Nightingale aspires to be a place where every girl is known.
We are Nightingale
Nightingale enters its second century in full embrace of the philosophy established by our founders. As Miss Nightingale and Miss Bamford believed, girls’ schools educate girls best, and a purposeful curriculum is a matter of both mind and heart.
At Nightingale, each girl can expect an education that prepares her for success. Led by a fully-engaged and student-focused faculty and administration, she will be ready for whatever the world presents to her.
From the moment each girl enters the blue doors, she is acknowledged, understood, and valued. She is encouraged by Nightingale’s inclusive community to advocate for herself, have empathy for others, and take intellectual risks. We aspire for no student to attend Nightingale anonymously.
Within the blue doors, students learn more than just academics. They are taught to discover their own voices, understand the potential of their ideas, and view differences as a source of strength. Each graduate receives an education that ensures she is ready to take on the challenge of global citizenship and equipped to change her world for the better.
At Nightingale, strong academics are just the beginning.
Nightingale girls know that exceptional performance is the product and not the point of a great education; true excellence comes from the joy of a never-ending desire to learn. Rigorous academics and exceptional teaching are givens. Just as importantly, students learn how to listen, how to question, how to debate, and how to grow from their accomplishments and failures.
At Nightingale, we support, respect, and celebrate students as they are.
There is no such thing as a typical Nightingale girl. However, what is shared by every Nightingale graduate is comfort in her own skin, a respect for the people and environment around her, and an ambition to establish her voice in the world. At Nightingale we endeavor for every student to feel this way; we want them to know that they have a caring community of students, friends, mentors, teachers, parents, administrators, and alumnae who believe in her.
At Nightingale, strength is meaningless if not matched in kindness.
The Nightingale girl is not simply nice. She is far too strong and driven to sit passively in the back of the room while others tell her how the world should be. But she would also never dictate how anyone else should think and act, or put others down to achieve her goals. Students learn that true kindness is not passive—in fact, it often takes patience, humility, and courage. We believe fostering a truly kind student body is the essential achievement any school can claim.
At Nightingale, we prepare students for whatever the future holds.
The world is changing faster than our schools. Today’s challenges, communities, and professions will look completely different by the time many of our students graduate. Nightingale champions a time-tested education, enriched by an ever-evolving, student-focused curriculum that provides students with tools to live fearlessly in the future.
Nightingale inspires girls to go beyond barriers.
Our vision is for Nightingale students to be joyful learners who have the intellectual depth and the courage to be critical thinkers, compassionate citizens, and agents of their own lives; in doing so, we advance equity for the betterment of all.
To achieve this mission and vision, we will educate girls’ minds and hearts by:
- Infusing their lives with meaningful relationships;
- Teaching them to value difference as a source of strength and means of growth;
- Empowering them to question the status quo with confidence, empathy, resilience, and reason.
Adopted by the Board of Trustees on November 2, 2017
A Century of Excellence
A celebration of our leaders who led our School forward while honoring the past.
Nightingale Becomes a College Preparatory School
1920–1947 Frances Nicolau Nightingale and Maya Stevens Bamford
Frances Nightingale and Maya Bamford were remarkably different women in education, background, and personality. Miss Bamford was all business, sharp elbows, and high expectations while Miss Nightingale fostered an atmosphere of warmth and enthusiasm within which “her children” could learn and grow. The school they envisioned combined the best of both founders: high academic standards within a nurturing environment in which the whole child, the heart as well as the mind, would flourish. Miss Nightingale led the school from 1920-1939, followed by Miss Bamford until 1947.
Fact: The first graduating class in 1925 was made up of just four young women. The President of Vassar College, a strong supporter of women’s education, gave the commencement speech.
The Post War Era
1947–1958 Edna Hill Robillard
Post-war prosperity would greatly benefit the School as it moved to a new era of fundraising within the broader group of alumnae and parents. In many ways, it was a new world, and under the next headmistress, Ms. Edna Hill Robillard, who had joined Nightingale in 1935 as head of the lower school, Nightingale expanded outwards, becoming more involved in the greater community and responding to new needs creatively. Under her leadership, Nightingale also began to modernize, starting with the school building which was then almost twenty years old.
Fact: A survey of alumnae who graduated between 1924 and 1952 found that prior to 1938, fewer than fifty percent applied to or attended college. After 1938, the number rose to eighty percent.
A School Where Everyone is Known
1958–1971 Catherine Baldwin Woodbridge
For the first time in the school’s history, a headmistress was chosen from outside the faculty and administration. Ms. Catherine Baldwin Woodbridge was chosen to reset the course of the school. Ms. Woodbridge set herself the task of ensuring that single-sex schools would survive only if they measured up to the best co-educational schools in the country. In 1964, the school acquired the building at 26 East 92nd Street, allowing an expansion of the Schoolhouse and curriculum.
Fact: In the mid-1960s, Nightingale became one of the first NYC girls' schools to establish programs to seek out and admit students of color, beginning the process of integrating the School.
A Vision of Nightingale’s Future Path
1971–1992 Joan Stitt McMenamin
After teaching at Nightingale and serving as assistant head of school, Joan McMenamin (aka “JSM”) became the school’s fifth head of school in 1971. In the tradition of Miss Nightingale, she envisioned the school as a second home for students. JSM greeted every student at the door by name, knew her parents, her academic history, her problems, and her successes. She worked to modernize Nightingale as a model for women’s education, strengthening its academic rigor. She created a computer department in her first year as the head. In 1988, she led a major expansion of the facilities, requiring the relocation of the school for two years.
Fact: By the 1970s, Nightingale’s student body was internationally diverse, with students from twenty-eight different countries.
Into the 21st Century
1992–2012 Dorothy A. Hutcheson
In 1992 Dorothy Hutcheson became the youngest head of school in Nightingale’s history. Looking to the changing needs of education in the 21st century, Dorothy believed that the school should be governed collaboratively. Dorothy held conviction in girls “finding their own voice.” One of her most urgent goals was a more diverse student body encompassing ethnicity, socioeconomic backgrounds, race, religion, and sexual orientation. By 2010, Dorothy Hutcheson was one of the longest-standing school heads in the country, successfully answering the momentous changes of her era, including globalization, computerization, and advancement of women into positions of power.
Fact: By 2001, ninety percent of the Upper School was taking three regular or AP science courses over the course of four years, in addition to electives.
Leading into Nightingale’s Second Century
2012–present Paul A. Burke
On July 1, 2012, Paul A. Burke became the seventh head of school at Nightingale, after a four-year tenure as head of the Upper School. Having led the Upper School, Paul had come to appreciate the School’s unique identity. He believes in the importance of an environment in which girls are “not only included but celebrated and embraced.” Paul’s first undertaking was to integrate two adjacent townhouses and renovate the Schoolhouse to support 21st-century education. He stewarded the creation of the 2017 strategic plan which focused on global education, diversity and inclusivity, community engagement, and interdisciplinary work. Like his predecessors, Paul embraced the challenge of leading the School into the future while honoring the best qualities of its past.