Francis Parker School marked its centennial in June 2012 — celebrating its founding as a progressive alternative to the static education of the early 20th century.
With a national reputation in academics, arts and athletics, Parker boasts three schools at two campuses — the Lower School (Junior Kindergarten to fifth grade) in San Diego's Mission Hills community and Middle and Upper schools in Linda Vista near the University of San Diego.
In December 1912, former Chicagoans Clara Sturges Johnson and her architect husband, William Templeton Johnson, opened the doors of what was then known as Francis W. Parker School — a cottage serving three students. The Johnsons were inspired by the philosophy of Col. Francis Wayland Parker, who in 1902 founded a school in Chicago that educated Clara's nieces.
Parker's original school was a few blocks south of its current Lower School in Mission Hills. In 1913, a new campus was dedicated at its current site on Randolph Street. In 1920, the school had 100 enrolled and its first 12th-grade graduate. But after the stock market crash, the 10th, 11th and 12 grades were eliminated in 1930.
In 1941-42, Clara Johnson put the school up for sale — potentially to the Roman Catholic archdiocese. But a parents group stepped in to buy the school for $22,500.
Between 1962 and 1968, the 10th, 11th and 12th grades were restored. And faced with growth demands, the school's Board of Trustees in 1971 bought the former San Miguel School for Boys, an Episcopal boarding school in Linda Vista, for $1.2 million.
In 1986, the Middle School for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders opened on the Linda Vista campus.
Parker had 1,000 students by 2000 and turned away student applicants at all grade levels for the first time. Advanced Placement offerings in the Upper School rose by 30 percent, and the entire School turned to a more global focus with foreign exchange students arriving at the Upper School and trips abroad expanded to include programs in Europe, Africa and Central America.
Between 2004 and the start of the 2009 school year, Parker erected 15 new buildings, including 40 new and 19 renovated classrooms. Also added were new athletic fields, two libraries, a lecture hall, three labs on the Mission Hills campus and eight in Linda Vista, and science and visual arts buildings (and gallery) in the Middle School. By 2010, other buildings were finished for music, math, English and social studies as well as Nicholas Commons, J. Crivello Hall and the Peters Family Building for school administration.