When Stevenson opened its doors in 1952 with 18 boys, six old buildings, 17 acres of land and no tangible means of support, only founder Robert Ricklefs would have had the courage to dream that within 50 years it would be a nationally and internationally respected school with 750 students and 30 buildings on 50 acres of land and two campuses, in two of the most beautiful and popular neighborhoods in North America and, indeed, the world.
And yet that is exactly what happened. Mr. Ricklefs, a former major and member of General Eisenhower's staff during World War II, retired from Stevenson in 1970. During his tenure, 16 new buildings had been built, 21 more acres had been acquired, 312 boys were enrolled, the famous Spyglass Golf Course had been built abutting the campus, and in many ways the school had become a traditional "East Coast" prep school. In recognition of its development, Stevenson was inducted into the national Cum Laude Society in only its twelfth year of existence, at that time the youngest school to be so honored.
Gordon Davis, Stevenson's second headmaster, led the school for the next 12 years. The academic program matured with the creation of a full range of honors and Advanced Placement courses as well as athletic and extra-curricular activities, including a radio station. Enrollment increased with the addition of girls as day students in 1976. An outstanding group of young teachers were hired, many of whom became the leaders among today's faculty and several went on to lead other schools. A passion for the performing arts, experiential education, and individual responsibility came to define the school's place in the educational community. Stevenson became known and respected for its straightforward attitude toward life and learning: to do your best, take risks, act responsibly, respect yourself and others.
Stevenson's growth from 312 to 478 students during the Davis years strained existing facilities and created new challenges. The arrival in 1983 of Joe Wandke, the school's third (and current) headmaster, ushered in a second era of physical growth and development. Four new dormitories were built, resident enrollment increased, girls became boarders, and the Carmel Campus in Carmel with 200 students became part of the school in 1988. In 2003, the new 30,000 square foot Rosen Family Student Center became the focal point for daily life and a symbol of Stevenson's vision of itself.
Mr. Wandke has been the champion of technological development at Stevenson and has kept Stevenson in the technological forefront of independent schools by arranging appropriate funding, staffing and infrastructure in this area. The laptop program, the wireless component of the campus, the integration of technology into the curriculum and library services all have been recent developments. Working closely with the board of trustees, Mr. Wandke has assured the school is on sound financial footing, brought faculty compensation to a high level, created a faculty enrichment program utilized widely by faculty members, and developed a viable five year plan for further campus development.
Today Stevenson is home to 520 students at the Pebble Beach Campus (equally divided between resident and day, boys and girls) and 200 students at the Carmel Campus. The school's motto, a favorite of General Eisenhower and written by Claudio, a 16th century Jesuit, speaks to all who live and work and learn at Stevenson:
"Suaviter in modo, fortiter in re."
"Gentle in manner, strong in deed."