Webb History: Founded in 1922

Thompson and Vivian Webb
Thompson and Vivian Webb

The Webb Schools’ tradition of honor, character building, and academic achievement had its roots in the period just after the Civil War, when William Robert “Sawney” Webb founded Webb School of Bell Buckle, Tennessee. Before serving in the United States Senate, Sawney Webb guided his school to a national reputation with a strong emphasis on academic excellence and a rigorous student honor code.

In 1922 his son, Thompson Webb, founded Webb School of California with 14 boys, four teachers, and little else apart from the same high standards as his father’s school – plus a uniquely western “unbounded spirit.” The young headmaster and his wife, Vivian, raised four sons during their 40 years of service to the institutions that bear their names. Throughout the schools’ nine decades there have been numerous physical changes, including the additions of the lovely mission-style Vivian Webb Chapel (designed and built by Thompson Webb), state-of-the-art science and computer labs, and fully networked dormitories and classrooms.

Perhaps no change was greater than the addition of female students in 1981. There was a clear regional need for girl's school of equal academic quality and stature, but rather than simply incorporating girls into the existing school (as other typical boys’ schools would), Webb’s confidence in the special value of single-sex education led to the founding of Vivian Webb School. Over the years, the ability to offer a single-sex education in a co-educational setting has become one of the hallmarks and strengths of The Webb Schools. Webb School of California and Vivian Webb School retain their own identities through parallel but separate traditions, programs, administrations, and student leadership.

Webb has grown in many respects since the founding family first laid eyes on its hillside location in the San Gabriel Mountains. The Webb Schools today enroll over 400 students. The faculty is highly credentialed: 90% hold advanced degrees in their field. The Webb Schools are among the most academically selective and competitive secondary schools in the nation. But it all started with the simple determination of one man and his dedicated family, and Thompson Webb’s lifelong effort to educate young people in the highest traits of character and leadership and to provide a superior academic foundation continues to this day. He would be glad to know that the characteristics he most hoped would remain the hallmarks of the Webb education – honor and the unbounded spirit – are still the everyday fabric of life for faculty and students.