Traditions & History
Founded in 1926, Country Day has many traditions that span our 90-plus year history. From graduation for seniors to out-of-the-box day for 5th graders to Service Learning Day for Lower School students, our traditions connect our past to the present.
The traditions below are just a few of the many that span our entire school community and signify the important milestones, events, and programs that prepare students to become exemplary citizens, confident leaders, and the very best versions of themselves.
Opening Convocation and Closing Ceremony
The new school year is bookended by two all-school gatherings in the outdoor amphitheater. The head of school welcomes students, staff, and teachers back to a fresh start during the Opening Convocation and celebrates the end of another successful year at the Closing Ceremony.
Alumni call this quirky sleight of hand with a pen the definitive way to identify a fellow CCDS alum while traveling across the country or the globe. Many alums report seeing a stranger doing a pen flip and making an instant connection by asking, “Did you go to Cincinnati Country Day School?” Click here to see the pen flip video.
A favorite tradition of seniors, they dress in costumes and walk through the lower school or stadium track to bestow mass quantities of candy upon students. The young learners, many also sporting their own Halloween costumes, eagerly await this memorable - and tasty! - interaction with their older peers.
On Service Learning Day, Lower School students in grades K-4 work together in their Character Virtue Houses to do service projects that benefit the world around them. Past activities have included making blankets for Ukraine, sending cards to international dental patients, creating love bags for Black Alliance, cleaning alpaca hair and making cards for Tikkun Farm, creating candy bags and cards for nursing home residents, creating glass signs for 7125 House, and cleaning up our campus.
Overnight class trips have all the ingredients for students to create bonds and make lasting memories. Fifth graders head to Clymer, New York in January for a ski trip that involves teamwork, grit and resilience. Sixth graders work on team-building during an April trip to Camp Joy for an astronomy program and ropes course. Seventh graders learn about Native Americans in culture studies, so a May trip to the Cherokee Indian Reservation in Cherokee, North Carolina, brings their curriculum to life. They also go whitewater rafting and hiking in the mountains. Eighth graders travel to Washington, D.C. in October where they visit the Smithsonian Institution, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Arlington National Cemetery, Lincoln Memorial, and more. Juniors zipline and ride the waves during their whitewater rafting trip to Lansing, West Virginia, in September.
You never know when it's coming! Senior Surprises are part of the mystery of senior year. Organized by a committee of senior parents, these surprises range from a nacho bar to bucket hats to a Graeter's ice cream truck.
Lifer Tree Planting
Dating back to 2015, the lifer tree symbolizes the start of a Country Day student's journey throughout the school. Each year, the kindergarten class plants a Kentucky coffee tree on the campus in the Lifer Tree Grove.
One of the Lower School's best days of the year is New Student House Reveal Day! New students and faculty pop balloons filled with colors to discover which house they will join for the rest of their time in Lower School. The houses reflect the school's character virtues - compassion (blue), courage (yellow), integrity (orange), respect (green), and responsibility (purple). Houses participate in activities together, such as writing note of encouragement, making art, and service projects.
Much has changed at CCDS over its more than 90 years; however, there are discernable threads in the school’s educational design that inspire and sustain all those who become a part of this community. From its inception, CCDS has been a place where academic excellence is pursued. Teachers challenge and empower children to discover and develop their interests in the arts and sciences, humanities, athletics, moral and ethical citizenship, and to participate today and in the future in arenas both local and global.
A not-to-be-overlooked component of the school’s identity is interplay between the natural beauty of its Indian Hill location and CCDS’s modernist architecture.
Cincinnati Country Day School opened its doors in September 1926 with an enrollment of fifty-five boys and a faculty numbering five. Harold Washburn was selected as the school’s first Headmaster.
The emphasis on developing the whole child was already evident in the school’s 1926 prospectus. An initial committee of five trustees (W. H. Chatfield, John J. Rowe, Robert L. Black, John J. Emery, and Julius Fleischmann) was committed to outdoor education and the study of nature. The school’s prospectus made this clear: “The School will be surrounded on all sides, to the horizon, by open country. It will be protected, for miles around, by farm property with widely separated residences.” In fact, the Indian Hill CCDS campus was so physically remote in those early years that a 25% transportation surcharge of $100 was added to the $400 tuition.
- Believing strongly in the value of exercise, the CCDS Founders reserved the afternoons to be “devoted to outdoor play and sports, or to nature study in the fields and woodlands.” Built into the afternoon schedule, there was a study hall for the boys, and, in the judgment of the Founders, that sufficed “to eliminate homework completely for all the boys in the School.” Today, there are students who rue the passing of the no homework tradition.
CCDS’s first building was a “temporary” structure that was not replaced until 1957. According to reports from students and faculty, it was not unusual to draw eight inch wooden splinters from the corridor floors.
Because the vast majority of CCDS students transferred to eastern boarding schools upon entering their high school years, Country Day, between the years 1926 and 1939, graduated only thirteen students.
While it was near to impossible to field a football team, CCDS opted for the six-man variety from 1938 to 1945.
Safety standards were very different in CCDS’s early years. A rifle club under the supervision of Stephen Marvin operated beneath the study hall!
WWII saw 158 CCDS alumni in the armed services, including Headmaster Harwood Ellis. Six CCDS alumni made the ultimate sacrifice defending democracy in WWII.
In 1948, the first lower school building was built.
- In 1948, CCDS entered an era commonly referred to as “the years of growth.” It began with the appointment of Herbert Davison as CCDS’s fifth headmaster.
It was during the Davison era that CCDS began to emerge as one of the premiere private schools in the Midwest.
