Ashley Hall events to mark 100 years

Ashley Hall has been educating women since 1909, first as a boarding school, today as a day school. Ashley Hall will kick off its centennial celebration with a Launch Party on Friday, during its annual alumnae weekend.

Helen Hill is grateful for all she learned, and something she didn't, during her high school years at the all-girl Ashley Hall.

"I didn't know that girls aren't supposed to be in charge," said Hill, executive director of the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and a 1981 graduate of Ashley Hall.

The school kicks off a year-long celebration of its 100th anniversary at a Centennial Launch Party on Friday, during the annual alumnae weekend.

The anniversary is a milestone not only for women who attended Ashley Hall but for the city of Charleston as well, said Hill, who is chairwoman for centennial activities.

The school always has encouraged its students to be involved in the larger community, she said.

"It has always had an open gate."

Special events planned for the next year include a Centennial Weekend Oct. 9 through 11, a Centennial Student Shakespeare Performance and an exhibit and pictorial display from the school's archives.

Also in the works is the Centennial Women in Leadership Speaker Series, which will include topics such as: women in politics; women as good stewards of the environment; the

evolution of women's rights; women in business and the global economy; and women in philanthropy and service. The lecture series will be open to the public.

Hill said that when Mary Vardrine McBee launched the school in 1909, "It was really big for women to be educated in the classical studies."

Many graduates became leaders over the years, Hill said, and their efforts in many fields are woven into the history of Charleston.

Spending a year honoring the school's anniversary gives alumnae and the community a chance to "celebrate the contributions of the past and look toward the future," Hill said.

Anne Frances Bleecker, a 1976 graduate, said she forged friendships at Ashley Hall that will last a lifetime. Bleecker, a Charleston attorney and former City Council member, said, "I'm confident that my academic experience at Ashley Hall opened many doors for me."

She attended several institutions of higher education after graduating from Ashley Hall, she said, but "no other school had a greater impact on who I am."