Schoolmen's Club History

The SCHOOLMEN'S CLUB's mission, clearly defined in its Constitution is, "To promote the social and professional aspects of educational life in the City of Philadelphia and to aid in the betterment of educational conditions. From its debut, the Schoolmen's Club members and their accomplishments have proven noteworthy in the enhancement of public education in Philadelphia. The Clubs' beginnings and the resultant paradigm shift were fundamental in the improvement in the delivery of public education in the city and beyond.

Begun in 1902, the Schoolmen's Club is now a 106 year old professional and fraternal organization of educators from the School District of Philadelphia and related areas. At the turn of the century, there was no consistent program designed to induct principals and teachers into their roles or to improve their leadership, management or teaching skills once they were appointed. The Schoolmen's Club filled that void and has a rich history of service to educators and children.

The Club's earliest beginnings were initiated by a deep concern for reform. The Club began with a nucleus of courageous Philadelphia educators in the midst of a movement of radical change. It was George Gideon who proved to be the man with the understanding, vision, and contacts that men needed to band together divergent elements into a congenial group of fellowship. At that time (1902-1905), the Board of Education was composed of one member from each political ward appointed by the Board of Judges. Each ward had a local Board of School Directors who administered the ward schools, including the teachers as well as all the other professional and service employees. Politics was the order of the day. The names of some of the active Schoolmen of that day are well remembered by the names given to many schools - Gideon, Sayre, Morrison, Jacobs, Cornman and Edmonds to name only a few. In 1905, the Club applied for it's official charter which was granted in September 1909, incorporated as, THE SCHOOLMEN'S CLUB OF PHILADELPHIA.

A signer of the Club charter, Armand J. Gerson, who late became Associate Superintendent of Philadelphia Public Schools, remembered his association with the Club this way, "I was a young man when I was admitted to membership in the Schoolmen's Club...I recall vividly the inspiration and excitement of those early days, To be accepted and welcomed by older Schoolmen with whom I had hitherto admired a respectful distance, to enter into a cordial relationship with leaders in our public school system, to participate in forward looking programs. All this meant something in my personal life and in my professional development impossible to overestimate." Alfred V. Sayre, elementary school principal and a signer of the Club charter, spoke of those times when he wrote, "The Schoolmen's Club has ... a record of fine professional spirit and good fellowship."

In the period during the world wars, the Club weathered the many struggles of society through the strength of it's fellowship and growth. While continuing to concentrate on the nurturing of individual members, a women's auxiliary was formed to provide more opportunities for female educators. During the 1930's dues were reduced to $10.00 from $15.00 and the club sold it's home and rented rooms at the Robert Morris Hotel for meetings. In 1956, the Club moved to a rental on the ground floor of 1526 Cherry Street. In 1957, the Club sponsored an Open House. Attendees gathered in a large meeting room with substantial furniture and room for 75 people. There was a game room and two smaller meeting rooms. The walls were adorned with a rich history chronicling people, events, writings and the club song which was written by Frank Wade and John Waldman. In the Club's traditional spirit of collegiality, outside groups, as well as Club members enjoyed the use of this house. The Club later rented space in the Drake Hotel and then when it was converted into condominiums, it was purchased. Its use by Club members was declining and the facility was rented for private use and later sold. Executive meetings are now held at the offices of the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators and events held at schools, restaurants, and local catering hall facilities.

Continuing traditions, the Club today has annual programs to recognize the accomplishments and contributions of our School Board Presidents, Superintendents, Regional Superintendents and other educational leaders within the School District of Philadelphia. In the 1980's the Club began the tradition of awarding a "Certificate of Service" to an outstanding student at the closing exercises of each elementary and middle school in Philadelphia. Beginning in 1992, the annual Holiday Dinner has become the occasion to recognize outstanding contributions made by educators and supporters of education. The awards are a highlight of the event. And again in 1992, the Club welcomed women educators as members following 92 years of being a mens only club.

Much has transpired during the past ten decades reflected in 25th, 50th,75th, and 100th Anniversary Programs, each of which accentuated both professional development and social activities developed during the preceding quarter century. Today the Club proudly sponsors seminars and workshops for aspiring administrators. Engaging in outreach, the Club members organize study groups of educators to examine educational trends and developments within the context of the School District and the country. The fall and spring programs feature top political, government and educational officials outlining their positions on education and then engaging in dialogue with members.

Integral to Schoolmen's Club are the networking opportunities that have been continually afforded the membership to meet with others at all levels of the School District of Philadelphia in social settings that promote a spirit of camaraderie free from the constraints of their respective missions in the workday world. The Schoolmen's Club has become the "Gold Standard" for educators aspiring for promotion in the School District.

Today's Schoolmen identify with our founders. We face new challenges and crisis in public education. Like our founders, we too are called to "light the way" with honor, courage and commitment.