Eyeing its 60th year, The Gillispie School salutes ‘founders’ La Jolla Kiwanis

By Jeanie Scott

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The story of Gillispie begins in 1917 when Kansas pediatrician Samuel Tilden Gillispie was offered a job in La Jolla.  Sam and his wife Ada didn’t have children of their own; so much of the love and energy they had for children was channeled into their philanthropic work in La Jolla. Samuel’s community service started with the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla, of which he was a founder, first president, and chair of the underprivileged child committee.

Following Samuel’s death, Ada continued to work for their causes with the backing of the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla. Ada and a handful of philanthropic friends went on to establish The Gillispie Thrift Shop on Eads Avenue, which sold used clothing and household goods to support a milk fund and food basket program for single parents and indigent families. Over the years, Kiwanis helped purchase additional land and built childcare and school facilities.

In 1953, a new school facility opened at the The Gillispie School’s current Girard Avenue location. The Kiwanis Club continued its oversight of the campus for many years, with its members serving on Gillispie’s Board of Trustees and with the help of members’ talents and resources.

At the conclusion of the Kiwanis luncheon, The Gillispie School choir received a standing ovation for its performance of the original “Gillispie Song,” written by former parent Melissa Fay.

The lyrics capture the school’s history then and now:

“Many years ago, in a town by the great blue sea, a woman changed the world and her name was Ada Gillispie. She made a special home for all the children in ‘The Jewel,’ and over time it grew and grew and soon it became The Gillispie School.”

Today the school serves 260 students from toddlers to sixth-graders. The Kiwanis continue to support Gillispie through donations to the school’s financial aid program.

Soon the historic Gillispie School will begin a yearlong look back to celebrate the 60 years since the school opened its doors at 7380 Girard Ave.

“I look forward to celebrating the history, vision and accomplishments of Ada Gillispie with current and former families, alumni and the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla,” Fleming said.

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