Athletics has been part of Collegiate from the very beginning.
From the first issue, June 5, 1919, of The Collegiate Chronicle, athletics was a prominent feature; every reader and fan eager for the latest news.
The first Athletics column focused on basketball: “The girls were very enthusiastic about the sport and they showed good spirit in their work.” In a game played against the Virginia-Randolph Ellett team on the Y.W.C.A. field, “both teams made a splendid showing, but by excellent team work and snappy playing Collegiate was able to win by the score of 17 to 6.”
Not only was athletic competition valued, but Collegiate realized that school spirit was part of who we were and who we would continue to be. The Collegiate School Athletic Association was formed in January 1919, and legions of fans have cheered teams, from watching basketball on the roof of the Collegiate School for Girls on Monument Avenue to the green fields and courts of the Robins Campus.
This series, Go Cougars, will take a look at the athletic program, not a celebration of the trophy case but a look at what it has added to the lives of students and our school.
First up, Lacrosse.
The Collegiate School for Girls opened its doors to seventy-five students in September 1915. In a white-glove, traditional town like Richmond Virginia, the idea of educating young women for college when they couldn’t even vote was remarkable. But the school succeeded. For almost fifty years Collegiate stood in two stately three-story brick buildings at 1617 and 1619 Monument Avenue. In the early sixties the Collegiate School for Girls, following Collegiate Country Day and families to the suburbs, moved to a new campus west of the city and admitted the first class of boys.
When a school celebrates its 100th birthday, it’s time for cake and stories, stories celebrating beloved teachers.
And Helen Tanner is a beloved teacher.
In the summer of 2007 I was lucky enough to spend several happy hours with Helen, interviewing her and reminiscing about her years at Collegiate as a student and as a teacher. I took these recordings to a week-long course at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke, Making It Sing: An Audio Documentary Institute. Although I was the producer, Helen is really the one who made the stories sing. She is a splendid storyteller, and I invite you to enjoy her lively memories and photographs from the Torch.
In the fall of 2014, students and teachers (Allen Chamberlain, Elizabeth Cogar, and Ben Lamb) in the Upper School’s Senior Seminar: The School and the City had the unique opportunity to learn how Collegiate has transformed since 1915. We started our investigation by researching in the Julia Williams Archives and learning about school life on the Monument Avenue campus in downtown Richmond. After looking at yearbooks, fading photographs, and issues of the Chronicle, the school’s first publication, we knew it was time to visit the original site of the Collegiate School for Girls, the precursor of today’s Collegiate School.
We invited a former student of the Town School, Elizabeth Shewmake Johannessen ‘50 to join us. Her stories made the experience of school life on Monument Avenue come alive. Photos in these posts of the Town School as it is now were taken on our field trip and paired with historical photos of the Collegiate campus from the Archives. We’re celebrating the Centennial by looking at how far we’ve come since the establishment of the school and at how the lively spirit of those first students remains.
We started our exploration with map in hand, following the trail from the very first building that welcomed students on West Franklin Street, to Helen Baker’s 1919 home, to the Boarding Department (bet you didn’t know Collegiate used to have boarding students) and then to 1617 Monument Avenue, one of the two buildings that housed the school for almost 50 years.
Come join us and see what we discovered.
First stop 1133 West Franklin Street!