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School History

A historic photo of four students in front of an old car with a Mercersburg banner.
Our proud history and rich traditions date back to 1836. 

Marshall College moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1853, but the preparatory department of the college remained on its original site. It was chartered as Mercersburg College in 1865. In 1893, Mercersburg’s Board of Regents elected William Mann Irvine to lead the institution. Within months, Dr. Irvine renamed the school Mercersburg Academy and reorganized it as a college-preparatory school based on the Exeter model.

Dr. Irvine launched the new school in the fall of 1893 with 40 boys, four instructors, and four acres of leased ground. Mercersburg rapidly grew in size and stature, gaining regional and national recognition.

Through the Great Depression and World War II, the Academy prospered. In 1969, Mercersburg embraced coeducation, and the campus and the school’s offerings continued to grow, including new building projects that dominated the latter half of the 20th century.

Mercersburg Academy 125 Years book cover.

125 Years

To celebrate the conclusion of its 125th anniversary in 2018, the school produced a paperback retrospective titled Mercersburg Academy: 125 Years.

Heads of School

Quentin McDowell

Quentin was appointed Mercersburg Academy’s eighth head of school in 2022 after having served on the faculty since 2007, most recently as assistant head of school for external relations.

Katherine Titus

Katie Titus came to Mercersburg in 2016 as Mercersburg’s seventh head of school, and the school’s first female head of school, after serving as associate head for school life at St. George’s School in Rhode Island.

Douglas Hale

Douglas Hale came to Mercersburg in 1997 from Baylor School, where he had served variously as a teacher, assistant headmaster, and headmaster since 1973.

The Staley Archives

Ernie Staley, retired longtime faculty member, began the job of creating and organizing the archives in 1985. The mission of the archives is to collect and preserve materials relating to the school, its Board of Regents, its academic and extracurricular programs, its history, and its students and alumni. The archives are housed on the bottom level of Lenfest Hall.