St Hilda's & St Hugh's first opened its doors to students in 1950, realizing the dream of The Reverend Mother Ruth, founder of the Community of the Holy Spirit, an Episcopal order for women. Mother Ruth had a vision of serving God and children here in Morningside Heights. Her purpose in starting the school was to create an environment in which all races, creeds, and cultures would come together not only to study academic subjects, but also to learn about each other.
The Inspiration for Our School
Mother Ruth recognized that a school with an authentically multicultural community would have the power to change the misconceptions and fears that either consciously or unconsciously divide people from one another and ultimately separate them from themselves and from God. It was her express wish that the students' faith become a more meaningful part of their lives as a result of their education at St Hilda's & St. Hugh's. In her words, "I hope a Jewish child who attends our school comes out a better Jew, an Episcopalian comes out a better Episcopalian, and I hope an agnostic child comes out a better agnostic."
St. Hilda and St. Hugh
Mother Ruth named this school in honor of two saints whose lives and ideals mirrored her goals for the program.
- St. Hilda, a seventh century member of the English nobility, founded the influential Abbey at Whitby in Yorkshire, England. At the Abbey both men and women were educated in the academic disciplines of the times as well as given training in the arts. St Hilda founded this co-educational institution centuries before women were considered worthy to receive education.
- St. Hugh of Lincoln, a twelfth century bishop, was known for his personal courage, the clarity of his convictions, and his kindness.
To remind us of the school's history, a stone relic from St. Hilda's Abbey, set in limestone, is the cornerstone upon which the school is built. You can see it near the entrance. Our school's shield also reflects a commitment to equality by balancing the two initials of our saints with the symbols of their gifts to us - the bishop's mitre and staff for St. Hugh, and the crown and staff for the royal abbess, St. Hilda.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion
Mother Ruth learned from experience the harm done by discrimination. As a biracial woman from Harlem, she faced rejection when pursuing her religious vocation in the United States. Mother Ruth was determined to build a school that reflected the rich diversity of its city and utilize this diversity as one of its greatest strengths.Enrolling children from different racial, economic, and religious backgrounds, Mother Ruth revolutionized the exclusive tradition that defined independent schools at that time.