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Hilltop History

Salisbury School has been graduating men of character for more than 100 years.  We are a school where tradition matters.

The School's Founding Headmaster, The Reverend George E. Quaile established Salisbury School at the turn of the century, enrolling students for the first time in the fall of 1901. Having served as the Headmaster at St. Austin’s Military School on Staten Island, NY, Dr. Quaile was a man of rare moral leadership and broad vision. He purchased the original tract of land amid the picturesque Taconic Mountain Range for the present site of Salisbury School, selecting property that was originally an apple farm, known as Frink Hill. The historic Main Building was the first structure erected under Dr. Quaile’s direction and was the centerpiece of Salisbury School as an independent college preparatory school for boys. Main, with its iconic cupola, remains one of New England’s most recognizable schoolhouses.  During Dr. Quaile’s tenure, the School was proprietary and owned by the Quaile family.

After his death in 1934, Dr. Quaile was succeeded by his son, Emerson B. Quaile, a Salisbury and Yale graduate, who was at that time serving as a Master of Latin at the neighboring Hotchkiss School. Mr. Quaile and his faculty colleagues bravely stewarded the School through the Depression years, which for a brief time stalled the growth and development of Salisbury.  Mr. Quaile had the arduous task of maintaining traditional academic standards in a lean financial era when student enrollment sharply declined. His untimely death in 1942 during a routine surgery for “tennis elbow” ended the burgeoning career of a charismatic and dedicated school leader. 

The Reverend George D. Langdon succeeded Mr. Quaile, having served on the faculty of Pomfret School, and with the blessing of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Langdon initiated an expansion program which resulted in a complex of new school buildings. A growing enrollment and a maturing of the academic program accompanied the development of the physical plant. Known as “The Chief,” Mr. Langdon and his wife, Anne, were beloved for their care for the boys, and their 23 years of leadership were a celebrated and prosperous time in the School’s history.

After Mr. Langdon’s retirement in 1965, The Reverend Edwin M. Ward was appointed as the School’s fourth Headmaster, coming from the faculty of St. Mark’s School in Massachusetts.  During the 15 years of Reverend Ward’s stewardship, Salisbury stuck firmly to its established traditions and values through a period of turbulence in American education and emerged as one of the finest all-male schools in America. One of the key decisions made during those years was to remain an all-boys school when so many peer schools were transforming their campuses into coeducational institutions.  In 1980, after a highly successful 15-year tenure, Reverend Ward and his wife Allein left the Hilltop to seek a new challenge in leading St. Stephen’s School in Alexandria, VA.

Reverend Peter W. Sipple of Oregon Episcopal School was appointed Salisbury’s fifth Headmaster, beginning in the fall of 1981.  A 1962 graduate of Yale and a loyal member of the Whiffenpoofs, Reverend Sipple was an enthusiastic proponent of singing and musical performance, and the School’s Arts program underwent noticeable development in his years of leadership.  Aided by his wife, Margaret, Reverend Sipple nurtured Salisbury’s fine reputation and saw a number of key campus projects to fruition, including collaborating with Wim Keur in publishing A Light in the Cupola, which chronicled the first 85 years of the School’s history.

In 1988, Mr. Richard T. Flood, Jr., Dean of the School at Noble and Greenough in Boston, MA, was appointed Salisbury’s sixth Headmaster. During Mr. Flood’s 15 years of leadership, Salisbury celebrated its Centennial (2001) and initiated an extensive campus facilities enhancement program in conjunction with that historic event. The most notable additions to the campus were the construction of the Wachtmeister-Bates Mathematics and Science Building and Centennial Humanities Building. Mr. Flood and the Board of Trustees prioritized the enhancement of the academic program, and as a result, every classroom in which the boys and their teachers studied was brand-new beginning in 2001. This was the result of the School’s first comprehensive strategic planning process, a roadmap for the Centennial Celebration, which included a successful $42,000,000 capital campaign, known as Forever Salisbury. Dick and his wife, Sally, remain legendary figures in Salisbury’s rich history, as their collective generosity and spirit brought the School to new heights.

In November of 2002, Mr. Chisholm S. Chandler was appointed by the Board of Trustees to succeed Mr. Flood. Having served on the faculty as an administrator, coach, advisor, and dorm parent beginning in the fall of 1991, Mr. Chandler became the School’s seventh Headmaster and first to be promoted internally from the faculty.  Mr. Chandler had worked loyally at Mr. Flood’s side, and as a result, the transition was a seamless and successful one.  Mr. Chandler’s partnership with the Board resulted in a continuation of campus facilities development. The signature project of this era was the 100,000 square foot, state-of-the-art Flood Athletic Center, which was dedicated in the winter of 2010. During this time, the School also reached new heights in fundraising, successfully completing a $108,000,000 capital campaign known as For The Boys, which enhanced the endowment in a multitude of ways.  Mr. Chandler and his wife, Tracy, led with a sincere passion for the boys and their faculty and staff colleagues that celebrated the uniquely close and friendly culture that is a hallmark of the Salisbury community.

In July of 2022, Mr. William V. Webb, his wife Sarah, and daughter Maggie arrived on the Hilltop and began his tenure as the School’s eighth Head of School.  Mr. Webb came to Salisbury after leading Fountain Valley School of Colorado with great acclaim from 2013-2022.  A graduate of Groton School, Mr. Webb later served on the Groton faculty as well as other exceptional independent schools, as he prepared for his current position leading Salisbury toward its 125th anniversary and a place among America’s finest secondary schools. With Mr. Webb’s passion and vision, Salisbury has a very bright future ahead.

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Good To Know:

The Sarum Hymn:
The Sarum Hymn was written by E.W. Parmelee, master at Salisbury from 1909 through 1927, and is sung to Haydn's St. Anthony Chorale. To listen to the Salisbury Gospel Choir sing the Sarum Hymn (stanzas one and four) Listen Here!

The Salisbury Motto is Esse Quam Videri, which originates in Sallust’s Bellum Catalinarium, 54. Sallust compared Cato to Caesar and wrote that Cato preferred to be virtuous rather than appear to be so. Consequently, the less Cato sought recognition, the more he found it. “To be rather than to seem to be” is an affirmation of personal honor at the heart of the Salisbury experience.

Sixth Form Privileges:
All sixth formers are entitled to wear a blue blazer with the Salisbury crest on the left jacket pocket. Graduates at commencement exercises traditionally wear a school blazer and white slacks. The “senior steps” are restricted to sixth form students.