Founded in 1873, Morgan Park Academy is a coeducational, college preparatory, independent day school dedicated to preparing students to pursue the highest levels of educational excellence with an emphasis on independent thinking and scholarship.

We reflect a wide array of diversity and apply a global lens to the curriculum to prepare students to act as leaders in the dynamic world of the future. We also expect students to live up to the highest standards of human values. Our track record shows that Morgan Park Academy students consistently achieve success in college and embrace leadership roles throughout their lives.

Our highly motivated faculty is complemented by a stimulating, time-tested curriculum. We have some of the smallest class sizes among the top schools in Illinois. Morgan Park Academy provides an engaging, personal learning experience for students from Preschool through High School.

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Morgan Park Academy engages the whole child, inspires the independent learner, and prepares the global leader of tomorrow to make a positive difference in the world.

 

Morgan Park Academy aspires to be a beacon of education for the Chicagoland area by developing a learning community of innovative teachers, the best and brightest students, and exceptional facilities and resources.

Independent Thinking: We believe in providing a rigorous, broad-based liberal arts program that inspires a student’s pursuit of skills, knowledge and values.

Global Leadership: We believe that our student body should be socioeconomically, ethnically and culturally diverse, so that students delve into a curriculum that sees the world’s challenges through a global lens.

A Whole Child Approach: We believe in an education that is both challenging and nurturing, by engaging students’ heads, hearts and hands.

Mutual Respect: We believe that a school community should stand for and teach a set of core values: integrity, respect, responsibility, diligence, kindness, cooperation, and service.

Private School Chicago - Commencement
Chicago Private School - History

History

Mt. Vernon Military Academy and Classical

1873

Mt. Vernon Military Academy and Classical

was founded on a ridge above “Horse Thief Hollow” during Ulysses S. Grant’s second term as president, just in time for the “Panic of 1873.” It survived that economic dislocation—and a few others in its venerable history—and has endured and flourished as an independent school for well over a century.

Morgan Park Military Academy in 1877

1877

Morgan Park Military Academy

It became Morgan Park Military Academy in 1877 with the Civil War still a vivid memory, and while the U.S. military operations were primarily concerned with the resistance of Geronimo and other Native American leaders in the West.

Tuition in the 1870s was $400 and included “board washing (12 pieces a week), [and] mending of under garments.” Uniforms added another $64.50 to the bill.

It was, from its inception, a proprietary school with the land and buildings owned by the headmaster, and intended to operate for the profit of the owner.

Illinois Military Academy

1890

Illinois Military Academy

For a brief period (1890-1892),
it was incorporated by the state under the name of the Illinois Military Academy.

Operating simultaneously and in near proximity during those years was the Owen Academy, an informal school using buildings of the Baptist Theological Seminary to prepare students for entrance in advance of the opening of the new University of Chicago.

Morgan Park Academy of the University of Chicago.

1892

Morgan Park Academy of the University of Chicago.

When William Rainey Harper became the founding president of the University of Chicago in 1892, the Academy became the non-sectarian, integrated, and co-ed (quite unusual for that time—although, the experiment did not survive the decade) preparatory school for the university. It was located in suburban Morgan Park, on land purchased in part from the Illinois Military Academy, and was given a new name: Morgan Park Academy of the University of Chicago.

Harper’s teachers at the Academy held university rank and one of them, Amos Alonzo Stagg, coached football for a time at both institutions. Two of the Academy’s alumni—Jesse Harper [1902], at Notre Dame, and Wallace Wade [1913], at Alabama and Duke—became coaches who were later elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. The Academy was also a participant in the first high school basketball game played in Illinois (in 1893) just one season after James Naismith invented the game in faraway Massachusetts. It was Amos Alonzo Stagg, who had worked with Naismith at the YMCA Training College in Springfield, Massachusetts, who brought basketball to Chicago.

After William Rainey Harper’s death in 1906, the University of Chicago discontinued its relationship with the Academy, and the school once again became a boys’ military boarding school.

Morgan Park Military Academy MPMA

1906

Morgan Park Military Academy MPMA

After William Rainey Harper’s death in 1906, the University of Chicago discontinued its relationship with the Academy, and the school once again became a boys’ military boarding school.

Part of Harper’s legacy, which continues to this day, is a tradition of high standards, exemplary teaching, and a remarkable loyalty to the school on the part of faculty, administration, staff, alumni, and students. Just consider the tenures of the faculty members Harry D. Abells (1898-1945), Haydn Jones (1899-1946), Francis Gray (1917-1960), and David A. Jones (1957-1998), among others. Note, too, the many alumni who have sent their own children to the Academy.

The Great Depression

1933

The Great Depression

The Academy survived the Great Depression thanks, in part to two bold moves by Superintendent Harry D. Abells.

While other schools were going under Abells expanded the Academy to increase revenue by starting a junior college (1933) and offering summer school courses—even to girls—from public and parochial schools.

Morgan Park Academy

1958

Perhaps the most difficult decade in the school's history was 1958-1967, after the reluctant decision to demilitarize. Girls were admitted again in 1959, boarding was gradually phased out, and the school became integrated. Morgan Park Academy survived those cataclysmic changes, endured, and flourished. And, although it has had different names and evolving academic configurations, Morgan Park Academy has represented a tradition of educational excellence for more than a century and a quarter.

Perhaps the most difficult decade in the school’s history was 1958-1967, after the reluctant decision to demilitarize. Girls were admitted again in 1959, boarding was gradually phased out, and the school became integrated.

Morgan Park Academy survived those cataclysmic changes, endured, and flourished. And, although it has had different names and evolving academic configurations, Morgan Park Academy has represented a tradition of educational excellence for more than a century and a quarter.