To commemorate the first 25 year history of Ranney School, it is fitting to begin with the man whose vision continues to inspire our small class sizes, curriculum choices, student life activities and campus building expansion. Ranney School is the namesake of Russell G. Ranney, founder of the School and the Rumson Reading Institute. Mr. Ranney, as he was always called, and is still fondly recollected by our alumni, received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Reading Institute at New York University where he later served as Associate Director. From 1946-1949, he was the Supervising Principal of the Shrewsbury Township Public Schools (today, Tinton Falls School District). As the Superintendent, he vowed to do everything he could to see the children of Shrewsbury perform to the best of their ability.
In keeping with this promise, in 1948, Mr. Ranney founded the Rumson Reading Institute, which opened its doors with a class of five high school seniors who wanted to improve their College Board scores. The Rumson Reading Institute proved very popular and successful – growing enrollment to over 300 students in branches, not only in Rumson, but also in Point Pleasant, Sea Girt, Bay Head and West Orange.
Twelve years after the opening of the Rumson Reading Institute, Ranney School was founded, with seven students enrolled and three full time teachers. The charge for tuition was $700 per year. The School accepted students from kindergarten (then called Beginners) through tenth grade. French was taught to all students beginning in first grade and, from day one, college preparation was the main focus of the curriculum. Eighth graders had five hours a week of Latin, algebra and science, and ten hours a week of English. Reading and composition were stressed at all grade levels.
In 1963, the School’s growing student body created the need for Ranney’s Upper and Middle Schools to move to Trinity Episcopal Church in Asbury Park. The seventh through twelfth grades took over a wing of the church and its basement for classes. The church also provided a gym where home basketball games were played. Grades kindergarten through sixth remained on the site of the Rumson Reading Institute. In 1965, Ranney School graduated its first class with eleven students, including the school’s first National Merit Finalist.
Ranney School moved to its current location on Hope Road, the former Guggenheim horse breeding farm owned by the Tufano family, in 1965. Classes were held in the “A” Building, (which was most recently called the Margaret Mahon Building) as well the Annex Building. The Annex, still used by our students today, was a horse barn, and, in 1965 it was renovated to include new wings that housed the Searle Library and a science lab.
One of the biggest selling points of the school, seen in an advertisement from 1966, was the rigorous curriculum, including a full year of Algebra I and Latin I offered in seventh grade. Other subjects students studied were language and music, while a heavy emphasis continued to be placed on reading, vocabulary building and composition, often taught by Mr. Ranney himself.
The first class graduated from the Hope Road campus with the commencement ceremonies held in the garden adjacent to the “A” building in 1967. The tradition of hosting graduation on campus remained until 2003. The commencement exercises were held in front of the Annex Building and then on the Great Lawn to accommodate the growing class sizes.
In 1969, a second horse barn, now the Early Childhood Education Center, was remodeled and a second story was added as a home for the Middle School. “The Barn,” as it continued to be called, housed a multi-purpose lunchroom, study hall and play area; and a theater was built for the growing theater arts program. In addition to establishing performing arts, visual arts and history into the curriculum, Ranney introduced its first computer science course into the curriculum with a teletype-style terminal and dial-up modem. In this same year, the Little White House, the maintenance shop and garage were built on campus. Enrollment had reached 375 students with 41 teachers.
In 1971, the first edition of Columns, the alumni magazine of Ranney School, was published and named after the columns on the front of the Annex Building. The purpose of the annual magazine was to help alumni of the school keep in touch with one another, to detail the strengths of their preparation at Ranney School in their transition to college, as well as to keep alumni informed about the changes in the school and current Ranney news.
In 1974, Ranney School became accredited by the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools as well as the National Association of Independent Schools. As the school grew in size and reputation, more courses were added such as dancing and typing. As a result of the great interest in the Upper School grades, the sports program was expanded and the School had a need to build a full-size gym.
From the years of 1975 to 1979, the Brod Building (later called the Ranney Athletic Center, or the “RAC,” and now called the Gerhard Pavilion for Athletics, or the “GPA”) was constructed, housing two gyms, locker rooms, a lounge, classrooms and a 25-meter pool. In 1978, the gymnasium was completed and the physical education program began; in 1979, the pool was readied for swim instruction. The construction of an indoor pool on a school campus, used year-round with a retractable roof for good weather, was, and remains, unique for this area. According to Mr. Ranney, in an article for The Daily Register, “one area [of the pool] will be three and one–half feet deep and will be used for instruction. The other area will be thirteen and a half feet deep and will be used for diving, water polo and water ballet.”1
By 1978, enrollment had reached 549 students, and at the dedication of the new gymnasium on February 5th of that year, Mr. Ranney announced plans for a full-service summer camp to begin in the summer of 1979 with the completion of the swimming pool.
During this time, Ranney’s sports programs began to expand rapidly with girls’ tennis, soccer, basketball, co-ed swimming, softball and baseball. A major portion of the physical education program was devoted to ballroom dancing. Classes were held twice a week and taught by Mrs. Ranney. All ninth grade students were required to take ballroom dancing. The 1975 issue of Columns reported that ballroom dancing “was created for the pupil eager to learn and appreciate the terpsichorean arts.”2 It proved to be a popular course and instruction was given in Swing, Rhumba, Cha Cha and Waltz. In the first year that dancing was offered, over forty students signed up for the classes beyond the requirement.
With the creation of the Brod Building, Ranney’s theater programs relocated to the auxiliary gym, and the lounge area of this building became a favorite place for socials. While the outside of the building was described as “a magnificent work of architecture with its large white columns and broad brick front, giving an impression of a Georgian mansion; once inside, the terrazzo-tile floor and huge stone fireplace adorned the lounging area, lended itself gracefully for formal dances, lunch-time dancing and civic functions.”3 At the time, the Brod Building was the focal point of the Ranney campus.
As interest in enrollment in western Monmouth County and Northern Ocean County surged, Mr. Ranney leased space to open a campus in Manalapan in the Fall of 1983 for four and five-year old students. The students travelled by bus to the Tinton Falls campus for swimming, physical education and major school functions. In 1985, at the close of the first 25 years in the history of Ranney School, Mr. Ranney purchased 10 acres of land in Manalapan to build our own secondary campus for students in the three-year-old program through second grade.
In the years since Mr. Ranney first opened the doors of Ranney School in Rumson in 1960, much has changed: our campus location is firmly rooted on Hope Road; our state-of-the-art building construction continues; and Ranney School’s student body has increased more than 100-fold. Many things, however, still remain true to Mr. Ranney’s dream for the school – our small class sizes, rigorous curriculum and helping children perform
to the best of their ability. Today, the community of Ranney School maintains the core values of excellence in mind, body and spirit. We still hold true to the cherished tradition of being as prepared as possible for higher education and the greater world, ready to lead with Knowledge, Vision and Honor.
1 “Ranney’s Swimming Pool Highlights New Facilities.” March 2, 1979, The Daily Register, Shrewsbury, New Jersey, p. 15.
2 “Additions to the Curriculum.” Columns, the Alumni Magazine of Ranney School, 1975, p. 12.
3 “The Brod Building.” Columns, the Alumni Magazine of Ranney School, 1978, p. 3.