St. Anselm's Abbey School

This article is about the school in Washington D.C.. For other uses, see St. Anselm's School.
St. Anselm's Abbey School

Pax in Sapientia
"Peace in wisdom"
4501 South Dakota Avenue, NE
Washington, D.C. 20017
United States
Coordinates 38°56′46″N 76°59′11″W / 38.94611°N 76.98639°W / 38.94611; -76.98639Coordinates: 38°56′46″N 76°59′11″W / 38.94611°N 76.98639°W / 38.94611; -76.98639
Type Private, Selective, All-Male
Religious affiliation(s) Roman Catholic
Established 1942
President Fr. Peter Weigand, OSB, MTS
Headmaster Bill Crittenberger
Chair of the Board of Trustees Sylvia Mahaffey
Faculty 60 (approx)
Grades Forms A - VI (grades 612)
Enrollment 250 (in 2014-15)
Campus Urban
Color(s) Maroon and Silver         
Mascot Panthers
Accreditation Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools[1]
Newspaper The Priory Press and The Panther'
Yearbook The Priory Perspective'
Tuition $24,000-25,000
Affiliations Benedictine
Head of Middle School James Leathers, '04
Head of Upper School Alex Morse
Headmaster Emeritus Fr. Michael Hall OSB, Ph.D, '56
Dean of Students Ms. Sean Lane
Director of Admissions Peter Young

St. Anselm's Abbey School is an all-boys preparatory school for grades six through twelve in Washington D.C.. It is located in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. The school sits on a 40 acre wooded campus on the Michigan Park neighborhood of the city's Northeast quadrant and is run by the Benedictine monks of Saint Anselm's Abbey.


The Abbey Shield

The school was founded in 1942 as the Priory School by Fr. Thomas Verner Moore, OSB, the superior of what was then St. Anselm's Priory. The Priory School opened on September 15, 1942 with just 18 students. Although the school began as a high school, the 7th and 8th grades (known as Form I and Form II, respectively) were added in 1955.

The school was renamed St. Anselm's Abbey School in 1961, when the monastery was elevated to the status of an abbey. A 6th grade, known as Form A, was added in 1990 following a major expansion of the school's academic building. In 2003, the school completed a $9 million athletic and performing arts complex. This included the construction of a state-of-the-art athletic facility and gymnasium, as well as the conversion of the old 1945 gym into the Devine Performing Arts Center, containing classroom space, faculty offices, and a theater with seating for 400.


An entrance exam is required. The school attempts to create an academically challenging curriculum that offers classes in a range of subjects, including 23 Advanced Placement courses.[2] In 1988, all but two students in the graduating class achieved semifinalist or higher ranks from the National Merit Scholar program. In 2004, roughly two-thirds of the graduating class achieved commendation or higher honors from the National Merit Scholar program. The average combined SAT I score was over 1400. In 2011, 30 of the 35 graduates achieved the AP Scholar, AP Scholar with Distinction, or National AP Scholar level as defined by the Advanced Placement Program.[3]

Each student who has graduated from St. Anselm's Abbey School since its founding has been accepted to and attended an accredited four-year college or university.[4] For the five-year period from 2002–2006, the five most popular destinations for St. Anselm's graduates were Georgetown University, Columbia University, the University of Maryland, College Park, the University of Chicago, and the College of William & Mary.

The school's curriculum emphasizes classics and is somewhat idiosyncratic. Grades are called "forms," in accordance with the British school system. In addition to six years of science and five years of a spoken language, three years of Latin are required. Ancient Greek is also offered as an elective for students in the Upper School, as is Arabic for students in fifth and sixth forms. As in many other religious schools, theology is also a required course each year.

The school is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools.

In a December 2006 online discussion, Washington Post columnist and Challenge Index creator Jay Mathews said, "Saint Anselm's Abbey in NE D.C. has one of the highest ratings in the country, far above most private schools I know."[5]

Following up in June 2011, Mathews declared that had he included private schools on his "Challenge Index," St. Anselm's Abbey School would have "a rating of 7.250 and a national ranking of 27th if [he] put it on the list. On the Washington area list it would have been No. 1."[6]

The Baltimore Sun has called St. Anselm's "one of the country's premier college preparatory schools."[7]

Class sizes are 10-20 per class. The school's student-to-faculty ratio is approximately 5:1. Classes are smallest in the Upper Division (Forms V and VI), and graduating classes are typically made up of 35 or fewer students.

