Our History

Mercersburg’s proud history and rich traditions date back to 1836, when the Academy’s predecessor, Marshall College, was founded at Mercersburg.

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 fall 1893 with 40 boys, four instructors, and four acres of leased ground. Mercersburg rapidly grew in size and stature, gaining regional and national recognition as a top college-preparatory boarding school with strong ties to Princeton University.

Through the Depression and World War II, the Academy prospered. In 1969, Mercersburg embraced coeducation, and the campus and the school’s offerings continued to grow. New building projects dominated the latter half of the 20th century with the completion of Lenfest Hall, the Academy’s 45,000-volume library, Burgin Center for the Arts, and Simon Student Center. During this time the school established formal exchange programs with schools in five different countries; and completed two enormously successful capital campaigns.

Today, Mercersburg Academy offers a dynamic academic program to a diverse and close-knit community of learners. On a magnificent campus, students learn to think for themselves as they prepare for purposeful lives in a global community.


1836—Marshall College founded

1837—Main Hall built

1837—Reformed Theological Seminary founded in Mercersburg

1853—Marshall College joins Franklin College at Lancaster

1865—Original charter granted to the Regents of the Mercersburg College

1871—Reformed Theological Seminary moves to Lancaster

1893—Mercersburg Academy organized under Headmaster Dr. William Mann Irvine

1900—Keil Hall dedicated ($45,000)

1903—Groundbreaking for ’Eighty-eight Dormitory, attended by Woodrow Wilson

1905—Land where Traylor Hall and Nolde Gymnasium now stand is purchased

1905—Infirmary (Kelker Cottage) built ($5,000)

1906—Laucks Hall built ($27,000); Chapel site purchased

1910—First alumni reunion

1912—Power plant built ($115,000)

1912—Nolde Gymnasium dedicated ($140,000)

1922—Traylor Hall completed ($160,000)

1924—School Farm purchased (124 acres, $24,500)

1924—Chapel ground breaking

1926—Chapel completed ($833,847)

1928—New Main Hall built after fire in 1927

1928—Dr. Irvine dies (June 11)

1928—Dr. Boyd Edwards elected headmaster

1930—Cum Laude chapter begins

1936—Publication of A Century of Education at Mercersburg

1940—Dr. Edwards retires (remained in office one more year)

1941—Dr. Charles S. Tippetts (1912) appointed headmaster

1947—Octet formed

1949—Irvine Hall cornerstone laid

1953—James Buchanan Cabin moved from Chambersburg to campus

1961—Dr. Tippetts retires; William C. Fowle appointed headmaster

1960—Tippetts Hall completed ($380,000)

1962—Main Hall Annex converted to dormitory, Albert Swank (1910) Hall

1962—Boone Hall completed

1963—Laucks Hall razed

1964—First African American students admitted (Tom Fleming ’68, Tom Leslie ’66, Conrad Vickers ’68)

1964—Groundbreaking for Ford Hall

1967—Swank Library dedicated in Keil Hall

1968—Dr. Tippetts dies (August 28)  

1970—Carol B. Eppinger ’70 is first female to graduate in the 20th century

1971—William C. Fowle resigns as headmaster (effective June 30, 1972)

1971—Fowle Hall dedicated

1971—’Eighty-eight Dormitory demolished

1972—Curran Track completed

1972—Walter H. Burgin Jr. ’53 appointed headmaster

1978—Chapel tower named for Bryan Barker

1984—South Cottage renovated

1985—Jacobs Residency Fellow Program begins

1986—Culbertson House opens

1986—Archives established

1992—Mercersburg named a “Blue Ribbon” school

1992—Rutledge Hall dedicated, Tippetts Hall renovated

1993—Lenfest Hall dedicated

1993—100th anniversary celebration; publication of One Hundred Years of Life: Mercersburg 1893-1993 by David Emory ’72

1996—Burgin announces retirement

1997—Douglas Hale appointed head of school

1998—Main Hall renovated

1999—Tippetts and Fowle Halls renovated

2000—Keil, South, Swank, and Culbertson renovated

2000—H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest ’49 donates $35 million to Academy

2001—Smoyer Tennis Center opens

2002—Fowle dies (February 18)

2003—Class of ’38 Observatory opens

2004—Davenport Squash Center opens

2004—Demolition of Boone Hall

2005—Masinter Outdoor Education Center dedicated

2006—Burgin Center for the Arts opens

2009—Rededication of Prentiss-Zimmerman Quad

2009—Installation of artificial turf field (Regents’ Field)

2010—Nolde Gymnasium renovated

2013—Simon Student Center and 1893 House open

2013—Deborah Simon ’74 and her foundation announces $100 million gift to school

2015—Hale announces retirement (effective June 2016)

2016—Katherine M. Titus appointed head of school

2017—Hale Field House opens

2018—Academy celebrates 125th anniversary as a college-preparatory school