Dr. Norman T. Phelps founded The Phelps School in 1946, fulfilling his dream of starting a Pennsylvania boarding school to give boys the attention they need to reach their potential. Today boys come from 10 different countries and 9 states to attend Phelps. The Phelps family continues to guide the school as it leads boys in an environment that provides individual attention and emphasizes personalized goals.
We mold students into thoughtful, disciplined, well-rounded adults by providing a multifaceted education that includes.
How We Became The Phelps School
It was only natural that Norman T. Phelps, Sr., would pursue a career in education and establish a boarding school in Pennsylvania. Born in Malvern in 1913, Norman received his early exposure to education from his father, R. Howell Phelps, President of the local Board of Education. However, his most profound influence came from his summers in Connecticut as a counselor at Milo Light Camps. He discovered the educational value of combining the daily chores of a working farm with camp activities and tutoring in academic subjects.
Initially, Norman enrolled at Pennsylvania State University, but due to the Depression, he transferred to the University of Alaska, where he got free room and board. After earning his Bachelor's Degree in education, Norman accepted a faculty position at the Gow School in South Wales, New York, where he met Dr. Samuel T. Orton.
Dr. Orton, a neurologist at Columbia University and founder of The Orton Society, was a pioneer in learning disabilities who showed that strephosymbolia (dyslexia, reading disabilities) afflicts boys more often than girls. So then, Norman dedicated his life to establishing a boarding school for boys that would incorporate Dr. Orton's teaching strategies.
In the summer of 1940, Norman, and his bride Elizabeth Koenig Phelps, returned to Malvern. Norman began teaching at the Valley Forge Military Academy while searching for a suitable property for his new school.
On December 7, 1941, life for all Americans changed, and he sought a commission in the U.S. Navy. During the war, he served aboard a submarine chaser with the Bureau of Navy Personnel in Washington, D.C., and finally at the Philadelphia Naval Yard. While stationed in Philadelphia, he earned his Master's of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. He progressed through the ranks, becoming a Lieutenant Commander, and awarded a Navy Commendation. During this time, he discovered the Rosengarten estate in Malvern, which he believed was an ideal location for a boarding school, and purchased the estate, "Hilldene Farm," in January of 1946.
On September 6, 1946, the school opened with eighteen boys. Another eight enrolled in mid-year, all recruited personally by Mr. and Mrs. Phelps. The staff included a farmer in charge of the dairy herd, two cooks, four teachers, and a secretary. From the start, the student body was geographically diverse and small, with boys from five states and four foreign countries. At the first Board of Trustees meeting on May 26, 1947, Norman and Elizabeth Phelps deeded the farm to the non-profit corporation, The Phelps School, for $1. The dream of a Pennsylvania boys' boarding school was now a reality.