About Us

History & Traditions

Peddie School was founded in 1864 as the Hightstown Female Seminary, a Baptist preparatory school. Later that year, boys were admitted, and the school began a series of name changes. In 1872, the school took its current name in honor of philanthropist and politician Thomas B. Peddie (1808-89), who gave the school a $25,000 gift.

Peddie School remained coed until 1908, when it was decided, for social and economic reasons, to admit boys only. This standard was reversed in the early 1970s, when girls were readmitted. The school is now coeducational and nondenominational.

Wilson Hall (1866-1978) served all the school's needs until 1889, when additional land was acquired and more buildings erected. Peddie's longest-serving head of school, Roger W. Swetland (1898-1934), drew up the master plan to create the central grassy mall.

Gifts from Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg ‘27 were used for the construction of two libraries, dormitories, and an athletic center, among other projects. The school has grown to include 57 buildings on a 280-acre campus.

In 1993, Annenberg gave $100 million to Peddie, which provided an endowed fund for financial aid, enabling students from every walk of life to receive a Peddie education. The ambassador died in 2002, just after giving the cornerstone gift for the construction of The Walter and Leonore Annenberg Science Center, which was completed in fall 2005.

– Thomas B. Peddie born in Edinburgh, Scotland
1864 – Hightstown Female Seminary founded
1865 – School's name changed to New Jersey Classical and Scientific Institute
1869 – Main building dedicated (later named Wilson Hall)
1870 – The Chronicle, Peddie's alumni magazine, launched
1872 – School renamed Peddie Institute
1878 – School goes bankrupt with debts totaling $29,278
1889 – Last year that the valedictory address is given in Latin; Thomas B. Peddie dies
1898 – Roger W. Swetland becomes ninth headmaster
1903 – First annual football game against Blair Academy
1904 – First football victory over Blair
1908 – Walter H. Annenberg born March 13; school stops admitting girls
1912 – Coleman House erected
1916 – Former President William H. Taft speaks at Commencement
1917 – Of 502 Peddie graduates who served in WWI, 16 are killed
1918 – First football victory over Lawrenceville Prep in a series begun in 1895
1919 – Cum Laude chapter started
1923 – Name changed to The Peddie School
1925 – First classes held in Memorial Hall
1927 – Walter H. Annenberg graduates
1928 – Austen Colgate Hall opens
1934 – Dr. Wilbour E. Saunders becomes 10th headmaster
1936 – Larry Kelley '33 wins Heisman trophy at Yale
1937 – Gold Key Society established
1941M*A*S*H author Richard Hornberger, son of Heister Hornberger, graduates
1945 – Of the 1,891 Peddie graduates who served in WWII, 63 are killed
1949 – Dr. Carrol O. Morong appointed 11th head of school
1951 – Ayer Memorial Chapel dedicated
1957 – Annenberg Library opens; Dr. Martin Luther King speaks in chapel
1964 – Albert L. Kerr installed as 12th head of school. School centennial; Caspersen Science Building dedicated
1967 – Masters House opens
1970 – Female day students admitted, paving the way for full coeducation
1971 – Longstreet canteen seized in student protest
1972 – Athletic center opens
1976 – Finn M.W. Caspersen '59 elected chairman of Peddie Board of Trustees
1977 – F. Edward Potter Jr. becomes 13th headmaster
1978 – Wilson Hall razed
1983 – Annenberg makes $12 million gift to Peddie
1984 – Former President Gerald Ford speaks at Commencement
1988 – Annenberg makes $10 million gift to Peddie; Edward Potter dies unexpectedly; Anne Seltzer becomes first female head of school (interim)
1989 – Thomas A. DeGray installed as Peddie's 14th head of school
1992 – Potter Dorms dedicated
1993 – New Annenberg Library opens; historic $100 million gift for endowment presented by Annenberg
1995 – More than 800 Peddie alums, parents, and friends gather at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to celebrate launch of The Next Step capital campaign
1996 – Caspersen Campus Center opens
1998 – First year of laptop program
1999 – Ground broken for new dorms, faculty housing, and health center; $1 million annual fund goal announced
2001 – DeGray retires; John Green takes over as 15th head of school
2002 – Fund-raising campaign launched to construct new science center; Lee and Walter Annenberg donate cornerstone gift of $7 million
2003 – 100th football game played against Blair Academy
2004 – Groundbreaking for Walter and Leonore Annenberg Science Center
2005 – Dedication of Walter and Leonore Annenberg Science Center, school name changed to Peddie School and new logo created
2006 – School launches Peddie Summer Science Institute; Caspersen History House dedicated in September
2009 – New Peddie aquatic center opened
2010 – Re-opening of renovated Ian H. Graham '50 Athletic Center
2013 – Green retires; Peter Quinn installed as 16th head of school. Peddie celebrates its 150th anniversary
Peddie School Sesquicentennial
The academic year 2013-2014 marks the 150th Anniversary of Peddie School. Come join us for our yearlong celebration!
Peddie School motto:
Finimus Pariter
Renovamusque Labores
We finish our labors
only to begin anew
The Annenberg Story
Philanthropist, patriot, publisher and proud patriarch of a distinguished family, Walter H. Annenberg befriended presidents, kings and queens and ordinary Americans, serving as ambassador to Britain and giving millions to charity. A 20th century success story, he was always mindful of sharing his good fortune with others and believed that all citizens, whatever their background, should profit from the extraordinary opportunities provided by a high–quality education.

Ambassador Annenberg's days at Peddie were formative, rewarding and educational. Even at that young age, he deemed himself grateful, a watchword that continued to guide his life. Upon his graduation in 1927, an unparalleled bond was created with his alma mater.

The generosity of this alumnus to Peddie was extraordinary. He was immensely proud of his affiliation with his "old school," and while universities and cultural institutions with more august names came to call, it was Peddie that always captured the ambassador's heart.

His gifts to Peddie were historic and heartfelt. Libraries, dormitories, the athletic center, faculty support, scholarships and a final gift with his wife for the new science center. Every area of the school was transformed by him over the past 75 years.

Yet for all the bricks and mortar, the ambassador's greatest impact on Peddie was his legendary gift of $100 million in 1993. Because of his desire to see Peddie become accessible to all, this endowment was not earmarked for new buildings but for financial aid. The endowment has enabled students from all backgrounds to pursue a course of study that would have been unattainable otherwise.

In 1943, Walter Annenberg wrote in a note accompanying a gift, "It is not very difficult for me to state why I believe in the Peddie School. I have never felt that, upon graduating from Peddie, a student was just entering life; he had already seen a good deal of life right here. Rather, he was being given an opportunity to show what stuff he was made of, and how well he had learned the lessons in leadership and citizenship so well taught."

By demonstrating to the members of the Peddie community what it means to strive for the highest quality of citizenship, Peddie will be eternally grateful to Walter Annenberg.