Breadcrumbs

History

Our story

"Education is a community service requiring community participation."
Stephen Eckard, humanitarian, journalist, scholar, entrepreneur, founder and former head of ASL.

ASL was founded in 1951 by Stephen L. Eckard, an American journalist and former teacher living in London. Mr. Eckard was working for the North American Service of the BBC when several co-workers encouraged him to start a school that followed an American curriculum. The School began with 13 students, and all classes took place in his Knightsbridge flat.

Within half a year, the School had become so popular that three teachers were hired and it was moved to a more spacious property in Chelsea. An alumnus of ASL in its early years remembered Mr. Eckard wearing many hats: "Headmaster, counselor, teacher, administrator, even bus driver—Stephen Eckard did it all."

The School continued to grow, moving first to a large house in Grosvenor Square and then adding two houses in Gloucester Gate and four houses in York Terrace. Students played sports at Regent’s Park and on the lawn of Winfield House, the residence of the US ambassador.

The first High School graduation was held in 1960, an event that brought Mr. Eckard much joy. "It would be difficult to exaggerate the pride I feel in our school’s first graduating class," he said. "To the extent that it marks a milestone of achievement for me in the development of the American School in London, I hope this feeling is shared by the Senior Class."

In 1964, the newly formed Board of Trustees made the landmark decision to raise funds for a $7 million building to house the whole school. They broke ground in 1968 with the help of Ambassador David K.E. Bruce. The cornerstone was laid two years later by Ambassador Walter Annenberg. The Rt. Hon. Margaret Thatcher, MP, then secretary of state for education and science, spoke at the building’s dedication in 1971.

In September 2000, the School opened a new High School wing, which included an additional 24,000 square feet of space, a new gym, art studios, computer labs and a renovated library.

In June 2006, the School broke ground on the School Center for Education and the Arts, to create a 450-seat theater and new flexible teaching and performance space. The Center was completed in the winter of 2007 and officially opened in March 2008.

In 2011, the School marked its 60th anniversary by celebrating Founder's Day on 21 April, the date on which founding headmaster Stephen L. Eckard opened the doors of his Knightsbridge flat to begin the American School in London in 1951.

In May 2014, the School broke ground, once again, on the construction of our Community Arts Building (opened in January 2016); our underground Aquatic & Fitness Center with a 6-lane, 25-meter swimming pool, fitness center and multipurpose instruction space (opened September 2016); and the renovation of our middle school science labs (opened in September 2016). These new facilities provide an additional 26,000 square feet of teaching and learning spaces to each and every student. And the most significant component of this fundraising effort was the growth in ASL’s endowment for student financial assistance.

