Founded in 1888, Kiski School adheres to a time-tested tradition

| Saturday, May 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

In 1888, newly minted lawyer Andrew Wilson Jr. shunned the law and founded a boys' school on a bucolic campus near Saltsburg, 30 miles east of Pittsburgh.

Just six headmasters have succeeded him. The Kiski School resisted the surge of boys' schools that went coed. The boys trundle around in navy sport coats and ties and wait patiently for adults to walk through a door ahead of them.

“If (Wilson) were reincarnated and walking around here, he would notice tremendous changes, the grounds and physical plant, but the boys and their values and the faculty and the ideals they teach would be altogether recognizable to him,” Headmaster Christopher A. Brueningsen said .

Kiski celebrates its 125th anniversary on Saturday by breaking ground for an athletic field and track. The school raised $8.5 million as part of a $12 million campaign. The money will renovate MacColl Hall, install the field and track, pay for scholarships and increase the endowment, now at $10 million.

The school touts a low student-teacher ratio of 12 to 1 and academic rigor. It requires students to play a sport and emphasizes projects.

Like its peers, Kiski considered going coed in the early '70s but stood its ground.

Kim Conover-Loar, an art teacher and chairwoman of the fine arts department at Kiski, taught males and females at public schools in New York and the Rochester Institute of Technology. She said boys are focused when they are around just boys.

“But when a girl walks into a room, they're gone,” she said.

Andy Scott graduated from Kiski in 1985. He visited a few years later and wore a tie-dyed suit, long hair and beard. Now he sports short hair and a bow tie as he teaches art and wood shop at his alma mater.

Scott recalled sitting in the back of the classroom in his parochial school because he didn't like being in a class with 30 students. He thrived at Kiski in classrooms of just a dozen students with two hours of study hall nightly.

Today's students are diverse; many come from around the world. The students go home more often than he and his classmates did, and with cell phones commonplace, the long line at the pay phone in the dorm has vanished. Otherwise, he said, students have not changed much.

“I have kids who remind me of my classmates and — God forbid — even me,” he said.

Aaron Magazine, 17, a junior from Greensburg, said Kiski “taught me to be independent, manage my time and be a leader, get out of my shell, meet people from all across the world.”

Zach Michel, 19, of Jacksonville hopes to follow his father in the Navy. He is in a special program at Kiski that allows students to study a year after their high school graduation to better prepare them to enroll in the Naval Academy.

“I've been to four high schools in five years but I think this has been my favorite one,” he said. “It has allowed me to become a leader.”

Bill Zlatos is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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