“St. Stephen’s Episcopal identity includes the religious values that underlie the school’s commitment to justice and service,” explained the Rt. Rev. Dena A. Harrison, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Texas and chair of the St. Stephen’s board of trustees. “The school does not exist to get kids into a great college, although that usually happens. Its purpose is to train courageous, moral servant leaders for the world.
“Young people do understand the importance of serving others when they are formed in that tradition,” continued Harrison, who credits the school’s founder, the Rt. Rev. John E. Hines, with developing the strong culture of community that exists today. Hines and the first headmaster, the Rev. William Brewster, sought to create an academically rigorous school that welcomed students from around the country and across the socioeconomic spectrum.
“Hines was a prophetic voice in the world, a man incredibly gifted by God and empowered to speak the deepest Gospel values,” Harrison said. “He was a great leader because he had the courage to be unpopular.”
According to the Episcopal Archives, Hines was called to serve the church as an advocate of the “Social Gospel” and took an “activist approach to social issues,” particularly racial inequality and poverty. As Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of Texas in the mid-1950s, he “worked to integrate all the institutions and agencies of the diocese and urged advocacy for civil rights among Episcopalians.”
During this time Hines worked to integrate St. Stephen’s as well, despite harsh resistance and dissension among some parents, many of whom withdrew their children from school. Thanks to his unwavering vision, St. Stephen’s became the first coed Episcopal school in the nation and the first integrated boarding school in the South. “Hines’ motto was, ‘We are all children of God,’” Harrison explained. “That’s why we work so hard today to build our scholarship capacity. Inclusion is a core value of the church and is what motivates us to focus on maximizing scholarships for anyone who qualifies for admission.”
By all accounts, Hines spent his life working to transform the lives of individuals and of society as a whole. Harrison believes that legacy is realized today in the school’s ability to empower students to become substantial, courageous, compassionate adults who see beyond themselves. “These great values give rise to a particularly strong focus on community, which is formative for individuals,” she said. “We are bonded to the school and to each other because of the transformative process that happens here.
“Education provides the opportunity to form thoughtful human beings. And we believe we have a way to do that for the betterment of the world. Our Episcopal identity leads us to form citizens of the world who care about their neighbors and who understand the responsibility they have to share their incredible capacities with others.”