Remembering Our past as We Progress into the Future

This week on campus we celebrated 125 years of educational institutions at Fifth and Cottage, a fact that no other piece of land in California can surpass. Marin Academy has occupied the grounds for 42 years, but before Marin Academy, two separate military academies inhabited this same space.

Between 1890 and 1925 this location was home to Mount Tamalpais Military Academy, which was founded by Dr. Arthur Crosby, who served as President of the Board of Trustees along with Arthur W. Foster who owned Foster Hall. Crosby died in 1915, leaving the school to his wife who decided to sell the property in 1925 to a San Rafael Businessman named A.L. Stewart.   With A.L. Stewart’s purchase, Mount Tamalpais Military Academy dissolved and in its place, San Rafael Military Academy arose. SRMA existed from 1925 to 1971 before following suit with its predecessor, unable to sustain itself. In 1971, the land was given to San Rafael’s Episcopal Church, which then sold it to MA for a small fee, with the stipulation that the land could only be used for educating students.

In 1971, Marin Academy was founded and in the fall of 1972, MA opened its doors to 59 students with William A. McCluskey serving as Headmaster. Tuition at the time was $1,950.

The transition of this location from one school to the next signified a change in the times—an evolution indicative of attitudes and values in flux as the mid-twentieth century began to take hold. A Bay Area military academy was no longer relevant.

For the young cadets of Tamalpais Military Academy and San Rafael Military Academy, this space represented order and hierarchy, and each student was focused on a very specific form of service. Contrastingly, today’s Marin Academy students learn and grow in a place where they are encouraged to participate freely in a democratic society in different ways, thinking, questioning, and creating. MA’s students are urged to find their own voices, to question conventional wisdom, to see themselves as influential individuals with responsibilities in a broader community.

Marin Academy has always pushed the boundaries, investing in and nurturing progressive approaches and ideas. A multidisciplinary experiential education has always been at the core of who we are; a fact reflected not just by our approach to the classroom but also in the innovative programming showcased at Conference on Democracy and Litfest. MA also mirrors this forward thinking approach in programs like Minicourse, Outings and Senior Project.

Looking back at our history as a school, in 1972 MA offered 36 Outings trips throughout the course of the year. Today, MA offers 29 different Outings during fall semester alone. We continue to grow and change as an institution, implementing new approaches to prepare our students for a world filled with unprecedented challenges and opportunities.

As we transition into the next phase of our journey, we must provide our students with the facilities necessary to promote a truly multidisciplinary education. MA has always emphasized the equal importance of both the sciences and the arts, and as we move forward investing in a curriculum rich in STEAM initiatives (science, technology, engineering, art & design, and math) we must also invest in the space and technology needed to remain at the forefront of the educational landscape.

For these reasons I am excited to tell you about our vision for a Science and Innovation Center! Our vision places these values at the focal point of a program driven architecture. The Center embodies our commitment to a new and emerging vision for experiential learning inside and outside of the traditional classroom, now and in the future. It will provide a new space for student and faculty innovation, tying math, art and science together. Classrooms will spill out into collaborative spaces, bringing different disciplines together for continued conversations and exploration. Connected to an inviting garden plaza, the design forms a hub of activity, collaboration, and study for the MA community. MA’s leadership, Board and faculty, especially those in the sciences and arts, have been working on this for several years.  We’re in the final stages of the process, meeting with the San Rafael Design Review Board in early October and then, if all goes according to plan, the Planning Commission at the end of October.  We’re currently in the leadership phase of our capital campaign and within the next two years we’ll be looking to everyone in the community to help support this incredible facility. Our goal is to move forward with a truly innovative, collaborative space.

Although we won’t forget the past, which has played an integral role in defining who we are today, we must spring forward, embracing the new possibilities awaiting us and engaging fully in the future. I look forward to the amazing things our students will be able to achieve in this revolutionary facility. From multidisciplinary collaborative spaces to hands-on mobile experiments, the Science and Innovation Center will move our students into the future.

Fifth and Cottage then…

chemistry 1955 (2)

And now…



About Travis

Head of School, Marin Academy.
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