The Bishop’s School marks its centennial


Building plans, celebrations aim to keep legacy alive

Looking forward as much as behind, The Bishop’s School has chosen “One Hundred Years and Beyond” as the theme of its year-long centennial celebration.

“It’s all about honoring our past and our present,” said Karen Gabsch, co-chair of the committee planning the La Jolla coeducational, Episcopalian school’s historical observance. “But it’s more important to look toward our next 100 years.”

The high-profile school in the heart of the Village is doing just that, noted Brad Geier, Bishop’s board president.

“Our vision is continuous - to be recognized as one of the preeminent, independent, college-preparatory schools in the United States,” he said. “We’ve made great progress toward that goal.”

A series of events to mark the school’s anniversary and its legacy are planned throughout the year, from public art exhibits and speaker series, to those just for students and alumni like a Centennial Kick-Off Picnic on Sept. 16.

A new footprint

As it enters its 100th year, the school is reinventing itself, redrawing the map of its 7607 La Jolla Blvd. campus via a long-term, three-phase master plan.

The expansion will increase the total square footage of campus buildings from 177,650 to 313,916 and accomplishes a number of goals. They include expanding on-street parking, upgrading the sports field and providing new classroom space fulfilling science, gymnastics, arts and athletic needs.

The first phase, finished in 2005, included the Science Center, the parking garage and the athletic field, as well as the renovation of the La Jolla Boulevard parking lot and the La Jolla Reading Room, said Suzanne Weiner, the school’s marketing and public relations director.

Up next

Next on the horizon are the Manchester Library and the Learning Center.

“The next 100 years is going to begin with the school in a position of strength, with the campus footprint almost completely developed,” she said.

In Fall 2009, its centennial year, Bishop’s will add a sixth-grade class to its existing 7-12 grades, increasing enrollment from 660 to 775 students.

The school is also forging ahead with its $2.6 million grant program, which is distributed to financially needy students, about 20 percent of the school’s population.

Centennial Committee co-chair Gabsch and her family are representative of how Bishop’s has served a pivotal role in the lives of La Jolla families.

“I and my sister went there when it was an all-girls school,” said Gabsch, “and my two children went there. I was married at the chapel at Bishop’s.”

Gabsch noted the school was created as college-preparatory and has weathered the transition from the old-fashioned, school-marm days to become the thriving, co-educational facility it is today.

Building on vision

“It has always offered the excellence that Ellen Browning Scripps strove for, honoring her and her vision,” she said.

Going forward, Bishop’s board chairman Geier said the school wants to build on the foundation laid in the last quarter-century by headmaster Mike Teitelman and his wife Marlene.

“We’re in the middle of a $60 million capital campaign to build both new facilities and to increase our endowment supporting our faculty and scholarship program,” he said.

One final piece in Bishop’s future development puzzle will be to enhance the historical heart of the campus.

“We’re blessed to have the Irving Gill-designed historical buildings that the campus has become known for,” said Geier. “It’s important we preserve that architectural heritage.”


  • 1909 - Founded by the Right Rev, Joseph Horsfall Johnson, bishop of Los Angeles, as an independent day and boarding school affiliated with the Episcopal Church that originally aimed to prepare young women for education at “the best Eastern colleges.” Ellen Browning Scripps and her sister Virginia Scripps gave land and money to the school, with Ellen telling her lawyer, “I feel more than assured that I have embarked in an undertaking that is almost limitless in its scope and power for good.” They chose architect Irving Gill to build white concrete buildings that were fireproof, sanitary and plain.
  • 1919 - An article in The Los Angeles Times expressed teachers’ hopes that “the moral and spiritual characteristics of the student should be developed along with purely mental attributes.” To that end, students attended chapel daily and participated in community service activities.
  • 1941 - Became a charter member of the California Association of Independent Schools, a nonprofit organization that seeks to raise and maintain standards in private school education.
  • 1971 - Merged with the San Miguel School for Boys in order to remain academically competitive and financially solvent.
  • 1983 - Michael Teitelman assumes leadership of the school.
  • 2008 - Ranked by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top 40 schools in the country to send its graduates to select colleges and universities.

  • Source: The Bishop’s School