Campus and facilities

The St. Anselm's Academic Building

The school's campus is approximately 40 acres (16 ha) atop a hill in Washington, D.C. and includes the monastic building of St. Anselm's Abbey, an academic building, and an athletics/performing arts complex. The campus contains several tennis courts, athletic fields, batting cages, a cemetery and woodland areas.

The academic building underwent a renovation in 2008. A lecture hall with a stage and multimedia capabilities was completed. An earth science lab was completed, providing more space for experimentation in the science department. With its completion, the number of labs available to students is four, one for each of the major sciences. The largest and most noticeable upgrade is to the school entrance, which now has a new reception area and office space for student-teacher consultations. The rest of the school also received technological upgrades, including the installation of SMART Boards in several classrooms.


Students cheer on The Panthers at the 63rd Annual Invitational.

St. Anselm's competes in the Potomac Valley Athletic Conference at the middle school and varsity levels in several sports each season. During the 10-year period from 1998 to 2008, the Panthers won 35 conference championships in basketball, soccer, baseball, tennis, cross country, and track and field.[8]

St. Anselm's has hosted the longest-running high school basketball tournament in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.[9] The St. Anselm's Invitational has been a tradition at the school since 1948.

A traditional athletic rivalry is for the Bishop Ansgar Nelson Memorial Soccer Cup, an annual competition held between the varsity boys' soccer teams of St. Anselm's Abbey School and its sister school, Portsmouth Abbey School of Portsmouth, Rhode Island. The competition rotates each year between the two schools.

Student life

The school has clubs and associations, many unique to the school. These include the Cultural Student Organization, Investment Club, Model UN, Fides Fellowship of St. Benedict, Mythology Club, Latin Club, Greek Club, It's Academic, Chamber Orchestra, Jazz Band, Fencing Club, Biology/Forensics Club, and French Club.


The It's Academic team is nationally ranked, with members often participating in televised quiz bowl tournaments hosted at various schools.[10]

The school newspaper, the Priory Press, and the yearbook, the Priory Perspective are student-run and contributed to by the Junior and Senior classes.


The House System

Each student is assigned to one of four Houses named for figures in the school’s history: Alban House, named for Fr. Alban Boultwood, the first Abbot of St. Anselm’s Abbey; Austin House, named for Fr. Austin McNamee, the school’s founding Headmaster; Main House, named for Fr. John Main, the school’s fifth Headmaster; and Moore House, named for Fr. Thomas Verner Moore, founder of the monastery and school. The four houses compete each year for the House Championship, based on their performance in intramural athletics and their participation in extracurricular and community service activities.

St. Anselm’s Invitational Basketball Tournament

Each year, St. Anselm’s Abbey School hosts to the Washington region’s longest-running interscholastic basketball tournament, the St. Anselm’s Invitational. The tournament was established in 1948. The post-season tournament traditionally begins on a Friday afternoon in late February, when the entire student body, faculty and staff join parents, friends and alumni in the gym to cheer on the varsity Panthers. The three-day event concludes on Sunday evening with the championship game, and the winning team’s name is inscribed on the Dwyer Trophy (named after the tournament’s founding coach), which is held by the winning school until the following tournament.

Egg Drop

Each spring, Form IV students must complete a unique assignment as part of their Physics class: construct a vessel which, when dropped from the roof of the athletics complex, can hold an egg and keep it from breaking while hitting a target area on the sidewalk below. Students must construct their entries using only a single predetermined material, which changes each year and is revealed less than a month before the Egg Drop. The vehicle is graded on its size and dimensions, as well as its ability to keep the egg safe and intact. The student with the fewest deductions is named the winner of the “Egg Drop Award”—and, receives a perfect score on his assignment.[11]

Vintage Photograph from the Basketball Tournament

Notable alumni

Notable faculty

See also


  1. MSA-CESS. "MSA-Commission on Secondary Schools". Retrieved 2014-07-28.
  2. Academics & Curricula - Course of Study
  3. Class of 2011 Excels on AP Exams
  4. College Acceptances
  5. Mathews, Jay. "Challenge Index." Live Online Discussion.
  6. Mathews, Jay. "Class Struggle: Numbers that private schools fear."
  7. Willis, Laurie. "St. Frances students to get advanced courses via satellite." Baltimore Sun, August 30, 2000, pg. 3B. Baltimore Sun
  8. Athletics.
  9. St. Anselm’s to Host 64th Annual Basketball Invitational
  10. Corbie Chronicle, Fall 2009 Page 9.
  11. History & Traditions
  12. Directors of the Office of Foreign Missions
  13. Faculty at the Catholic University of America
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