Porter-Gaud School

private school

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Porter-Gaud School
Porter-Gaud School logo
300 Albemarle Rd
Charleston, South Carolina 29407
MottoFides, Honor, Scientia
Number of students1,004
Campus88 acres (360,000 m2)
Color(s)Garnet and gray   
RivalBishop England High School
AffiliationEpiscopal Church
WebsitePorter-Gaud School

The Porter-Gaud School is an independent coeducational college preparatory day school in Charleston, in the U.S. state of South Carolina. Porter-Gaud has an enrollment of some 1000 students, comprising an elementary school, middle school, and high school, and is located on the banks of the Ashley River. The school has historic ties to the Episcopal Church.

Porter-Gaud was formed in July 1964 from the merger of three schools: The Porter Military Academy (founded 1867), the Gaud School for Boys (founded 1908), and the Watt School (founded 1931). The legal name of the institution remains The Porter Academy.

The Porter Military Academy was formed in 1867 by Anthony Toomer Porter, an Episcopal priest, to educate boys orphaned during the Civil War. Established on the scholastic philosophy of William Augustus Muhlenberg (1796-1877) as the Holy Communion Church Institute in 1867, the school was later known as Porter Academy and eventually Porter Military Academy. Porter hired John Gadsden as the academic principal. Gadsden was prepared in Muhlenberg's famous school on Long Island and brought "The Doctor's" successful principles to the new school in his home-town of Charleston.

William Steen Gaud established the Gaud School in 1908. In 1948, Berkeley Grimball purchased the school from Gaud and over the course of 16 years increased the enrollment to nearly 150 as the Gaud School attained a position of eminence among Southern preparatory schools. Ann Carson Elliott, Berkeley Grimball's mother, founded the Watt School in 1931, a coeducational primary school, which served as a feeder school for the Gaud School.

In 1964, the original Porter Military Academy campus in downtown Charleston was sold to the Medical University of South Carolina, and the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (now CSX) donated the current 88-acre (360,000 m2) campus on Albemarle Point. In July 1964, the three schools merged and dropped the military program. The new entity, Porter-Gaud School, opened its doors to 435 male students in grades 1–12. As modern school facilities began taking shape across the Ashley River on the property donated by the railroad, classes met at the old Porter campus.

Porter-Gaud opened its new campus in September 1965 with an enrollment of 469 day students. In the following year it became one of the first schools in the South to adopt an open admissions policy. In 1972, the school admitted female students into the first three grades. By the fall of 1975 the program had been accelerated to include girls at all levels of the school, although Porter-Gaud has retained close ties to its sister school, Ashley Hall.

In May 2008, Porter-Gaud acquired The O'Quinn Schools, a local preschool that dates back to the early 1970s, with the intention of maintaining the names of the schools, faculties, programs, and tuition policies.

Porter-Gaud School graduates an average class size of 83 per year. The four-year average SAT score is 1310 (the average for the state of South Carolina is 1023). Porter-Gaud offers 21 Advanced Placement and 11 honors courses, in addition to a variety of specialty semester courses. Porter-Gaud School currently offers French, Spanish, Latin, and Mandarin Chinese.

Porter-Gaud School is a member of the South Carolina Independent School Association, and Porter-Gaud offers over 38 varsity and junior varsity sports. The school mascot is the Cyclone.

Porter Military Academy

Anthony Toomer Porter, founder

On October 25, 1867, while in Magnolia Cemetery, mourning the death of one of his sons, Anthony Toomer Porter, rector of Holy Communion Church, became convinced that he should start a school. Many of his son's friends could no longer attend school, as their families had been impoverished by the war. By December of that year, Porter had founded the Holy Communion Church Institute, using church facilities.

In 1879 the old Federal Arsenal on Ashley Avenue, a block from the church, was put up for sale. Porter went to Washington and secured the help of President Hayes and Gen. Sherman (Porter had saved the life of an Officer in Sherman's army during the war) to convince Congress to lease the property to the school for $1.00 a year.[1]

Adapting the military buildings to school use, it was fitting that the school became known as Porter Military Academy. Both boarding school and day school, students came from towns and farms throughout the Low Country, and eventually from upper South Carolina, other states, and even other countries. From its beginning, the school accepted students from all faiths. It was and is affiliated with the Episcopal Church, but is owned by its Board of Trustees, with the Bishop as an ex officio member. One of the primary goals of the school was, and is, character development, summarized in the motto on the PMA crest: WATCH: Words, Actions, Thoughts, Character, and Habits.