In 1950, CCDS was granted Cum Laude Society membership. Today the CCDS Cum Laude Chapter numbers nearly 500 students.
From 1952 through 1969, every CCDS graduate attended four-year colleges, more than half admitted to their first choice, and more than 97% earned their college diplomas. Of the 432 graduates, 32 matriculated at Yale, 20 at Williams, 19 at Princeton, 16 at Brown and Harvard, 15 at Cornell, and 14 at Dartmouth.
Originally founded as an all-boys school, women were first admitted through grade 6 in 1953.
The total cost of operating the school rose 792% from $83,160 to $659,025.
One man, unsurpassed for dedicated service to Country Day, was Bill Hopple, Jr. A graduate of CCDS in 1939, Mr. Hopple became Country Day’s first Lower School Head in 1953. He left that position in 1978 to become Development Director from 1978 through 1987. In the years following his retirement, Mr. Hopple continued to serve the school in ways too numerous to list here.
In 1957, Cincinnati’s talented and highly regarded modern architect, Carl Strauss, designed a new Upper School building in the International Style, replacing the 1926 “temporary” building.
As the school entered the decade of the sixties, the Board of Trustees formally reiterated its long-standing, non-discriminatory student enrollment and staff hiring policy “without regard to race or creed.” In September 1964, two African-American students were admitted to CCDS, one in kindergarten and the other in grade 12. The twelfth grader graduated from CCDS and attended Harvard. In 1969, the school’s first African-American teacher, Marcella Trice, was hired and later became the Head of the Lower School until retiring in 1996. The commitment to diversity has remained a fundamental part of the working ethos of the school. Today, 33% of the CCDS student body is racially/ethnically diverse.
In 1962, the Montessori program was introduced to CCDS. It was the first Montessori program introduced in the entire Midwest.
The school added a twelve-inch telescope and observatory in 1967, and in the same year, thanks to the visionary efforts of physics teacher David Laird, Country Day installed the first computer terminal for use at the school. This technological step was but the first in a series of bold initiatives that propelled CCDS to its position of national leadership in the curricular integration of computer technology.
In 1972, the Board decided to admit girls into the upper grades on a one-year trial basis. The experiment was a success. By 1975 CCDS graduated its first two girls.
Charles Yeiser was named CCDS’s seventh headmaster in 1971 and was succeeded by John Raushenbush in 1977. It was during this period, often referred to as the Yeiser and Raushenbush years, that CCDS earned its reputation as the top independent school in Cincinnati. There are many reasons for CCDS’s academic ascendancy; however, it was largely due to the expertise and tireless efforts of the Country Day faculty. Because of their inspired teaching and length of service to Country Day, a brief history of the school must name two teachers and recognize their tenure: Lee Pattison (1946-1988) and Tony Strauss (1963-2007).
In the fall of 1980, Joseph Hofmeister assumed leadership of computer education at Country Day. His leadership for the next 27 years helped CCDS become an international leader in educational technology integration.
Richard Schwab, class of 1967, became Middle School Head in 1986. The new Middle School building was opened for the start of school in 1986, thanks in large part to Mrs. Susan Strike, Fund Drive Chair.
In 1993, CCDS brought the Summerbridge program (now called Breakthrough Collaborative) to Cincinnati, where it continues to prepare middle school students from underrepresented backgrounds to succeed in the public and parochial city high schools.
In 1994, Dr. Charles Clark was selected by the Board to become Country Day’s ninth Headmaster.
During Dr. Clark’s tenure two very important initiatives were undertaken: first, in September, 1996, every child in grades 5-12 was issued a laptop as part of the school’s educational program. Second, construction of a new 100,000-square-foot facility, including a new arts center, upper school, dining terrace, and information center, was completed in 2000. Led by Craig Lindner, Ron Tysoe, and Bill Bahl, this was the largest capital campaign in the school’s history.
In 2004, Dr. Robert P. Macrae became the 11th Head of School.
Under Dr. Macrae’s leadership, an addition was constructed at the Lower School. The addition included the Peter ’05 and Betsy ’05 Niehoff Commons, a gathering space for students, parents and the Country Day community. The new Gordon R. Wright Tennis Complex and Tysoe Pavilion were also completed. Country Day weathered the 2008 economic downturn and subsequent enrollment decline with a successful enrollment and engagement initiative that involved the community. The School was rebranded with a new “My Day” marketing campaign, in which students and teachers shared aspects of their typical day.
In 2015, Anthony T. T. Jaccaci became Country Day's 12th Head of School.
During Mr. Jaccaci's initial years, spearheaded a new five-year strategic plan - Country Day Forward - designed to set a strong foundation for the future. He also assumed leadership of the North Campus Project in the midst of construction and is in the process of seeing it through to completion. He presided over the opening of the new Bortz Family Early Childhood Center, home to Country Day's youngest students, and the Sally Dwyer ’05 and Tonya Grieb ’10 Performing Arts Courtyard and Carey Family Amphitheater that is already heavily used by students and the community. He completed the project with the reopening of the refurbished swimming pool and the Leonard Family Athletic Center, the home and face of Country Day athletics. Finally, he launched a $3.75 million capital project to complete a new turf field for the school.
In 2021, Rob Zimmerman '98 became Country Day's 13th Head of School. During the first months of his tenure, the turf field project was completed on time and on budget.
Today, Cincinnati Country Day School is home to more than 600 families and 850 students ranging in age from 18 months to 18 years, with a dedicated, extraordinary faculty numbering nearly 125. The 62-acre campus, with rolling terrain and lush natural areas, is in many ways unchanged from the way it was founded in 1926. So too do we remain true to the principles upon which we were founded – to educate moral and ethical citizens to be the leaders of tomorrow.