Timeline

1951Stephen L. Eckard opens a school for 13 students in his flat on Hans Place in Knightsbridge
1952School moves to Grosvenor Square as the School grows to 135 students and 10 teachers
1955U.S. President Harry Truman addresses students
1957High School (Grades 10–12) added as the School moves to two Regency houses at Gloucester Gate
1960First High School graduation (12 seniors)
First yearbook produced
First prom (at Manettas)
The eagle is chosen as the School mascot
1963School moves to 38/41 York Terrace
Teacher Paul Morton begins 33 years of perfect attendance
1964ASL becomes an educational trust
The School expands and is housed under 12 roofs
1968The International Sports League (ISL) is started
York Gate opens for Middle School
Ground breaking for the new campus in St. John's Wood by U.S. Ambassador David K. E. Bruce
1969The High School moves to the Working Men's College for two years while the new building is finished
1970The cornerstone for the new school building is laid by the Rt. Hon. Michael Stuart, CH, MP, British foreign and commonwealth secretary, in the presence of U.S. Ambassador Walter Annenberg and ASL Board Chairman Albert F. Lager
1971The new building is dedicated by the Rt. Hon. Margaret Thatcher, MP, secretary of state for education and science
First graduation in the new building; Lord Hailsham is a guest speaker
First championships in ISL Tournament—boys soccer, girls volleyball
Jack H. Harrison chosen as the second head of school (1971-86)
1972The Faculty Sabbatical Policy is established; Harry Hurtt is the first recipient
1973DoDDS Sports League begins
The Student-Teacher Mentor Program is established
1974First Music Tour – Stage Band goes to The Hague
The American Memorial Collection is established in the Mellon Library to commemorate ASL families killed in a Paris plane crash
International Schools Sports Tournament (ISST) is started
1975International Honor Band and Choir are established by ASL faculty
The HS student newspaper, the Standard, is started
1978First High School Alternatives trips
1979Death of ASL founder and first head of school Stephen L. Eckard
1981First computer lab is built
1984Concert Band plays for U.S. President Ronald Reagan at Winfield House, residence of the US ambassador
1986William E. Harris is chosen as the third head of school (1986-91)
1991Death of William E. Harris, third head of school
William H. Greenham is chosen as fourth/interim head of school (1991-92)
1992Judith R. Glickman is chosen as the fifth head of school (1992-98)
1994Canons Park playing fields are purchased
1996Schoolwide computer network is installed
1997Board of Trustees approves a Facilities Master Plan
1998William C. Mules is chosen as the sixth head of school (1998-2007)
The school launches its first capital campaign, SchoolWorks, in support of campus renovation and expansion
1999SchoolWorks' ground breaking ceremony for the School's renovation and expansion
2000Completion of new gyms and the High School humanities wing
2001Completion of the SchoolWorks capital campaign
ASL celebrates 50 years of providing quality education
2006The School launches its second capital campaign, Fulfilling Great Expectations, to increase endowment in support of faculty and staff and to renovate the school theater
Fulfilling Great Expectations ground breaking ceremony for the new School Center for Education and the Arts
2007Coreen R. Hester is chosen as the seventh head of school (2007-17)
2008School Center for Education and the Arts grand opening ceremony—special guests include the Honorable Al Gore
2010Board of Trustees adopts the 2010 Strategic Plan
2011Founder's Day celebrated in April to mark the founding of ASL in April 1951 and the school's 60th anniversary
2013Board of Trustees announce plans for ASL's third capital campaign, New Frontiers, in support of program excellence, new and renovated facilities, and endowment growth
2016Community Arts Building, Aquatic & Fitness Center, Learning Commons and renovated MS and HS science spaces open
2017Robin Appleby is chosen as the eighth head of school (2017-present)

ASL facts

  • ASL was founded in 1951 by Stephen Eckard, an American journalist and teacher, who served as Headmaster for 20 years. The School began with 13 students in Eckard's flat in Knightsbridge. Today, we are more than 100 times the size with 1,350 students.
  • ASL had nearly 20 addresses, including Hans Place, Knightsbridge; the Working Men's College, Camden; York Terrace, Regent's Park; Gloucester Gate; Grosvenor Square. We've been in St. John's Wood since 1971.
  • ASL's current facility was dedicated in 1971 by the Rt. Hon. Mrs. Margaret Thatcher MP, then Secretary of State for Education and Science.
  • The first stage production of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was performed at ASL with original music by a LS teacher. Mr. Dahl, who was in the audience, loved the show!
  • The first issue of the high school newspaper, The Standard, was published in 1974. The middle school newspaper Quoi de Neuf printed its first copy in November of 1987 and changed its name to The Scroll in 1993.
  • In 1974, Elton John performed to a standing-room-only crowd in the ASL gym. (The concert was open to the public and Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson attended the show. She was 14 years old at the time.)
  • US presidents Truman, Reagan, Clinton and Obama have met with ASL students and parents during visits to London.
  • The Head of School's home is called Bruce House, named after US Ambassador David K. E. Bruce, who was instrumental in helping ASL secure the property in St. John's Wood. More recently, the School purchased the other half of the previous privately held residence in the spring of 2010. Currently, campus expansion is underway.
  • Part of the Chiltern Line railway from Marylebone to High Wycombe and Oxford runs underneath the School about 2m (6ft 6ins) below the floor of the Blue Gym. The tunnel runs roughly north from the corner of Waverley Place and Grove End Road, under the Blue Gym, the School Center Foyer and part of the Lower School, and then out under the Marlborough playground.
  • ASL has more than 15,000 alumni living in 77 countries.