Westridge School (Pasadena, California)

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Westridge School
324 Madeline Drive


United States
TypePrivate, Day, College-prep
MottoSurgere Tentamus
(We strive to rise.)
FounderMary Lowther Ranney
Head of SchoolElizabeth J. McGregor
Student to teacher ratio7:1
Athletics12 sports[2]
Athletics conferenceCIF Southern Section Prep League

Westridge School is an independent day school for girls in grades 4-12. Founded in 1913, Westridge is located in Pasadena, California.


Mary Lowther Ranney[edit]

Westridge founder Mary Lowther Ranney (1871-1939) moved to Pasadena in 1904 when she was 34 years old. A trained architect and educator, she had graduated from Kemper Hall Academy in Kenosha, Wisconsin, attended classes at the newly established University of Chicago, and taught at the University School for Girls in Chicago.

Soon after arriving in Pasadena, Ranney's family purchased a lot at 440 Arroyo Terrace, where they would build a house designed by Ranney herself. Ranney worked for many years with the Greene and Greene architectural firm, and taught privately in Pasadena. Before long, two Pasadena mothers—Margaret Brackenridge and Alexander Duerbegan planning a school for girls near the Arroyo Seco, and Ranney was their choice of headmistress.[3]

College preparatory school[edit]

From day one, Ranney intended for Westridge (so named for its location on the "west ridge" of town) to be a school that prepared girls for collegea novel idea in 1913, when most girls did not attend college.[4]

Almost immediately, enrollment exceeded expectations. Ranney intended for Westridge to be located at the home she shared with her parents on State Street, but as a result of the overwhelming registration of 21 students during the summer of 1913, the Ranneys acquired a larger house on Madeline Drive and opened the doors of Westridge.

Campus history and highlights[edit]

Madeline Court connects to Foreman Courtyard on the north side of the Westridge campus

Today, the Westridge campus provides an idyllic park-like setting in a residential neighborhood; the campus is distinguished not only by its welcoming beauty, but also by an unusually rich architectural heritage. The main building, designed by Marston, VanPelt & Maybury and built in 1923 on the site of the original school, houses classrooms, administrative offices, and one of the school's four technology centers; the Burgess Exhibition Gallery in the main hall features student art exhibits throughout the year.

Herrick Quadrangle, behind the main building, is bordered with both historic and contemporary architecture. Adjoining the main building are the Joan Irvine Smith '36 Academic Research Center and Braun Music Center, which is home to the Howard S. Swan Choral Hall.

The Fran Norris Scoble Performing Arts Center opened in 2005.

The Braun Music Center was designed in 1909 by architect Frederick L. Roehrig, also known for designing the Green Hotel and the Tournament of Roses House in Pasadena, as a private gymnasium and theatre for a family living on Orange Grove Boulevard. In 1958, Westridge parent Henry Dreyfuss added a larger and more functional stage to Braun Music Center.

Three other significant buildings on the Quad were designed by Pasadena architect Whitney R. Smith: the Seeley G. Mudd Science Building, with three fully equipped Upper School laboratories and a computer technology center, the Laurie and Susan Frank Art Studio and the Hoffman Gymnasium; the Richard N. Frank Athletic Field and Ranney Lawn provide recreational spaces for all grades.

In 1997, the school began a building program to enable the campus to better serve the needs of Westridge students and the space demands of an expanded, modern curriculum. Pica & Sullivan Architects designed the Marjorie May Braun '36 Science Building and the Karsh Family Science Garden that contain science classrooms and outdoor study spaces specifically designed for Lower and Middle School students. In April 2000, Westridge dedicated the Anne F. and James F. Rothenberg Humanities Center; the three-building complex also designed by Pica & Sullivan Architects, contains humanities classrooms and faculty offices, Upper School art studios and photography labs, art and photography exhibition space, the school's largest technology lab, and the Herrick Commons dining room.

Pitcairn House was built in 1906 by Greene and Greene.

In 2004, Westridge unified the north and south campuses with the creation of Madeline Court; the following year brought the addition of the Rokus Athletic Complex where Tiger soccer and softball teams host games on new regulation fields. Dance is taught in Brown Studio and athletes take advantage of the Studenmund weight-training room.

In 2005, the Fran Norris Scoble Performing Arts Center opened; the world-class facility includes a 600-seat auditorium, the Wagener Black Box Theater and the Seiter Family Amphitheater.

The oldest and most architecturally significant building sits on the southeast corner of the campus. Pitcairn House, built in 1906 by the architectural firm of Greene and Greene, is a classic example of the California Bungalow style and is often pictured in books on the architecture of that period. Pitcairn House is the location of the school's business, communications, and advancement offices, it was previously the location of the art department.

Faculty and administration[edit]

Elizabeth J. McGregor became the school's 11th head of school on July 1, 2008. There are also two academic division directors on the administrative team: a director of Upper School and a director of Lower & Middle School.

Westridge has 75 faculty members, and more than half of them have over ten years of teaching experience. Two-thirds of Westridge faculty hold advanced degrees (with 14% holding doctoral degrees).[5]

The college counseling office is staffed by four counselors.

