The Pembroke Hill School (usually referred to as Pembroke Hill) is a secular, coeducational, independent preparatory school for about 1,200 students in early years (age 2 years) through 12th grade, separated into four sections: early years-prekindergarten (early childhood school), kindergarten-5th grade (lower school), 6th-8th grade (middle school), and 9th-12th grade (upper school). It is located on two campuses in the Country Club District of Kansas City, Missouri, near the Country Club Plaza.
Vassie James Ward Hill, a prominent Kansas Citian and Vassar College graduate born in 1875, gained a considerable fortune upon the death of her first husband, Hugh Ward, a son of pioneer Seth E. Ward. She then married Albert Ross Hill, formerly president of the University of Missouri.
At the time, Kansas Citians of means commonly sent their children to boarding schools on the east coast. Hill did not want to send her daughter and three sons “back east.” She believed they should be able to have an equal education in Kansas City. This led her to research the workings of college preparatory schools, especially the progressive education of the Country Day School movement.
In 1910, using funds from twelve Kansas City businessmen, Hill founded the Country Day School for boys, which accepted both day students and boarders. (Boarding ceased in the 1950s.) The initial enrollment was 20 students but grew to 52 within three years. The first “country day school” in the Midwest, it sat on what is today Pembroke Hill’s Ward Parkway Campus, to the west of the Country Club Plaza at the intersection of State Line Road.
Three years later, Ruth Carr Patton and Frances Matteson Bowersock joined with Hill to found the Sunset Hill School, named after Hill’s favorite area on the Vassar campus. Sunset Hill was located on what today is Pembroke Hill’s Wornall Campus, south of the Country Club Plaza. At the time of its founding, the campus overlooked the Kansas City Country Club (today Loose Park). It also includes a portion of the battlefield from the Battle of Westport.
In 1925, some educators and students left the Country Day School to form the Pembroke School for boys. Their endeavor failed amidst the Great Depression, and the two schools re-merged in 1933 to form the Pembroke-Country Day School, keeping the Country Day School’s original campus. It usually was referred to as “Pem-Day.”
From the start, Sunset Hill and Pembroke-Country Day worked cooperatively. Often, teachers taught at both schools. For generations, many Kansas City families would send their boys to Pem-Day and their girls to Sunset Hill. School activities, such as plays and dances, often were combined, and Sunset Hill girls were cheerleaders for Pem-Day’s athletic teams. In 1963, the schools began coeducational classes in upper level math, science, and languages.
In the early 1980s, the two schools began merger discussions, ultimately merging in 1984 to become the Pembroke Hill School. The class of 1985 elected to have separate graduation ceremonies. True coeducation began the next year. The former Sunset Hill campus became home to the primary and lower schools (then preschool through 6th grade), and the former Pem-Day campus became home to the middle and upper schools (then 7th grade through 12th grade).
In 1988, Kansas City Magazine notoriously published an article titled “A High School on Easy Street”, criticizing Pembroke Hill’s students’ allegedly “advantaged way of life.”
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Pembroke Hill completed a $50 million capital improvement project, which renovated both campuses. The Ward Parkway campus gained a new middle school building, Boocock Middle School (which now serves 6th-8th grades), a new upper school building, Jordan Hall, a new arts center, and a new library, the William T. Kemper Library.
In 1997, 1998, and 1999, Pembroke Hill’s boys’ basketball team won the Missouri Class 2A state title. In 2000, however, in a nationally publicized scandal, the Missouri State High School Activities Association stripped Pembroke of the titles and placed the school on probation after the Kansas City Star revealed that promoter and AAU coach Myron Piggie had made cash payments to two of the school’s star players, Kareem Rush and his brother JaRon Rush, to play on his “amateur” basketball team. Piggie admitted to paying JaRon Rush $17,000 and Kareem Rush $2,300, after which the brothers “submitted false and fraudulent Student Athlete Statements to the universities where they were to play intercollegiate basketball”, certifying that they had not been paid to play basketball. As a result, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Missouri found themselves subject to NCAA penalties for awarding athletic scholarships to non-amateurs. On Piggie’s 2002 appeal from his prison sentence and restitution for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, and tax evasion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit found that Pembroke Hill had “sustained a loss of $10,733.89 in investigative costs and forfeiture of property as a result of” Piggie’s conspiracy.
In the Class of 2013, 29 seniors have been recognized by National Merit. Of these 29 students, 21 or 21 percent of the class, are National Merit Semifinalists. Eight of the students are Commended Students. This number represents the second highest percentage in Missouri.
On September 7, 2017, Dr. Steve Bellis announced that the 2018-2019 school year will be his last year as Head of School. Dr. Bellis has served as the Headmaster of the Ward Parkway Campus of The Pembroke Hill School for the past 16 years.
Tuition and fees for the 2019-20 school year range from $14,905 for students up to pre-kindergarten to $24,960 for upper school. About 24 percent of students receive financial aid, totaling more than $3.4 million each year.
In May 2007, the Malone Family Foundation, established by John C. Malone of Denver, Colorado, gave a $2 million grant to Pembroke’s endowment, the largest single endowment gift in the school’s history. The gift was used to create the Malone Scholars Program to give need-based financial aid to highly qualified students who otherwise would qualify for at least 50 percent in financial aid.
The school has assets of over $100 million and an endowment of more than $38 million. In 2013 the school successfully completed a $15,000,000 endowment campaign connected to its centennial.
Pembroke Hill is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The school is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).
Pembroke Hill has a long athletic tradition. Its colors are blue and red, its teams are known as the Raiders, and its mascot resembles a Viking raider. Pembroke is a member of the Missouri State High School Activities Association.
Today, the school is a perennial contender for or winner of Class 2 state championships in boys’ golf, boys’ tennis, boys’ soccer, girls’ golf, boys’ lacrosse, and girls’ tennis.
In 2006 and 2007, the girls’ basketball team won the Missouri Class 3 state title. The Raider lacrosse team won the 2009 Division II state championship, beating Eureka High School 6-5 after trailing 5-2 in the 4th quarter. The boys’ tennis team also won the 2009 Division II state championship, sweeping all teams up until the final, where Pembroke won 5-2.
Pembroke Hill has cross-state athletic rivalries with two schools located in suburbs of St. Louis: MICDS and John Burroughs School, both in Ladue. Pembroke Hill also has a rivalry in football with St. Pius X located in the northland of Kansas City.
For girls, Pembroke Hill offers:
For boys, Pembroke Hill offers:
In the past, Pembroke also has participated in softball, rugby union, and ice hockey. Additionally, the lower school campus has facilities for racquetball, and the upper school campus is one of only three locations in Kansas City (along with the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Kansas City Club) containing squash courts.
The average Pembroke student takes classes that would be considered advanced in a different school. For example, the standard math curriculum in the middle and upper schools is as follow: pre-algebra in sixth grade, algebra 1 in seventh and eighth grade, geometry in ninth grade, algebra 2 in tenth grade, pre-calculus in eleventh grade, and calculus in twelfth grade.
Coordinates: 39°02′06″N 94°36′22″W / 39.034925°N 94.606167°W / 39.034925; -94.606167