Greenhills School has existed and prospered because those who have joined the school since its founding have shared the commitment and drive of the seven founding families.
In the late 1960’s, a group of concerned and energetic parents discussed the possibility of founding an independent school in Ann Arbor. Today, Greenhills remains remarkably close to the initial ideal vision of the founding families. The values and principles on which the school was founded have remained strong and intact, the quality of the student body and the faculty has grown even stronger, and Greenhills has earned for itself a reputation as a humane and caring school that offers an excellent education to a wide range of students.
In making preparations for establishing Greenhills, the founders thought a great deal about what the school should offer and to whom it should be offered. From the beginning Greenhills School was committed to attracting the best qualified students from the widest range of backgrounds—social, economic, geographic, religious, and racial. The founders wanted to ensure a strong tuition assistance program at the school that would enable those who might not otherwise be able to afford a Greenhills education the opportunity to enroll. Their goal was to create an environment in which everyone would enrich and be enriched by this special school.
In their proposal to the State Board of Education regarding “the establishment of Greenhills School,” the founding families and board members wrote of the basic purpose of the school:
“Greenhills School will endeavor to focus on each student as an individual and to advance his education by means particularly suited to his interests, abilities and level of development. It will also seek to encourage its students continually to expand their education in future years; to develop in them the habit of making sound judgments; to stimulate in them generosity of spirit and ethical behavior; and to heighten their appreciation and enjoyment of the arts.”
“More specifically, the purposes of Greenhills School will be to stimulate youngsters to develop their individual talents and capabilities to the utmost, to help them learn through well-rounded school experience to work effectively with other people, and to aid them to acquire character, judgment, social awareness and concern, and a sound set of values about themselves and the world in which they live. In brief, Greenhills hopes to assist young people to grow into alert, useful and responsible citizens whose lives will be full of meaning and inner satisfaction.”
Greenhills opened as an independent, co-education, non-denomination college preparatory day school serving the entire geographical area of Ann Arbor and its surrounding communities.
Prompted in part by the closure of the University of Michigan Laboratory School in the late 1960s, a group of local parents resolved to provide a new option for independent education in Ann Arbor. These founding families included: William and Ellen Ann (Nan) Conlin, William and Loretta Edwards, Richard and Nancy Judge, John and Nanine (Bimi) Mersereau, James Riecker and Judy Towsley Riecker, Donald and Nancy Roach and Herbert and Anne Upton. Supported in their efforts by leading Ann Arbor citizens and philanthropists Harry and Margaret Towsley, our founding families’ shared vision soon became Greenhills School.
In 1967 ground was broken on our original 9,600 square feet of teaching and gathering space, including the iconic Green Forum. Designed by Alden B. Dow, the school was constructed just north of the Huron River on a 30-acre rolling estate known as “Greenhills” by its former owner, the Earhart family. Greenhills opened in the fall of 1968, welcoming 64 students in grades 7, 8, and 9 as well as 11 faculty members. Accomplished academic leader Edward M. Read III joined our community with his wife Caroline, from St. Paul, Minn. to serve as the school’s first headmaster.
In 1972, 11 seniors received their diplomas as our first graduating class. While Greenhills grew incrementally in our first few years, two major additions in the 1980s reflected a rising interest in our programs: The 1984 edition of the Towsley Wing, which added much-needed laboratory and fine-arts space; and the 1989 addition of a sixth grade. Over the following two decades, the emerging needs of our expanding, diverse student body were met with the creation of The Campbell Center of the Performing Arts, The Borders Center for Athletics, and The Lisa and Bill Ford Wing for a Sustainable Future.
The "Greenhills at 50" capital campaign ensured that Greenhills entered its next half century well prepared. Beginning with a re-imagined school library, then moving to the renovation of the school's dining area and construction of a full kitchen, the effort concluded with the conversion of the soccer field to a durable, all-sports surface, surrounded by an eight-lane, Olympic-style track.
While the size of our student body, faculty and facilities has increased since our founding, the school’s attention to the individual has not changed. Greenhills students are encouraged and able to engage in all the school has to offer. That ethos endures at the heart of our mission:
“Greenhills School is a student-centered community that helps young people realize their full intellectual, ethical, artistic, and athletic potential in preparation for college — and beyond — as curious, creative, and responsible citizens who respect all individuals and their differences, and whose meaningful and balanced lives will better the world.”