As the country was emerging from the trauma of World War II, a youthful Oklahoma City, buoyed by the optimism of the postwar era, was riding the wave of a booming southwestern spirit. Many hopes were becoming realities. Some farsighted citizens, together with Bishop Thomas Casady, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, were exploring their dream to establish a diocesan center which would include a cathedral, a conference facility, and a boarding school for the city.
At the same time a group of Oklahoma City businessmen, out of concern for the quality of education that was available at that time in the city and recognizing the contribution of independent schools to American education, was discussing the possibility of starting a college preparatory church school in the classical tradition. Their assessment of the community’s needs focused the diocese on education. This resulted in a financially feasible plan for a school, which, in many ways, resembled from the beginning the inclusive, family-oriented and coeducational nature of Casady School today. They envisioned a school that would offer small classes, personal attention and worship in an atmosphere fostering healthy competition.
Named after Bishop Thomas Casady, Casady School officially began as Casady Hall on Feb. 17, 1947, with the first meeting of its Board of Trustees. A donation of property located at the corner of Britton Road and Pennsylvania Avenue would provide the campus and first buildings for the School. This included a tract of 38 acres of land, a small lake, a house and two barns. Financial assets included $10,000 from Senator A. S. (Mike) Monroney’s Distinguished Congressional Award which he had designated for youth work in the diocese.
The Reverend Michael Martin was hired as headmaster, and in September 1947 Casady Hall opened its doors. There were 36 students in three grades: seventh, eighth and ninth, and a faculty of four, including Reverend Martin. Tuition was $500 per year. Classes were held in the remodeled polo pony stable, which had been christened Cochran Hall. The feed building behind Cochran became, appropriately, the “Snack Shack,” and the hay barn served for arts and crafts.
The School was renamed Casady School in May 1948, and the Chapel of St. Edward the Confessor, a gift from Mr. Frank J. Hightower, was built. Mr. Hightower had developed a close and spiritual friendship with Bishop Casady. As a founding Trustee of the School, Mr. Hightower envisioned a Chapel as its physical and spiritual center. Mr. Hightower’s education had sent him away to Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University. He cherished the hope that a preparatory school like Casady would enable Oklahoma City’s youth to achieve a high-quality education without having to leave home for boarding school.
Ever since, the Chapel has been the spiritual center of Casady School. More than 600 daily services are conducted during the school year, involving students of all ages. The community celebrations during Christmas and Easter have a firm tradition. The Chapel is also used for baptisms, weddings, funerals, and celebrations in the lives of members of the Casady Community throughout the year.
By 1965, 12 more buildings were in place including O’Donoghue, Pew, Calvert and the Headmaster’s House. With the addition of the Primary Building in 1969, all students were finally on one campus. By 1978, with the completion of the Eileen L. and S. T. Fee Theater, there had been nearly three decades of continuous development, expansion, and construction. Today, 29 buildings dot the now 80-acre campus, including the McClendon Middle School, built in 2000, and W.R. Johnston Math Building, dedicated in October 2010, and the Dr. John W. Records Arts and Science Facility, completed in 2014.
The faculty has been the foundation and hallmark of the Casady experience. The founders sought individuals with “personal and professional qualifications such as the ability to teach, a liking for youngsters and contagious qualities of good character.” The national recognition Casady continues to receive is built upon this treasury of talent.
The fine arts were an element of the earliest curriculum, and interest and excellence in the arts continue to this day. Visual art, music and theater are enjoyed by students and faculty. The School has won many local, state, and national awards in the fine arts, thanks in no small part to gifted instructors. The orchestra and choirs have earned national recognition in recent years.
Athletic accomplishments did not come easily for Casady in the early years, but as the School grew, so did successes on the playing fields. Hoot Gibson, Dorotha Edwards, Glenn Sears, and Virgil Grantham became coaching legends and the envy of the Southwest Preparatory Conference. Since 1956, Casady has won 161 SPC Division I championships. Its Bennett Athletic Center, expanded and renovated in 2000, was on the forefront of secondary school athletic facilities at the time and has been the envy of local and SPC-member schools for many years.
Parents have remained highly involved in all aspects of school life, supporting the spirit of a shared responsibility for the growth of the School and the nurturing of young people. For many years the Mothers’ Club coordinated activities and events for Casady. In 1991, in a successful effort to include more fathers, the name was changed to the Casady Parents’ Organization. The CPO has raised more than $2 million for Casady School over the last ten years.
Each of the School’s twelve headmasters has invested both leadership and vision in Casady according to the opportunities and circumstances presented in his era. Stephen Gassaway who served when the School first opened, Michael Martin (1947-52), Shaun Kelly (1952-56), Howard Taber (1956-63), Dr. Robert B. Woolsey (1963-80), Richard B. McCubbin (1980-90), Barnaby J. Roberts (1990-98), Mark H. Mullin (1998-2002), Charles W. Britton (2002-07), David W. Gorham (Interim 2007-08), Christopher C. Bright (2008-14), and Nathan Sheldon (2014-present) have had in common a devotion to perpetuating Bishop Casady’s vision. The cumulative record of accomplishment speaks for them all, as the School has grown to a thriving community of approximately 875 students drawn from an ever-widening geographic area.