Following discussions in the late 1960s by Tweedsmuir: An Academic School for Girls and Strathcona School for Boys on the feasibility of a coordinate school, two large donations turned this dream into reality.
The largest donation ever made in Calgary at that time - $250,000 – was given in the interest of education by W.H. Atkinson. Shortly after, the Cross Family generously donated 160 acres of land twelve miles south of Calgary to the School. Thus began what was to be a “coordinate” school, which opened in the fall of 1971. One year later, due primarily to an imbalance in numbers of boys and girls, Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School (STS) became a coeducational day school for Grades 1 through 12.
Sandy Heard was the founding Headmaster of STS and it was due to his charismatic leadership that many of the traditions established at the School in the early years have remained characteristic of today’s STS. Sandy hired an eclectic group of teachers who thrived under his leadership and developed many of the programs that exist in the School to the present. The outdoor education program was developed, instilling a sense of confidence in all who participated, and the social agencies program first began during the 1970s. The School fostered its own unique environment, educating children from grade one to twelve and a sense of family quickly developed within the School. It became a requirement for all students to participate in some form in all school activities beyond the classroom.
In 1983 Peter Ditchburn, senior English teacher and assistant headmaster, became the second Headmaster at STS. Under his leadership, the School moved to the next level in its development and established many long-term programs such as drama, music and band. Advanced Placement courses were introduced and the School undertook an administrative restructuring providing opportunities for career development enhancing the entire culture of the School. During these years the Parents’ Volunteer Association and the Alumni Association were formalized and each became instrumental in their support of all STS activities.
Following Mr. Ditchburn’s term as Head of School for 14 years, Brian Porter became the third Head of School for the next two years. Upon his retirement, the Board of Governors asked Gordon Freight to serve as acting headmaster until such time as a search committee was established to find the next head of school. Mr. Freight had been a teacher at Strathcona School for Boys and STS since 1970 and under his leadership, the School adopted two major initiatives – the laptop technology program and the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Gordon was the project manager for all campus expansion projects at STS during which time the School added the Science Wing, the Arts Wing, the Sandy Heard Sports Hall and the Outdoor Education Centre.
In 2000, the School chose as its fifth Head of School: Tony Macoun, a man with strong international experience in education. Tony also brought his wealth of experience with the IB to STS. Under his leadership, the School emphasized its flagship programs of outdoor education, physical education and athletics, fine and performing arts, humanitarian outreach and speech and debate. Echoing the IB philosophy itself, STS strove to develop its students into international citizens.
On February 1, 2003, the avalanche tragedy befell a Grade 10 outdoor education excursion in the Roger’s Pass. Seven young students lost their lives in this fateful event, an event which would change the lives of the entire STS family. Following independent, third-party reviews of the circumstances surrounding this tragedy, it was determined that an outdoor education program should continue and STS has since provided leadership in safety and risk management for all schools. Students, teachers and parents found strength in each other for the day-to-day school life to continue to achieve and excel in all areas of the arts, academics and sports and programs continued to be vibrant in nature.
In 2004, Catherine Raaflaub came to STS as the sixth Head of School. She brought her passion for coed education as well as her strong background in technology. Under her leadership, the School continued to build on the established programs and formalized its mission as a focus on scholarship, leadership and character. The School’s motto Nil Nisi Optimum began to be interpreted as “Nothing but your best.”
The Board of Governors asked Peter Ditchburn to return to STS as acting Head in the fall of 2006 when Catherine Raaflaub returned to Ontario. By the spring of 2007, a search committee had completed its work and announced the selection of Dr. William Jones as the next Head of School. Dr. Jones was Director of the Senior School at STS from 1992 – 1999 and then Head of Southridge School from 1999 – 2007. Dr. Jones announced his retirement from Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School after 11 years of dedicated service as Head of School and retired in June 2018.
Early in 2018 the Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School Board of Governors successfully completed their Head of School search. After attracting outstanding candidates from all over the world, including many Canadian and international independent schools, Mrs. Grant-Watt was appointed STS' Head of School, commencing in August 2018. Mrs. Grant-Watt is an experienced educator who has enjoyed success in past leadership roles as Principal of Western Canada High School and as Head of School and Chief Executive Officer of West Island College. Mrs. Grant-Watt is currently Head of School at STS.