Porter developed a broad curriculum, ranging from Greek to woodworking to athletics. The school day began with bugle call, breakfast, and chapel. Facilities ranged from a dormitory, an infirmary, library, classroom buildings, rifle range, tennis courts, a parade ground, and the notorious "bull ring" where detention students were made to march. Porter Military Academy boasted a naval program, including several surplus Navy vessels. The "Porter Navy" was discontinued, however, after a fire destroyed the ships. Porter also claimed one of the first high school football teams, one of which in a 1913 scrimmage held the Citadel to a 0 to 0 score.

The Gaud School for Boys

The Waring Library

Gaud, born in Canada, had a master's degree from the University of Chicago, and had been headmaster of Lawrence Academy in Groton, Massachusetts. After marrying a Charleston woman, he founded the Gaud School in 1908 with 34 students. In 1912 he turned the school over to others in order to teach at Phillips Exeter and then to serve during World War I. He returned to Charleston in 1919 and again took over his school.

The school was first located in a building behind his home at 25 3/4 Legare Street, but in 1920 it relocated to 77 Church Street. From 1928 until 1941 and again from 1957 to 1961, the school was located at 90–92 East Bay Street on the corner of Adger's Wharf. In 1949-50 there were some 20-25 students in three grades in a 1-room school on East Bay Street. The school was also located for a time at 77 Church Street and at 79–81 East Bay Street.

Upon Gaud's return to Charleston in 1919, his school essentially became a place to prepare Charleston boys for successful entry into New England boarding schools. Its high academic standards meant that Gaud often had a waiting list of applicants. The number of his students ranged from ten to eighteen, and these were divided into two grade levels in his one schoolroom, one class studying while the other recited. After Watt's school began in 1931, it was customary for boys to attend her school through the third grade, and then fit into Gaud's school, which went through the eighth grade. Gaud let his students take a break in the school day and go to the nearby playground, where one of the games was called "Gaud ball" – rather like baseball without a bat.

In 1948 Gaud retired at age 82 and his equity in the school was purchased by Berkeley Grimball for $125.00. Grimball began to build his school, a grade at a time, until he had about 180 students. The building on East Bay Street became too small for the growing school. In 1961 Grimball bought the Rutledge mansion on Broad Street, where the students had classes until 1964. Grimball continued Gaud's high academic standards, at first teaching many of the subjects himself. As the school grew, he added teachers such as Maurice McLaughlin, who taught Latin and Spanish; history teacher Rear Admiral (Ret.) R. Bentham Simmons, a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor; French teacher Charles Winter, a refugee from Hungary; and Admiral Florence, who taught math. Grimball was a particularly fine teacher of literature and history. The school lacked athletic facilities, but Grimball at first used the East Bay Street playground, especially for touch football and for softball, at recess and for voluntary extra sports on Monday and Thursday afternoons, and later took boys out to practice on his tennis courts on James Island; soccer was also added to the activities.

The Watt School

Mrs. Watt was Grimball's mother, so running a school came naturally for him. After her husband died, she began her school in 1931 in the depth of the Great Depression. Her first classes were held in the dining room of her Broad Street home, but she had a small classroom building constructed at the rear of her property. The reputation of her school grew among her neighbors and among those living south of Broad Street. Many of her graduates went on to the Gaud School, particularly after Grimball became headmaster there. Most of the children walked to school and then walked home for the traditional 2:00 p.m. dinner. It was a homey and welcoming school and very "Charlestonian."

The O'Quinn Schools

Founded in the early 1970s by Linda O'Quinn and her daughter Anna, the pre-school quickly became known for its personality and southern charm. The school quickly rose to prominence as the regions major feeder for many private schools and expanded to a second campus. Today the O'Quinn School is a subsidiary of Porter-Gaud, maintaining two campuses on James Island and in Mt. Pleasant.


The Porter-Gaud "Cyclone Man"

Porter-Gaud participates in the South Carolina Independent School Association (SCISA).

