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 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 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, the Burgin Center for the Arts, and the Simon Student Center. During this time Mercersburg 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.

Class of 1894

Nolde Gymnasium (1912)

Gloria Stewart, Headmaster William Fowle, Toni Fowle, and actor Jimmy Stewart ’28

Carol Eppinger ’70 (first female graduate)




The Staley Archives

The mission of Mercersburg Academy’s 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 does not collect material pertaining to the Reformed Church, Marshall College, or the local history of the town unless it is relevant to the Academy itself (since these organizations have their own archives).

Ernie Staley, retired longtime faculty member, began the job of creating and organizing the archives in 1985. Faculty emeritus Jay Quinn worked as the school’s archivist from 2002 until his death in 2012. Faculty member Doug Smith has served in the position since 2013. Scrapbooks, school publications, movies, and the papers of former headmasters make up a portion of the collection. Interested individuals can also find information on academic programs, alumni relations, admission and college counseling statistics, faculty handbooks, and student activities. 

The Mercersburg Collection contains books written by Mercersburg alumni and by individuals associated with the school in other ways, and materials about Mercersburg and its community members, past and present. The collection is temporarily housed in the Vodrey Reading Room.

The archives are housed on the bottom level of Lenfest Hall. For more information, email Doug Smith (link sends e-mail), the school archivist.