Sidwell Friends School

Coordinates: 38°56′21″N 77°04′29″W / 38.939217°N 77.074628°W / 38.939217; -77.074628

Sidwell Friends School

Eluceat Omnibus Lux
"Let the light shine out from all"
Bethesda, Maryland (Lower School)
Washington, D.C. (Middle/Upper School)

Type Private, Day, College-prep
Religious affiliation(s) Quaker
Established 1883
Head of school Bryan K. Garman
Faculty 248
Grades PK12
Gender Coeducational
Enrollment 1,097
Athletics conference MAAC (boys)
ISL (girls)
Team name Quakers
Publication The Oat
(the satirical student newspaper)
(the art magazine)
Newspaper Horizon
Information (202) 537-8100

Sidwell Friends School is a highly selective Quaker school located in Bethesda, Maryland and Washington, D.C., offering pre-kindergarten through secondary school classes. Founded in 1883 by Thomas Sidwell, its motto is "Eluceat omnibus lux" (English: Let the light shine out from all), alluding to the Quaker concept of inner light. All Sidwell Friends students attend Quaker meeting for worship weekly, and middle school students begin every day with five minutes of silence.[1]

The school's admissions process is merit-based. As documented on the school's website, it gives preference in admissions decisions to members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), but otherwise does not discriminate on the basis of religion. The school accepts vouchers under the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Described as "the Harvard of Washington's private schools",[2] the school has educated children of notable politicians, including those of several presidents. Both of United States President Barack Obama's daughters, Sasha and Malia, and Vice President Joe Biden's grandchildren attend the school.[3] President Theodore Roosevelt's son Archibald, Richard Nixon's daughter Tricia, Bill Clinton's daughter Chelsea Clinton, and Vice President Al Gore's son, Albert Gore III, graduated from Sidwell Friends.


Thomas Sidwell started a "Friends' Select School" in 1883 on I Street in downtown Washington, four blocks from the White House.[4][5] It opened with eleven students,[6] Beginning in 1911 Sidwell began buying property between Wisconsin Avenue and 37th St. At first the new property was used for athletic fields while the campus was still downtown, with students shuttling between the two sites by streetcar. However, in 1923 Sidwell built a building for school dances and other social gatherings on what came to be known as the Wisconsin Avenue campus.[6]

In 1925 the school added a kindergarten, which made it the first K–12 school in Washington.[6] In 1934 the name of the school was changed to "Sidwell Friends School".[6] The school moved slowly out to the Wisconsin Avenue campus with the first five grades taught there by 1933,[7] but by 1938 everything had been moved, and the I Street property was sold.

At the urging of the students the school adopted its dress code in 1955, which included a coat and tie for all male high school students. Again at the urging of the students, it dropped this dress code in the 1970s.

Sidwell became racially integrated in 1956.[4] Before 1956 it was a white-only school.[8]

Since 2005, the Wisconsin Avenue campus has seen the completion of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum Middle School; a new indoor athletic facility; underground parking garage; and two turf fields. A new Quaker Meeting House facility is located in the newly renovated Arts Center.

Thomas B. Farquhar left his position as the Head of School after the 2013-2014 school year. He became the Head of School after the retirement of former Head of School Bruce Stewart at the end of the 2008–2009 school year.[9] Bryan K. Garman, the current Head of School, took office beginning with the 2014-2015 school year.


The Sidwell Friends Upper School has an English Department. In 2005, Sidwell's AP English Exam scores were the highest in the nation for all medium-sized schools (300–799 students in grades 10–12) offering the AP English exam.[10] Sidwell does not offer an AP English course.

All students must acquire at least 20 credits before graduating. Students are required to take four years of English, three years of mathematics, three years of history, two years of one foreign language, two years of science, and two years of art. In addition to this, all freshmen must take a full year Freshman Studies course.[11]

Sidwell is a member school of School Year Abroad.


Sidwell's sports teams are known as the Quakers; their colors are maroon and gray. The Quakers compete in the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAC) for boys' sports (after previously competing in the Interstate Athletic Conference (IAC) until 1999) and the Independent School League (ISL) for girls' sports. Sidwell offers teams in Volleyball, Golf, Boys and Girls Cross Country, Football, Field Hockey, Girls and Boys Soccer, Boys and Girls Basketball, Swimming, Wrestling, Boys and Girls Tennis, Baseball, Boys and Girls Lacrosse, Boys and Girls Track, Ultimate Frisbee, and Softball.

Boys' cross country

Sidwell has a strong tradition in boys' cross country, including winning four consecutive conference championships under Head Coach Bill Wooden from 2006–2009. They produced the area's top runner, 2010 All-Met Athlete of the Year John McGowan '11,[12] who runs for Yale University. In 2015, they won the MAC Championships and ended Georgetown Day School's six year MAC title streak, establishing themselves as the new juggernaut in the MAAC cross country field.

Boys' soccer

Over the past decade, the Sidwell Friends Boys' Soccer program has become one of the best programs in the Washington, DC metro area. In fall, 2006, the boys' varsity soccer team compiled a 19–2 record and was recognized as No. 9 in the Washington Post Top Ten soccer schools in the metropolitan area. The 2007 Boys Varsity Soccer team again won the MAAC Boys' Soccer championship and achieved a second consecutive Washington Post Top Ten ranking, reaching No. 3 in the final poll with a 20–2 record. The 2008 team continued their recent success by winning the third consecutive MAAC title, and their 4th in 5 years, with an undefeated 16–0–1 record for the season. Again, the Quakers finished the season ranked No. 3 in the area by the Washington Post and No. 36 nationally by The 2009 squad began the season ranked No. 22 in the country by ESPN. After failing to capture the MAAC tournament trophy in two consecutive seasons, the 2013 team was the first team in Sidwell Friends History to win the MAAC league, tournament, and DC state championships finishing 3rd in the Washington Post Top Ten rankings.[13] In October 2009 the squad achieved a prestigious No. 1 Washington Post ranking. They also ended up ranked No. 47 in the country.


