The names behind the Randolph Campus


SPA Archives

The newly constructed Driscoll Learning Center circa 1973, named for W. John Driscoll, class of 1947.

“I’ll meet you in Huss!”

“I’ve got class in Schilling!”

“I’m going to Drake!”

All of the above are phrases that are constantly heard in the hallways of SPA— the names of the school’s different wings have become a part of students’ vocabulary and are regularly tossed around in conversation. With their frequent use, it can be easy to forget that these names aren’t just arbitrary, they belong to real people— people who SPA deems significant and representative of the school’s ideals.

The current student body knows Hugh K. Schilling, the ‘43 SPA graduate who so generously gifted the school with the funds for a new math and science center. In fact, he was a regular presence on campus during the 2017-2018 school year. The same goes for Ruth and John Huss, who funded the Huss Center for the Performing Arts and recently addressed the community in a school-wide assembly. But what about “Briggs” of Briggs Gymnasium? “Thompson” of The Thompson Wing? “Drake” of Drake Arena? “Driscoll” of the Driscoll Learning Center? The current community never had the chance to meet these figures face to face, so there’s a disconnect. These names hold little meaning for many students despite the rich history behind the constructions that were named after them.

The least familiar of these names may be John deQuedville Briggs. Starting in 1913-1914, Briggs was the headmaster of St. Paul Academy when it was still an all boys “Country Day” school. He spearheaded the major construction of 1931 that fully modernized what is now the Randolph Campus.

Construction on the Randolph Campus continued with the Summit School merger in 1969. The new school board’s first task was fundraising for “A New Design for Education.” With twice the number of students in the school, classroom space was in high demand. Thus, The Driscoll Learning Center was built by 1972 to house a brand-new library as well as math, science, and language classrooms. W. John Driscoll, for whom the new construction was named, had a profound impact not only on the school, but throughout the country. He was a CEO and director of several companies and dedicated his time to iconic landmarks such as the MIA and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum— he even helped start Valleyfair. This wing of the school was designed by Ben Thompson, the renowned architect behind renovation of the Harvard and Brandeis campuses as well as Faneuil Hall in Boston, MA.

Construction has continued to barrel on since the merger; the Summit Center in 2000 (which includes the Middle School,) The Huss Center in 2015, and The Schilling Center in 2018, with renovations of Old Main currently underway. New names are constantly being added to the campus. As new construction springs up and becomes incorporated into daily life, pause to think of the history, and the people, behind the Randolph Campus.