About ESK

History of The Episcopal School of Knoxville

Groundswell Support

In April 1993, a group of Episcopalians assembled with the intentions of exploring the need for an Episcopal School in Knoxville. These innovators formed the Knoxville Episcopal School Project (KESP). Significant interest in the project was quickly evident. A Board of Trustees was formed, allocating $125,000 for study, advisors and planning.

In 1996, Anne Gordon, Director of the National Association of Episcopal Schools, visited to assess our project. Gordon issued a definitive evaluation, praising the developing project as "the best Episcopal school startup."
Our next step was to hire a Director of the Lower School and Admissions. Kae M. Bridges, bringing twenty years of experience in teaching and educational administration, accepted the position in 1997. She filled the many roles of her new position with enthusiasm. Her advocacy of the soon-to-open school garnered valuable attention, broadening the community of prospective students and parents.

In the spring of 1998, architecture firm McCarty Holsaple McCarty, Inc., created a master plan for the school's development, calling for the addition of one grade per year through 12th grade. To help fund our startup, the Diocese of East Tennessee provided Opportunity Fund Loans and grants totaling $550,000. The Lucille S. Thompson Family Foundation donated $1 million in startup support.


Doors Open in 1998

In August of the same year, The Episcopal School officially opened its doors to students. At a temporary campus on the grounds of St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church, we welcomed 28 children our first year, offering complete classes for Kindergarten-4th Grade. The school met its commitment to devote 10 percent of its tuition income to scholarships. The Episcopal School of Knoxville is the only Episcopal school startup to meet this goal.

By the time the 1999 fall semester began, our student population had doubled in number, and The Episcopal School added a 5th grade class; 100 percent of the original students still living in Knoxville had re-enrolled for the next school year. Following a nationwide search, James J. Secor III, founding Headmaster of Hunter McGuire School in Virginia, was hired as founding Headmaster for the growing Episcopal School of Knoxville.


Following the generosity of an anonymous gift of $1 million-- a gift that was then matched by the Lucille S. Thompson Family foundation -- the school purchased its permanent campus: 96 rolling acres of West Knox County farmland.

Middle School Begins in 2000.

By 2000, our Lower School commons facility, complete with dining hall, gymnasium, and administrative offices, was in place. Using provisional buildings, the Middle School opened with the first sixth grade class. Throughout the year, the campus took shape with the completion of the library, art room, additional classrooms, chapel, and an inviting playground.

By 2001, still growing, The Episcopal School added a 7th grade and continued construction of its permanent campus. In the summer of 2002, two of our original buildings were brought from the campus of Saint Elizabeth's to provide much needed space for the middle school, library and administrative offices. Through the fund raising efforts of the Parents' Association, Episcopal was also able to open a state-of-the-art technology lab.

The summer of 2002 also brought the addition of The Episcopal School's founding Middle School Director, Dr. Patricia Brake, who had served as Middle School Director of Cape Fear Academy in Wilmington, N.C., and Dean of Studies of Webb School of Knoxville. This and the addition of an eighth grade class in the fall of 2002 completed the creation of the Middle School and marked an important milestone in school history. It was decided that an Upper School would be added at a later date.


Accreditation and Eighth Grade Graduates!

In April of 2003, a peer review team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools visited The Episcopal School for the SACS evaluation process. The school received numerous commendations and full recommendation for accreditation through SACS.

On May 23, the school reached another significant moment in its history. Ten eighth grade students were honored as the first graduating class of The Episcopal School of Knoxville. Graduation exercises were held in the Bishop Center gymnasium.


Continued Growth

In the fall of 2003, The Episcopal School welcomed 200 students to campus. Under the leadership of the Board of Trustees, plans for a new Middle School building were unveiled, and the Partners in Faith Campaign for Episcopal was launched to fund the construction of a state-of-the-art Middle School building to be ready for the fall of 2005.

In the fall of 2004, The Episcopal School welcomed Peter M. Klekamp as the new Middle School Director. Peter joined The Episcopal School from University Liggett School in Grosse Point, MI, where he served as an administrator and faculty member.

October 2005 witnessed the blessing of the first wing of our new Middle School building, led by the Rt. Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg, Bishop of East Tennessee. On May 3, 2008, the Rt. Rev. vonRosenberg blessed Googe Hall, the completed 22,000 square foot Middle School Building, complete with bell tower, dining room, administrative offices, garden and media center.


On August 23, 2010, the new 22,000 square foot Brewington Family Lower School was open for students in grades K-5. The $3 million Lower School building includes a director’s office, 12 classrooms, a library, art and music rooms, foreign language labs and interactive classroom technology.  With the completion of the classroom facilities, the school gained a dedicated building for chapel and added Father Kirk LaFon, as a fulltime chaplain.

The 2011-12 school year began with a move towards healthy living with the school’s new all-natural, farm to table dining program complete with an organic school garden planted and tended by students, faculty and alumni.  A chicken coop was built by the Board of Trustees to house the on-campus hens that contribute eggs to be used in the dining hall.



2014-2015 marks seventeen years of academic excellence at The Episcopal School of Knoxville.  We begin the year with record enrollment of 360 students, a brand new Jr. Kindergarten program and the construction of new Lower School classrooms and common space.  From the founders' earliest efforts, it is apparent that careful planning, consensus building and community outreach have helped pave the way for the school's success. The blessings of talented youth, willing volunteers, generous gifts, dedicated faculty and staff, community support and engaged parents all have made The Episcopal School of Knoxville an important member of the independent school community in East Tennessee.




Bell Tower at Googe Hall