Westminster School (Connecticut)

Westminster School

Virtute Et Numine
(Grit and Grace)
995 Hopmeadow St, Simsbury, CT 06070
Type Private, Boarding, Day
Established 1888
Headmaster William V. N. Philip
Faculty 86
Enrollment 390
Color(s) Black and Gold
Mascot The Martlet
Rival Avon Old Farms, Pomfret, Greenwich Academy
Website www.westminster-school.org

Westminster School is a small, private, highly selective boarding and day school located in Simsbury, Connecticut.[1]


Westminster Student Housing, Gund House
Westminster's Gund House, a student and faculty residence that builds upon Graham Gund's award-winning design of Westminster School’s Edge House Dormitory. The Tudor-style buildings are located directly on the main green and reinforce the campus' residential scale.

Westminster School was founded by William Lee Cushing in 1888 as a boys' school in Dobbs Ferry, New York. The school celebrated its 125th anniversary in the 2012-2013 school year.[2]

In 1900, as enrollment increased, Cushing moved the school to its current location in Simsbury, Connecticut. The land had been donated through a trustee of the school, Arthur M. Dodge, a member of an old Hartford family. Williams Hill, the new site, offered more than 230 acres (0.93 km2) with commanding views of the Farmington River. It also provided train service for students to New York and Boston, a boon to families from those areas.

A graduate of Yale University and a firm believer in the traditional form of English boarding school education, Cushing was strongly influenced by the Reverend Edward Thring, headmaster of Uppingham School in England.

In the early 1970s, Westminster School opened its doors to day students, and in 1971, girls were admitted to the school (first as day students and then, in 1977, as boarding students). Like many boarding schools, Westminster faced difficult times in the 1970s as it competed for a shrinking pool of boarding students. When Donald Werner retired in 1993, after serving as Headmaster for 21 years, he left a thriving school for successor Graham Cole. During the Cole years, enrollment for the school grew from 340 to 385 students, with 88 faculty, and the school's endowment grew from $19.4 million to $77 million. Significant building projects undertaken included:

With Cole's retirement in 2010, Westminster appointed William V.N. Philip as its eighth Headmaster. Philip ascended to the top job after a 26-year career at Westminster as a teacher, coach, dormitory parent, college counselor, and most recently Associate and Assistant Headmaster.[6]

Faculty and staff


Student activities


From the playing fields to the stage, Westminster students are active participants in an afternoon program that brings balance, enjoyment and competition to their lives. All Westminster students participate in an afternoon program during each term of the school year. The emphasis is on athletics; however, the afternoon commitment can include drama, stagecraft, dance, community service or another independent study project. The afternoon program is designed to encourage Westminster core values: community, character, balance and involvement. Students have the opportunity to compete, to be physically active, to perform, to hone their skills or to try something new.

Westminster Hockey players
Members of Westminster's Girls' Hockey team during a game at Jackson Rink.

Westminster's sports and recreation facilities include 35 acres of playing fields, 14 tennis courts, a 400-meter synthetic track, eight international squash courts, an indoor hockey rink, a new lighted synthetic turf field, baseball and softball fields, basketball courts and a state-of-the-art aquatic center that includes an eight-lane, 25-yard swimming and diving pool, a well-equipped fitness room and our professionally staffed health center.[10]

Westminster Boys Soccer
Westminster's Boys' Soccer team celebrates a home win over Taft School in their 2014 season.
Sport Season Boys/Girls Competitive
Cross Country Fall B/G Yes
Field Hockey Fall G Yes
Football Fall B Yes
Soccer Fall B/G Yes
Basketball Winter B/G Yes
Ice Hockey Winter B/G Yes
Squash Winter B/G Yes
Swimming and Diving Winter B/G Yes
Baseball Spring B Yes
Golf Spring B/G Yes
Lacrosse Spring B/G Yes
Softball Spring G Yes
Tennis Spring B/G Yes
Track and Field Spring B/G Yes

Many students' favorite tradition, dating as far back as the 1920s, is stickball, a game in which teams made up of dormitory floors and day student teams compete in a baseball-like game on the quad and athletic fields in late spring.[11] Each floor makes its own bat, usually a hockey or lacrosse stick that has been cut, or a wooden dowel of a large diameter. Generally the stickball "season" will culminate in a single-elimination tournament to crown the Hill Stickball champion.