Sports offered

  • Fall: cheerleading (SCISA champions 2007, 2011, 2015), cross country (SCISA champions 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013) (boys), football, sailing, swimming (SCISA champions (boys) 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 (girls) 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018), tennis (SCISA champions 2011) (girls), volleyball (SCISA champions 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
  • Winter: cheerleading, basketball, ice hockey, strength and conditioning
  • Spring: baseball, golf, lacrosse (SCISA champions 2015), soccer (SCISA champions 2016), softball, tennis (SCISA champions 2009, boys), track (SCISA champions 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, boys) Porter-Gaud also won the SCISA Class A boys track championship in 1981.


  • Bishop England High School – Bishop England is Porter-Gaud's biggest rival; the rivalry is one of Charleston's oldest and most prominent. Porter-Gaud and Bishop England trace the rivalry back to football in the 1920s, when both schools were located in downtown Charleston. The rivalry has spread to other sports including Basketball, Tennis, and Volleyball. However, after incidents on both campuses, the Bishops and the Cyclones were unable to battle on their fields for years. In 2011, competition between the two schools resumed after a four-year hiatus.
    Note: In the fall of 2006, historic rivals PG and BE merged their respective ice hockey teams, marking the first time such a merger has taken place in the school's history.
  • First Baptist – Porter-Gaud and First Baptist are crosstown rivals and have become rivals primarily on the football field and the basketball court.
  • Pinewood Preparatory School – Porter-Gaud and Pinewood have become rivals primarily on the basketball court, as well as, on the soccer field in the past decade.
  • Ashley Hall – Shortly after the merger, Porter-Gaud began to accept female students. As a result, the historical sister school of PMA, Ashley Hall, became an instant rival, primarily in girls' volleyball, tennis, and basketball.
  • Charleston Day School – Porter-Gaud and Charleston Day's lower and middle schools have developed a rivalry in basketball, volleyball, and, formerly, bantam football.

Early football teams

During the early 20th century, Porter Military scrimmaged several university football teams:

School publications

Porter-Gaud has six student-produced publications. Each is funded by the school and supervised by a faculty member. Porter-Gaud's Development Office also produces two regular publications. In addition to these eight official publications, unofficial student-produced and -funded weekly newspapers can also be found on campus.

Student publications

  • Watch – Upper School literary magazine; merged with and took over The Porter Grits in 2010
  • Polygon – yearbook
  • The Porter Grits (inactive)– Upper School newspaper, est. 1920
  • The Porter Gaudzette (inactive) – Middle School newspaper, est. 2004
  • Daze Between – Middle School literary magazine
  • The Paper Clip – Lower School literary magazine
  • The Cyclone Times (inactive) – Lower and Middle School newsletter

Development publications

  • Porter-Gaud Magazine – summer/fall and einter/spring magazine, distributed to all alumni, families, students and faculty
  • Gaudeamus – weekly electronic publication

Unofficial publications

  • The Frog Weekly (inactive) – a weekly newspaper produced and funded entirely by students; est. August 2004 by five members of the senior class
  • The Weekly (inactive) – a weekly newspaper produced and funded entirely by students


The S&T Clock – west face
Stephen T. Colbert Debate Tournament (inactive)
An annual debate tournament on the SC Forensics circuit, hosted by the speech & debate team at Porter-Gaud.
Halloween Carnival
An annual carnival held by the Student Council and Parents Guild. It is the primary fundraiser for all school clubs. It has been consistently festive for several decades. Granted satisfactory weather, the carnival is spread across much of the 88-acre (360,000 m2) campus. During inclement weather the carnival is spread through the Wendell Center, Fishburne Gym, Washington Hall and breezeways.
Halloween Parade
An annual parade involving the first grade and senior class. Both classes dress in Halloween costumes to march little-hand in big-hand along a traditional route around campus. It is viewed as a rite of passage for the seniors in the run-up to graduation.
Thanksgiving Play
An annual play performed completely by the first grade with the guidance and leadership of their teachers. The play and accompanying music, delivering the traditional story of Thanksgiving, were written entirely by first grade teachers in the 1970s. There are typically several performances, the most popular of which is for the high schoolers, who enjoy spotting their old parts in the play.
Founders' Day Concert
An annual concert held on October 21 featuring a revolving theme to celebrate the school's establishment. The concert's origins can be traced back to 1978.
Holiday Market
Held in the Wendell Center during the weeks preceding Christmas, this is an annual holiday-centric venue for Charleston area artisans to sell their goods. It is hosted by the Parents Guild, which puts the proceeds towards the annual fund.
Christmas play
An annual play – The Gifts of Christmas – performed by the second grade.
Holiday Assembly
A tradition that has become a sort of phenomenon within the community. Occurring on the last day before Christmas vacation, the assembly features a massive singing competition of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" among the grades. Typically the music is performed live by the Porter-Gaud Jazz Ensemble. In the past years, it has been held in the Wendell Center.
Porter-Gaud Holiday Classic
An annual basketball invitational tournament held on the Porter-Gaud Campus at the Wendell Center and Fishburne Gym.
Winter Semi-Formal
An annual dance held during the winter months and organized by the students. In the past, the Winter Semi-Formal has been held at the South Carolina Aquarium and Charles Towne Landing.
The Baccalaureate
Held in the closing days of the school year before graduation, this is the closing sermon to the graduating class and is held at Anthony Toomer Porter's home parish, the Church of the Holy Communion.
The Quarter Pounders (inactive)
Porter-Gaud's male quartet group that consists of four upper school students, two tenors and two basses. This group is by invitation only and represents some of the top male vocalists in the Upper School.