School traditions[6][edit]

Westridge has seen a number of traditions come and go throughout its century of existence; some of the most beloved (and still in existence today) are:

  • All School Day. All School Day is a day that occurs in the spring during which the Associated Student Body (ASB) organizes activities, food, and a movie for the entire school to relax and have fun. The day's theme is announced at a special assembly that morning. Previous themes have been "Disneyridge," "All Around the World," "British Invasion," and "Time Warp Westridge."
  • Greek and Roman. At the beginning of each school year, all new students, faculty, and staff are initiated in Westridge’s longstanding tradition of either becoming a Greek or a Roman. If a relation of a student attended the school earlier, the student will be placed in whichever group her relation was in, it is a lighthearted rivalry with fun and games at the beginning of each year in a sorting ceremony. Points are awarded throughout the year through various activities and a trophy is presented at the end of the school year to whichever side has garnered the most points.
  • Junior Ring Ceremony. The first annual Ring Ceremony was held in 1936 and to this day occurs every April. During this ceremony, the junior class receives their class rings, which are embossed with the school seal, containing the school’s founding date (1913), the school motto Surgere Tentamus, the oil lamp, and ivy; the Each girl receives her ring from the Head of School and a white rose from the Mistress of the Rings, a member of the junior class who found the golden ring in the annual Ring Cake Ceremony (which occurs prior to the Ring Ceremony). This ceremony marks the juniors' passage into being seniors.
  • Yam Festival. In November, the school holds the annual Yam Festival, where parents and students bring yam dishes originating from places all around the globe. This tradition began in 1998 to help represent the African-American community at Westridge and has become something every student enjoys and looks forward to.
  • Holiday Concert. Before winter break, Westridge holds a Holiday Concert in which girls from the Lower School chorus, Middle School chorus and orchestra, and Upper School Glee Club and orchestra perform holiday music. The fourth graders always have a special song to perform, which is kept a secret until the day of the concert.
  • Senior Skits. The last assembly before winter break is known as the "senior skits" assembly, where the senior class prepares a comedic sketch of lighthearted impersonations of teachers to entertain the school community.
  • Big and Little Sisters. Students from all grades participate in Big and Little Sisters, where students are assigned into a "Family." Families meet every few months to participate in activities to bond, like making Christmas cards. This tradition is a way for younger students to develop friendships with older students. Big Sisters are seen as role models for Little Sisters; the families are now assigned based upon girl's Greek/Roman affiliation, and they continue each year (as girls graduate, new students join their families). The families traditionally meet once at the beginning of the year, again before holiday break, and once during the spring.
  • Petridge. On the last day of school, students are invited to bring their pets to campus as part of this Lower School learning project and pet-friendly community fundraiser that benefits animal welfare organizations.
  • Vespers. Vespers (also called "Senior Vespers") is a year-end event the evening before Commencement held for seniors and their families to celebrate their time at Westridge. Traditionally, there is a keynote speaker who either was selected by the class or has served as a class adviser. Students also perform musical numbers, poetry, and more during the event.

Student groups and organizations[edit]

Clubs and affinities[edit]

Clubs and affinity groups at Westridge join girls with similar interests together to share knowledge, spread passion, and affect change. Students lead and participate in a wide range of clubs including: Alliance, Amnesty International, Animal Club, Art, Asian Culture, Chess Club, Classic Films & TV, Girls Who Code, Green Guerillas, Help Africa, Junior Classical League (Latin), Korean Culture, LINK (Liberty in North Korea), Math Club, Model United Nations, Red Cross, Science Olympiad/Robotics, Speech & Debate, Spyglass (student newspaper), Students for Social Justice, Theater Club, UNITY, Water Warriors, World Issues Club, Young Democrats, Young Republicans, and Zine Club.

Affinity groups include: Black Student Union, Christian Affinity, Latin Affinity, LGBTQ Affinity (or "Skittles"), Middle Eastern Affinity, Muslim Affinity, and more.

Student Voices[edit]

In addition to clubs and affinities, there are many groups at Westridge dedicated to creating spaces for discussion among the student body. One such group is Westridge Student Voices, a student-led leadership group that addresses topics related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. Student Voices is composed of Affinity Heads and Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) and White Privilege Conference (WPC) delegates. With a focused group of students, Student Voices raises awareness about local and global issues and events through assemblies, town meetings, and lunch talks.[7]


Another beloved student group on campus is the Westridgettes. Known for their Tigers spirit and their green skirts embellished with puffy paint (bearing the names of students who have previously worn them), the Westridgettes are the student cheer squad that performs with the tiger mascot at assemblies and school events; each Westridgette's skirt represents a different theme or aspect of the school, and there are currently 12 Westridgette skirts that align with athletics, drama, dance, prep, the Tiger mascot, and various student affinity groups. The Westridgettes have a long history at Westridge, with their origins in the late 1970s. Previously (in the mid-1970s), the Westridgettes were called the "Tigettes," and wore orange t-shirts, green gym shorts, and tiger feet.[8]

Summer Opportunities Fair[9][edit]

In early spring, Westridge hosts the annual Summer Opportunities Fair (SOF), a community service event founded in 1991 that provides a venue for parents and children to learn about summer programs. SOF is free and open to the public, and local, national, and international program options are available for girls and boys, pre-K through 12th grade.

The fair, held on the Westridge campus, attracts over 2,000 people each year.

Notable alumnae[edit]

Memberships and affiliations[edit]

Westridge is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the California Association of Independent Schools.

Additionally, the school is a member of the following organizations:


  1. ^ K-12 Directory of Schools
  2. ^ Athletics
  3. ^ Scoble, Fran Norris (2013). Westridge School: A Centennial History. Los Angeles: Balcony Press. pp. 11–12.
  4. ^ "100 Years of History | Westridge School for Girls". www.westridge.org. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  5. ^ "Westridge Quick Facts". Westridge.org. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
  6. ^ "100 Years of Traditions". Westridge.org. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
  7. ^ "Student Life". Westridge.org. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
  8. ^ "The Westridgettes: Cheerleaders? Pep Squad? Puffy Paint on Skirts? Spirit Westridge Style!". Westridge.org. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  9. ^ Summer Opportunities Fair, Westridge School

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°07′35″N 118°09′24″W / 34.126526°N 118.156710°W / 34.126526; -118.156710