Sidwell Friends has a century-long tradition of playing football, and plays in the MAAC. Players have gone on to play college football at Columbia University,[14] Franklin & Marshall College,[15] Georgetown University,[16] Middlebury College,[17]Kenyon College,[18] Ithaca College [19] Stanford University,[20] and Wake Forest University.[21]


The wrestling program at Sidwell has taken 10th place in the national prep tournament in 2003, and won the DC Classic, a competition among all DC private schools that compete in wrestling, in 2007 and 2008. In February 2008, the Boys Varsity Wrestling Team claimed their 7th "banner" (conference championship) in 9 years of participating in the MAAC. It was also their 4th straight banner. They established clear dominance, winning the tournament by over 100 points, and boasted 8 MAAC champions and one additional All-MAAC selection. In January 2009, the Sidwell Wrestling team had an impressive showing at the MAAC wrestling tournament—having 7 MAAC champions and winning the tournament by over 80 points. In January 2011, Sidwell Wrestling broke the MAAC record for most consecutive championships, previously held by Sidwell Football, by winning their seventh.

Boys' basketball

Sidwell Friends School Varsity Boys' Basketball is coached by Sidwell alumnus Eric Singletary '93. Singletary, now in his fourth year, has led the Quakers to conference championships in the 2009–10, 2010–2011 and 2011–2012 seasons. Other recent program highlights include Sidwell's first outright conference championship in Boys' Basketball in the 2006–07 season, with a 14–0 conference record.

Girls' basketball

The Sidwell Friends girls' varsity basketball program has a long winning tradition, with numerous conference titles as well as local and national rankings. Head Coach Anne Renninger, a pioneering player at the University of Maryland and one of the youngest Division I college coaches ever (at George Washington University), has led the Quakers to over 400 victories. Over a two-year stretch from 1997–1999, the Sidwell girls' basketball team lost only two games, while winning back-to-back conference championships and achieving both Washington Post Top 10 and USA Today rankings. Former Sidwell girls basketball players have gone on to play for schools such as Duke, NC State, Wake Forest, Stanford, Tennessee, Harvard, Penn, George Washington and William & Mary.

Boys' baseball

The Sidwell Friends men's baseball team has been one of the top squads in the MAC in recent years. With a conference championship in 2006, and 3rd-place finishes in 2007, 2009, and 2010, the Quakers finished second in the league in 2011 and 2012. The Quakers also won the 2011 Washington DC city title with a victory over Woodrow Wilson High School in the Congressional Bank Classic at Nationals Park.

Current profile


The Middle and Upper School campus is located at 3825 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C., 20016-2907

The Lower School campus can be found at 5100 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda, Montgomery County, Maryland, 20814-2306

Both campuses underwent major renovations throughout the 2005–2006 school year, and construction for the Wisconsin Avenue campus Athletic Center (which includes the Kenworthy Courts) was completed in 2011.

Sidwell Friends plans to move the Lower School to the site of the current site of The Washington Home and Community Hospices, which is adjacent to the Wisconsin Avenue campus. Plans call for the Lower School to the new location by September 2019.[26]

Notable alumni

Notable alumni of Sidwell Friends include:

The following notable people attended Sidwell but graduated elsewhere:

Notable parents

Notable parents of past and present Sidwell Friends students include:


  2. Swarns, Rachel L. (November 22, 2008). "Obamas Pick Sidwell School, Ending a Washington Guessing Game". The New York Times.
  3. Wilgoren, Debbi (5 January 2009). "Obama Girls Start School at Sidwell". The Washington Post.
  4. 1 2 Smith. Thomas G. (2011). Showdown: JFK and the Integration of the Washington Redskins. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-8070-0082-3.
  5. Thomas, Grace Powers (1898). Where to educate, 1898–1899. A guide to the best private schools, higher institutions of learning, etc., in the United States. Boston: Brown and Company. p. 42. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Williams, Paul K. & Higgins, Kelton C. (2003). Cleveland Park. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. pp. 28–29. ISBN 978-0-7385-1521-2.
  7. "Education: Friends' Jubilee". Time. 29 May 1933. p. 80. (subscription required (help)).
  8. Zug, James (2008). "The Color of Our Skin". The Long Conversation - 125 Years of Sidwell Friends School - 1883-2008. Washington, DC: Sidwell Friends School. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-615-17854-7.
  9. Sidwell Head of School Search Committee Report
  10. College Board: Advanced Placement: Report to the Nation
  11. Sidwell Friends School: Graduation Requirements
  12. "2010 Fall All-Met: Boys' cross-country: John McGowan". The Washington Post. 2010. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015.
  13. "Home – Espn Rise". Retrieved 2010-10-02.
  22. 1 2 3 4 "About Sidwell Friends School". Retrieved 2013-09-23.
  23. "Sidwell Friends School: Tuition and Financial Aid".
  24. US Green Building Council
  27. 1 2 3 Vogel, Chris. "Prep Schools of the Power Brokers." Washingtonian. Monday May 1, 2006.
  28. 1 2 Prep Schools of the Power Brokers – Education (
  29. Martin, Douglas. "W. D. Zantzinger, Subject of Dylan Song, Dies at 69." New York Times. January 9, 2009.
  30. "USA Indoor Track & Field Champions". USA Track & Field. Retrieved 2009-03-06.
  31. "The Dr. Meriwether Saga". Time magazine. June 12, 1971. Retrieved 2009-03-06.
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