Letter from Girard College President – Clarence D. Armbrister


August 27, 2014

To the Girard College Family,

As many may know already, Orphans’ Court Judge Joseph O’Keefe has issued an order denying the petition of the Board of Directors of City Trusts to temporarily modify the structure of Girard College.

Whether you support the Judge’s ruling or the Board’s petition, this week marks the beginning of the next phase in the history of Girard College. Specifically, we begin the new school year asking ourselves, “What happens now?”

Today, I am writing to reassure the “Girard College family” that the Board, the Administration and I are ready to continue the great work that has been ongoing here at Girard in the midst of the discussion about the College’s future. We have invested literally thousands of hours in the redesign of our curriculum and in the training of all teachers and all residential advisors. As a result, we are better prepared than ever to provide the highest quality education to the children entrusted to our care. As a school, we will continue that commitment going forward. I commend all faculty and staff for your dedication to the task of making Girard a better place, particularly in these turbulent times.

I hope that the extended Girard College family will reaffirm its collective and individual commitment to continue producing students of exceptional character and fortitude who embody the core values of Stephen Girard: Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Self-Discipline and Compassion. Many of you have done just that by reaching out to talk about the decision, and for that I am grateful.

I am looking forward to a productive academic year ahead. You will be hearing more from me shortly about the upcoming school year, but I thought it important to underscore that, despite all of the attention and emotion connected with the court case, nothing about Judge O’Keefe’s ruling will prevent us from pursuing the best educational opportunities for our students while they are here at Girard College.

Hail Girard!

Clarence D. Armbrister

Recent Girard Court Ruling

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2014-08-25 opinion and order

Girard College’s Finances Handcuffed by Rate Swaps: Muni Credit

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Girard College’s Finances Handcuffed by Rate Swaps: Muni Credit

By Romy Varghese
February 04, 2014Girard College, which for 166 years has schooled and housed low-income students in Philadelphia in a walled campus by decree of its namesake founder, is paying a premium in the bond market after Wall Street deals backfired.
Click here to read more.

Judge rules Girard alumni have no say on cutbacks

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A Philadelphia Orphans’ Court judge on Wednesday said a group that includes Girard College alumni, parents, and students does not have the legal right to object to Girard’s plans to end its high school and boarding programs.
Click here to read the rest of the article. 

Stephen Girard and the War loan of February 8, 1813

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Mark Hehnen ’57 Paper on

The War of 1812 and Stephen Girard

All Hummers learn at an early age that Stephen Girard aided the United States during the war of 1812.  Mark Hehnen ’57, while a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy,  chose that subject for his senior term paper.  It is the most comprehensive review of the man and the times that we know. We’re pleased to offer Mark’s work for your enjoyment.

We understand that Mark received an award from the Naval Academy for his paper. In that he graduated from Girard as the Keyman in the class of 1957, that doesn’t surprise us.


Girard College’s fiscal ‘solution’ will rob a generation of its future

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“Tears have been shed in the last few weeks, but rising slowly from this sadness is a resolution: We will graduate. The students of Girard College have resolved to fight this decision with whatever tools possible.”

Read the full article, by Brandon Dixon, here.

Sell Girard ? One alum thinks that’s the way to go…


My comments are sure to generate some nasty comments but here goes. I don’t know how many of you remember Ellis College, a school like GC but for girls. Charles Ellis made a fortune by owning trolley cars in Philly before Septa, PRT etc. He was so impressed with GC and SG he decided to do the same except for girls. In the 1960s Ellis school was having the same problems as GC is having today. It cost too much money to run its magnificent campus in Newtown Square and additionally their recruitment base was drying up—-too few orphans.
In the 1970s the private trustee, Provident Bank went to court to get permission to close it, sell the campus and put the money into a Charles EllisTrust fund which needy girls could apply to for scholarship money to attend private high schools or Prep schools, like the type that exist today on the Philadelphia main line. After years of legal manuvering, the Courts finally agreed to close it. The campus was sold to ARCO for $16 million and the Trust Fund was established. I am not certain but I have been advised that the fund today is worth $40-50 million and helping girls every year attend some of the finest prep schools in the Philly area.
If you want to read more about Ellis School, read my book which is located on the Historic Newtown Square web site. Many GC graduates had sisters that attended Ellis school and others married Ellis girls met while attending blind date dances held in each school.
In my opinion this is what should happen to GC. It is ridiculous to spend $40,000 per year on each student and have them receive a questionable education. It makes no sense to spend a fortune to attempt to upgrade an old worn out campus. With the residue of the Estate and the money that would be gotten for the grounds, a Stephen Girard Trust Fund could be established like Ellis’. It could service many more kids, perpetuate SG’s name, have the kids educated in the finest educational facilities, and eliminate the political mess we have today.
I suggested this several years ago but no one wanted to persue it. Think about the benefits. Today only Founder’s Hall is worth saving. There is no significant historical value to the four other out buildings. Some Charter school would pay big money to obtain some of the 1930′s buildings. Maybe the West End could be turned into a retirement home and money maker. Girard’s money would be doing exactly what he wanted it to do, provide a good education for the needy kids of Philadelphia, and the Stephen Girard Trust could last for many years beyond its current life.
Tom DiFilippo

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