Theater has always been an integral part of the Westminster experience, dating back to when Headmaster Cushing's son wrote and directed productions each winter before he launched a very successful career as a Broadway producer. The theater program at Westminster offers students the opportunity to experience all aspects of theatrical performance and production in the theoretical setting of the classroom and the practical arena of department productions.

Each year the theater program stages three productions in the Werner Centennial Theater: one dramatic production spanning the varied genre of Western theater, a musical production, and the student-directed performances, which offer advanced students the opportunity to direct. Each of these productions offers many opportunities for student involvement and leadership, both on stage and backstage.[12]

Westminster Dancers in WCC
Westminster dancers rehearse in the Werner Centennial Theater.

As Westminster prepared to mark its centennial, the school decided to address its demand for expanded and technically improved dance, music and theater facilities. Situated in a prominent location at the northeastern corner of the campus’s central quadrangle, Centennial Center consciously brings the performing arts into the physical and academic mainstream of campus life. The 30,000 square-foot building includes a two-story lobby, a 400-seat, multiuse Shakespearian-style theater, music and dance studios and rehearsal room, dressing rooms, a scene shop/laboratory and other production support spaces. Particular to the “courtyard” theater form, all 400 seats are within 40 feet of the front of the stage, and there is built-in flexibility for both audience size and style of production. As a result, the theater provides an exhilarating yet intimate experience for audience and performer alike.[13]

Campus Facilities


Academic / Arts Facilities

Athletic Facilities

Other On-Campus Facilities

Former Buildings


Notable alumni include:



  1. "Westminster School Profile | Simsbury, Connecticut (CT)". Boardingschoolreview.com. 2013-10-28. Retrieved 2013-11-17.
  2. "Simsbury's Westminster School Celebrates 125 Years" (Web article). The Hartford Courant. September 11, 2012.
  3. "Simsbury Prep School Gets Gift Of $27 Million" (Web article). The Hartford Courant. September 21, 1996.
  4. "Sherwin Health & Academic Center" Gund Partnership, Hibbard Aquatic Center, Sherwin Health & Athletic Center and Kohn Squash Pavilion
  5. "Armour Academic Center" Gund Partnership, Armour Academic Center, Westminster School
  6. 1 2 "Westminster School History". Westminster School website. Accessed 23 March 2012.
  7. Francis Keyes, a Headmaster at Westminster School, Dies. New York Times, Dec 13, 1981; p.54.
  8. Buck, Rinker. "The Westminster School Names New Headmaster". The Hartford Courant. Hartford Courant. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  9. "A Biography of Board Member William V.N. Philip". National Network of Schools in Partnership. National Network of Schools in Partnership. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  10. "Westminster Athletics". Westminster-school.org. Westminster School. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  11. Baron, Peter. "A Guided Tour of Westminster School". Admissions Quest. Admissions Quest. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  12. "Westminster School ~ Theater". Westminster-school.org. Retrieved 2013-11-17.
  13. "Centennial Performing Arts Center, Westminster School". Gund Partnership. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  14. Anderson, Grace. "Theatrical romance." Architectural Record 178.n9 (August 1990): 90(2).
  15. Fitts, John. "Avon's Ben Smith Brings Hockey's Famed Stanley Cup to Westminster School". Avon Patch. Patch. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  16. Archived August 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. Festival in Simsbury. New York Times, Jun 15, 2003; p.CT7.

Further reading

Coordinates: 41°53′13″N 72°47′48″W / 41.8869°N 72.7968°W / 41.8869; -72.7968

  1. Griffith, Charles E. Griffith III. "The True Life". Issuu.com. Westminster School. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  2. "Westminster School Viewbook". Issuu.com. Westminster School. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
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