Campus and facilities

The school sits on an 88-acre (360,000 m2) campus, located at the banks of the Ashley River in Charleston. The tract was donated to the newly merged entity by CSX Railroad in 1965.

Science and Technology Building

Heads of school

Porter Military Academy (1867–1964) The Gaud School (1908–1964) The Watt School (1931–1964) Porter-Gaud School
  • Anthony Toomer Porter (1867-1902)
  • Charles Jones Colcock (1902-1919)
  • Walter Mitchell (1919-1922)
  • Paul M. Thrasher (1922-1953)
  • Warren L. Willis (1954-1963)
  • Ted Richardson (interim 1963-1964)
  • William Steen Gaud
  • Berkeley Grimball
  • Ann Carson Elliott (Mrs. Watt)
  • Berkeley Grimball (1964-1988)
  • Gordon Bondurant (1988-1999)
  • Stephen Blanchard (1999-2005)
  • Liza Lee (interim 2005–2007)
  • Christian J. Proctor (2007-2009)
  • DuBose Egleston (interim 2009, 2010–present)

Sexual misconduct scandal

The Porter-Gaud School was the center of a sexual misconduct scandal when in October 1997 Eddie Fischer, a teacher and athletics advisor, was arrested on charges of sexual abuse. The incidents, involving at least a dozen students, took place during Eddie Fischer's ten-year tenure at Porter-Gaud between 1972 and 1982.

In October 2000, following Fischer's imprisonment, a separate court determined that former Principal James Bishop Alexander and Headmaster Berkeley Grimball knew of the ongoing abuse by Fischer. The jury deemed both negligent in stopping the abuse. Neither Principal Alexander nor Headmaster Grimball were ultimately convicted, as each died prior to the court concluding. However, the court awarded the plaintiffs $105 Million[2] - the largest sum for a sexual misconduct case.

The scandal was the subject of a 2018 documentary,[3] What Haunts Us that suggests the suicides of six graduates of the 1979 class were due to scandal.

Notable alumni

Notable faculty

The second gates of Porter Military Academy (now at the new campus)
  • Hervey Allen – author from Pennsylvania; works include: Anthony Adverse, Israfel, Action at Aquila, and The Forest and the Fort
  • DuBose Heyward – author best known for his 1924 novel Porgy; co-author of the non-musical play adapted from the novel, which became the foundation of George Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess
  • Benjamin Hutto – music director and choirmaster at the school during the 70s through the 90s, during which time the Porter-Gaud Choir recorded several albums
  • Wyndham Meredith Manning – member of the South Carolina House of Representatives

Guest writer program

See also


  1. ^ "The Nation's Best Defence!". Charleston, South Carolina: News and Courier. April 8, 1879. p. 1.
  2. ^ Fine, Lisa (2000-11-08). "Jury Awards $105 Million In Teacher-Student Abuse Case - Education Week". Education Week. Retrieved 2020-07-07.
  3. ^ aparker@postandcourier.com, Adam Parker. "Eddie Fischer's sex abuse at Charleston's Porter-Gaud school subject of new documentary". Post and Courier. Retrieved 2020-07-07.

External links

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