  • Renovation of Wilson Science Hall (2001)
  • Renovation of Wood House (2000–2002)
  • Construction and expansion of athletic facilities, including the Murdough Athletic Center (2001–2004)
  • Renovation of Bicknell Gymnasium into Bicknell House (2004)

In 2001, Western Reserve Academy was recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top boarding schools in the country.[8]


Western Reserve Academy is rife with tradition. One of the most popular is Vespers, a Christmas Concert and sit down meal right before students leave for winter break. Another is TGIF, a study break each Friday where much of the student body descends into "The Green Key", a lounge beneath the dining hall, to snack and dance and socialize before the weekend. Like TGIF, some traditions are weekly. For instance, each Wednesday, the entire faculty and student body has a sit down lunch. The meal is served family style and students sit with their academic advisors in an intimate setting. Another frequent tradition is the victory bell. Almost lost after the construction of the Murdough Athletic Center, this tradition was rekindled when the bell was reinstalled in 2012. After each Reserve athletic victory, the players on the winning team take turns ringing the bell loud enough for the entire campus to hear.

Finally, the last tradition Reserve students experience, Commencement is set just outside the historic chapel. The graduating men wear Reserve green and white pants while the women wear white dresses. They are led through campus by bagpipers and followed by the faculty. As each student is called up, they receive not only their diploma but also the Alumni tie (for men) or the Alumni pin (for women). The graduating class quickly dons their new attire and gather around the flagpole, cigars in hand, for one last rendition of the Alma Mater, "Dear Old Reserve".

Saturday Classes

For much of Reserve's history, Saturday classes were simply an extension of the week, albeit only a half day. In 2012, however, the school implemented a new system, called "Saturday Academy." This changed the normal 50 minute periods into one two and half hour block. Each class meets on a trimester basis; this, as well as the long blocks, allows the curriculum to expand to new types of classes, including "History of WRA," "Mock Trial" "Intro to Robotics," and "Engineering and Building for Change." This also allows for "Class Seminars," where an entire grade can come together, without missing regular classes, and prepare for College Applications, do community service, and "explore global issues".[9]

Dress Code

Western Reserve Academy is one of the few remaining boarding schools to enforce a strict dress code daily. Boys are required to wear coat and tie all week, with special "Reserve Green" (Consisting of a green jacket with the Academy crest and a green striped tie) mandatory on Monday and Friday. Likewise, girls on "Reserve Green" days are also required to wear the green blazer and a green kilt. On Saturday Academy, dress is relaxed, but a collared shirt is still mandatory.

Chapel and Loomis Observatory

Western Reserve’s campus houses many old buildings, but two in particular stand out: the Loomis Observatory and the Chapel, both listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The chapel, originally built in 1836, is still used today for Morning Meeting twice weekly. In addition, marriages, concerts, and gatherings take place inside the chapel, and the Commencement ceremony at the end of the year takes place outside of the chapel. Even though the school itself is non denominational, the chapel has a cross hanging front and center, which used to hang in the Spanish monastery Santa Maria de La Rabida (La Rábida Friary), and it is said that before Christopher Columbus voyaged to the New World, he prayed before that very cross.

The Loomis Observatory, which was originally named The Observatory, was built in 1838. It was the third observatory built in the country, and is currently the second oldest observatory in the United States, only behind the Hopkins Observatory at Williams College. The Hudson building was named for astronomer Elias Loomis. Sitting close to the edge of the campus near the music building, Hayden Hall, this three-room observatory still stands. The building itself is closed from public view, as well as the telescope housed in the observatory, which is no longer used (in favor of a newer and more secluded observatory on the Cross Country Hill).[10]

Ong Library

Named after Ambassador John D. Ong, the Ong Library is a 21,000 sq, ft. building located on the south end of campus. It contains nearly 23,000 books, 3,000 DVDs and CDs, as well as 110 Periodicals. Open to students all day up through study hours, the library features two computer labs and a dozen group study rooms. The basement also contains the Western Reserve Academy Archives Collection, which follows the 200-year-old history of both the school and the town. The library is the focal point of the Senior Seminar class, which is a collegiate type writing seminar where each senior must research and write on a topic of their choosing.[11]


A typical Reserve male dorm room in the old Athenaeum

There are nine dormitories, in which over 200 boarding students reside during the school year. The newest is Bicknell House and the oldest is North Hall, erected in 1838. Each dorm houses students in either a single, double, triple, or quad, with community bathrooms. Each dorm has both a House Master as well as other Faculty-Masters living in connected apartments. Each school night there are study hours and lights out (relaxed for upperclassmen). Wifi and wired ethernet connections are available in every room. Each dorm also has at least one common room with a television, community fridge and microwave and couches for relaxation. Around thirty outstanding students can become "Prefects" their Junior and Senior years; these students are then tasked with helping manage each dorm, much like Resident Assistants in college.

Boys' dormitories

  • North Hall
  • Wood House
  • Bicknell House
  • Long House
  • Hobart House
  • Carroll Cutler House

Girls' dormitories

  • Cartwright Hall (Garden)
  • Ellsworth Hall (2nd Floor)
  • Ellsworth Hall (3rd Floor)
  • The Athenaeum (The A)

The Arts

Reserve offers over 20 different classes catering to students interested in the arts. Courses are available through the school's music, dance, theater, and visual arts programs. There are both 2D and 3D art rooms available at all times to students, as well as a Graphic Design computer lab and a workshop for Woodworking. The majority of the fine arts take place in the Knight Fine Arts Center (KFAC), with the music program headquartered in Hayden Hall. KFAC contains several classrooms, a theater, a dance studio, and a dark room for film developing. The Moos Gallery, also in KFAC, features both students work as well as exhibits from established and nationally recognized artists.


