2012 James Madison Award

St. Christopher's School

Davis Wrinkle '86, William McGuire '89, John Green '98, Charles Stillwell, James Boyd '58, President Howard, Billy Abbott '78,
Rives Hardy '78, Craig Chewning '00, Dr. David Marion


This year the Wilson Center presented a James Madison Public Service Award to a fellow institution.  St. Christopher's School is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The historical roots of St. Christopher School date to September 25, 1911 when a young Episcopal minister, the Rev. Dr. Churchill Gibson Chamberlayne, started The Chamberlayne School for Boys. The school opened in a house on Grove Avenue, close to the Virginia Museum, with 16 boys and two teachers, including the Headmaster, Dr. Chamberlayne.  In 1914, the school moved to its present Westhampton campus, and in 1924, was renamed St. Christopher's School.

The school now has 955 students, 157 faculty members, and encompasses 60 acres.  Its alumni include six Rhodes Scholars, well-known authors such as Tom Wolfe '47, professional artists and athletes, prize-winning journalists, composers, architects, physicians, judges, ministers, and engineers. During its first century, there have been six headmasters, including two Hampden-Sydney graduates, Robert W. Bugg (HSC '20) and George J. McVey (HSC '61).  The current headmaster, Charles M. Stillwell is a 1985 graduate of Hampden- Sydney's parent institution, Princeton University. During its first 50 years, so many of the school's teachers were Hampden-Sydney graduates,  it was rumored that the school colors were changed from red and gray to Hampden-Sydney's colors of garnet and gray. (They are now back to red and grey.)

The influence of Dr. Chamberlayne, educator, Episcopal priest, and historian, has prevailed for a century.  He believed in a classic liberal arts education, academic rigor, athletics, appreciation of the arts, service, and development of character and integrity-an education that is captured by the phrase, "educating the whole boy."

Dr. Chamberlayne started three important initiatives that served as critical components of the school's focus on leadership development throughout the first century- the Honor System, the Literary Societies, and the Missionary Society.  These reflected his belief in the key roles that moral courage, service to others, and communication play in the development of ethical and inspirational leaders.

The Honor Code is at St. Christopher's School is at the heart of the school's mission to develop in each student a lifelong commitment to honor, personal responsibility, trust, and moral courage.  The lifelong impact of St. Christopher's honor code was dramatized in a recent incident that took place on our own campus.  Hampden-Sydney professor Evan Davis, a graduate of St. Christopher's, handed back a paper to a freshman and told him that they had gone to the same high school.  "How did you know where I went to high school?" the student asked.  "It was easy," said Davis.  "Everyone else had accurately written the Hampden-Sydney honor pledge which begins, 'On my honor I have neither given nor received any help.'" The student was the only one to add St. Christopher's phrase, "as a gentleman."

The Second initiative, the Missionary Society was formed to support the school's ongoing efforts to help others in need.  In recent decades, the scope of the Missionary Society and its commitment to community service has evolved to include not only those in need in our country, but also in countries throughout the world.

The Literary Societies were established so that all students would develop essential skills in public speaking. From the earliest grades on, students compete with each other in recitations and rhetoric that reflect the school's emphasis on inspirational communication and appreciation for beautiful language.

Students and teachers from Richmond and the surrounding counties as well as adults from all over the East Coast have attended St. Christopher's Symposiums to hear such speakers as Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, General Colin Powell, psychiatrist and author Dr. Edward Hallowell, pediatric surgeon Dr. Ben Carson, and Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind mountain climber in history to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. 

In January 2012, the School's newest building, The Luck Leadership Center was opened to advance the School's commitment to ensuring that every boy has the character, the wisdom, and the life skills to make a positive difference. The first event to be held there involved 600-plus Middle and Upper School students, faculty and staff, and alumni veterans from World War II through the current Afghanistan Conflict. They packed 170 Hero Boxes with items they had collected during the previous few weeks.  These boxes were mailed to our troops overseas. Dr. Chamberlayne definitely would have approved.