In 1910, Mary Moncrieffe Livingston, a teacher from New York, moved to Maryland with a mission and a vision: to found a much-needed primary through twelfth grade school for the local community. The educational model she espoused remains a nationally distinctive program nearly a century later.
Garrison Forest then was an all-girls’ day school, Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade, with a residential program for older girls and a coed primary program. Today, the model remains nearly identical with the addition of a vibrant international boarding program and two-year-olds as the youngest Garrison Forest students. The motto Miss Livingston chose for her burgeoning school, Esse Quam Videri—To Be Rather Than To Seem, perfectly captured her vision for a school steeped in academic rigor while infused with exceptional character building.
Since its founding, Garrison Forest School has redefined itself in response to the challenges of the day. Miss Livingston grew her school in size and reputation, and in 1929, she passed the mantle to Co-headmistresses Jean G. Marshall and Nancy J. Offutt. Under their spirited and firmly grounded leadership, the School not only survived the Great Depression, it thrived, adding new students and attracting a top-caliber faculty. For 30 years, Miss Marshall and Miss Offutt guided Garrison Forest, building a national boarding reputation, excellent academic programs, and a highly competitive riding program.
In 1960, the School hired its first male headmaster, Archibald “Tad” Montgomery III, who expanded the residential program, campus, and enduring tradition of community outreach. Garrison Forest School’s Service League was founded by students in 1942 as a response to helping on the home front. Decades earlier, students helped in the local fields while farmers were fighting in World War I. Today, Service League assists dozens of regional, national, and international agencies and causes through student volunteerism.
Lawrence “Larry” L. Hlavacek served as Headmaster from 1968-1978, shepherding the School through a difficult financial time, played out against the challenging cultural backdrop of the 1970s. As boarding school enrollments dipped nationwide and many girls’ schools shut their doors or merged with other institutions, Garrison Forest held steady by returning to its founding model of educating boys and girls at the preschool level. In 1950, to accommodate a growing Upper School program, the School closed its primary department, but in 1975, the Valley School, a local, coed independent preschool and elementary school merged with Garrison Forest. Today the Lower Division serves girls and boys, Two-Year-Olds through Kindergarten, and girls, Pre-First through Fifth Grades.
With the dawn of the 1980s, Garrison Forest appointed Agnes “Aggie” C. Underwood as headmistress, and for nine years, she led the School to a new level of academic excellence. Garrison Forest’s reputation and enrollment grew through achievements, such as the increased number of Advanced Placement courses and faculty members with advanced degrees, enhanced student diversity, a depth of arts programming, and Mrs. Underwood’s leadership among national independent school organizations.
In 1989-90, Alexander A. Uhle served as Interim Head of School until Elsa “Midge” M. Bowman began her four-year tenure. She continued the School’s commitment to intellectual achievement and ushered Garrison Forest onto the global stage with the advent of a formal international boarding program in the early 1990s. Today, 20 percent of the students hail from countries beyond the United States, creating a true global community.
G. Peter O’Neill, Jr. was originally hired for a one-year appointment as Interim Head in 1994. Instead, he has become the third-longest tenured head in Garrison Forest’s nearly 100-year history, retiring from GFS in June 2014. A strong national advocate for single-sex education for girls, he has led the School’s largest campus expansion and the establishment of one of the nation’s leading experiential learning programs for girls: the Women In Science and Engineering (WISE) program, a one-of-a-kind academic partnership with The Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. In 2008, the School founded The James Center: Programs and Partnerships with a Public Purpose, adding new opportunities for civic and financial literacy and social entrepreneurship to its existing programs for service and leadership.
Kimberley J. Roberts, Ph.D. began her tenure at GFS in July 2014. Dr. Roberts came to GFS from her alma mater Castilleja School, an all-girls' school (grades 6-12) in Palo Alto, California, where she served as assistant head of school and director of advancement. She is an outstanding administrator, educator and innovator with a life long passion for educating and empowering girls. In 2017, Dr. Roberts returned to California in June 2017 to become a program manager in Google's Education and University Relations group.
In 2017, Lila Boyce Lohr, Garrison Forest Class of 1963, returned to GFS as Interim Head of School.
1910-1929 Mary Moncrieffe Livingston, founder
1929-1960 Jean G. Marshall
1929-1960 Nancy J. Offutt
1960-1968 Archibald R. Montgomery III
1968-1978 Lawrence L. Hlavacek
1978-1989 Agnes C. Underwood
1989-1990 Alexander A. Uhle
1990-1994 Elsa M. Bowman
1994-2014 G. Peter O’Neill, Jr.
2014- Kimberley J. Roberts, Ph.D.