The theater department produces three plays each year, usually a musical, drama, and comedy. Performances in the recent past have included Les Misérables, Twelfth Night, You Can't Take It With You, Urinetown, and Inherit the Wind. Any WRA student can audition for any play. Additionally, the Academy supports students who wish to put on small performances of their own, with a student performance of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) being a recent example of this flexibility. The theater itself, located within the Knight Fine Arts Center, features an orchestra pit and a balcony, as well as modern lighting and sound systems.

Music program

Music students perform in instrumental and vocal groups, compete and perform locally and internationally and study music theory and history. Historic Hayden Hall houses the music department and features six practice rooms, two large rehearsal rooms, a recital room, music classrooms, five Holtkamp pipe organ. In recent years, ensembles from Reserve have traveled to Austria, Germany, The Czech Republic, China, Italy, and Spain, performing in various places around those countries.

The Academy Choir is a traditional mixed choir (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) that performs music from a variety of styles and time periods in both large and small group settings. While emphasis is placed on developing vocal skills and independent music reading, the primary focus of the group is performance.

Symphonic Winds (Band) encompasses students that play brass, woodwind and percussion. This performing ensemble focuses on building correct playing technique and comprehension of musical notation and style with an emphasis on performance. The band studies standard concert band repertoire from composers as Clare Grundman, James Curnow, and Robert W. Smith . Band members will also have the opportunity to participate in woodwind choir, brass choir, and percussion ensemble. A marching winter wind ensemble will be take the floor in 2016.

The Academy String Orchestra brings together students who play violin, viola, cello and bass . The string orchestra focuses on building correct playing technique and and comprehension of musical notation and style with an emphasis on performance. The ensemble studies string orchestra masterworks and standard repertoire by J.S. Bach, Mozart, and Haydn. Orchestra students will also have the opportunity to perform in chamber music settings. New in 2015 is the Electric String Orchestra.

Clubs and activities

Reserve offers a wide variety of extracurricular organizations geared to meet interests, foster talent, and broaden horizons. Some of the most notable clubs include Model UN, Junior Statesmen of America (JSA), Reserve Ethically Advancing Community Health (REACH), Astronomy Club, Gay-Straight Alliance[12] and Students for Intercultural Understanding (SICU).[12] The school's Latin Club functions as a local chapter of both the Ohio Junior Classical League (OJCL)[13] and National Junior Classical League (NJCL).[14]

Among the most popular clubs are the many publications. The Reserve Record, the longest running newspaper in Hudson, is written, edited, formatted and distributed by Western Reserve Academy students monthly. Viewpoints is a non-fiction yearly magazine which publishes not only essays by all students, but also Senior speeches given throughout the previous year and an end of year survey which covers internal and external issues. BUFO is a fiction literary magazine which publishes poem, short stories, and drawings by talented students. Finally, the yearbook, Hardscrabble, is rigorously worked on all year and is published in full color each May.


Traditionally, a rivalry with University School has existed, with the football games being the highlight of each schools season throughout the 20th century starting with the first 1895 meeting.[15] Football has returned to success on the gridiron under the leadership of Jeff Hildebrand. Other notable rivalries include The Kiski School, Linsly and Hawken School.

The school offers a wide variety of sports, including soccer, football, golf, cross country, field hockey, volleyball, swimming and diving, basketball, wrestling, riflery, ice hockey, baseball, softball, track and field, tennis, and lacrosse.

Western Reserve Academy has gained a reputation as one of the top high school lacrosse teams in the United States. In 2006 and 2009, WRA won the Midwest Scholastic Lacrosse Championship and respectively finished ranked 27th and 28th nationally according to Laxpower. Only three different teams have won the Midwest Championships since 1992; Brother Rice High School (Michigan), Western Reserve Academy and Upper Arlington High School. Inside Lacrosse ranked the 2009 WRA lacrosse team number one in the Midwest. However, in recent years, lack of athletic recruiting (especially from Canada) has caused a downturn in the Lacrosse program. Still a powerhouse in Greater Cleveland, WRA has recently hired a new coach and hopes to rise again in the rankings.

The track and cross-country teams under Frank Longstreth, also the Latin department head, achieved extraordinary success from the 1940s through the 1980s, winning many Interstate League championships, with the cross country team at one time boasting a streak of 179-1. In honor of his achievements, the current track and the Reserve hosted track meet, the Longstreth Relays, are named after him.

In 2012, both the girls and boys soccer teams achieved a state ranking. The boys experienced an undefeated season, while the girls, both JV and Varsity, broke the record for most wins in a season. They boys ended up tying top Ohio Div. 1 team St. Ignatius High School and finishing the year atop the Ohio Div. 3 rankings.

Notable alumni

The following represents an incomplete list of renowned graduates of the school. Individuals with a † next to their name were enrolled in either or both institutions before Western Reserve College moved from the Hudson campus to Cleveland in 1882 and became Western Reserve University. As such, the degree to which they were affiliated with both institutions may vary. Individuals with a * next to their name did not complete their studies.

Politics, government and law

Literature and journalism

Arts and entertainment



Notable faculty


  1. ^ a b c d e Western Reserve Academy - Visitors - WRA at a Glance Retrieved January 5, 2009.
  2. ^ Western Reserve Academy - Athletics - Statement of Principles Retrieved January 5, 2009.
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External links

  • Western Reserve Academy Website
  • WRA At A Glance
  • WRA Admissions Information

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