by Viraj Shankar
As told by the great VJ Sathyaraj…
As you all have probably heard, OES is celebrating its sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) this year. In case you are new to the school, or just are unfamiliar with our past, here is a brief history of our school, told with help from VJ.
Back in 1869, Bishop Morris, along with his sister, Hannah Morris, and three other sisters, founded St. Helens Hall. At the time it was founded, St, Helen’s Hall was an all girls, residential school, with a location much closer to downtown Portland. The 3 sisters, Mary, Lydia, and Clementina Rodney, were all integral to the school’s functioning, with Mary as the head of school, Lydia as the assistant principal, and Clementina Rodney as a music teacher.
In 1896, after Mary Rodney passed away, the school went through a fascinating transition. As the other Rodney sisters retired, the school was taken over by a group of Anglican Nuns of St. John The Baptist. (part of the name of our current chapel!) These nuns ran the school for about 40 years.
However, as VJ told me, “In 1927, an accomplished lady was hired who started out as a secretary, and her name was Gertrude Ferris. And it was she who eventually became head of school.” VJ explained how Gertrude Ferris also made the school financially viable, as the school had been supported by the Episcopal church and donors until 1896, and after that the nuns ran the school without earning a salary.
In 1964, plans were made in Portland to build a freeway that would bisect the former location of St. Helen’s Hall. Deciding it would be best not to be bulldozed, the school school headed west to the suburb of Raleigh Hills, joining a Boy’s school called Bishop Dagwell Hall. These two schools, located on the same campus, were called the Oregon Episcopal Schools, but later decided to merge into one school, thus making the name simply, Oregon Episcopal School. And that it how the school that we all know and love came to be…
If you want to learn more about OES history, or find cool artifacts from the school’s past, check out these links:
*Image from OES school archives (link above)