Douglas A. Grier, B.A., Princeton University, PhD., University of Michigan
Head of School
Gina Borst, B.S. & M. Ed., Pennsylvania State University
Director of Admissions
Jennifer Neely, B.S. & M. Ed., Pennsylvania State University
Andrew Grier, B.A., University of Michigan
Marlene Halbedl, A.S., St. Francis College
Director of Development
Harriet Grier, B.A., Pennsylvania State University, M. Ed., University of Michigan
Director, Douglas A. Grier was born and raised on the grounds of the Grier School. He earned his B.A. from Princeton University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. For a number of years Dr. Grier was the on-campus director of The Grier School. Though he now lives in Maryland, he continues to oversee the workings of the school and is very active in admissions. Dr. Grier and his wife Harriet have two sons, Geoff and Andrew.
Head of School, Gina Borst oversees the day-to-day running of the school including all aspects of student life. She has worked at Grier for over 20 years. Gina is a Penn State graduate with an M. Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction/ Teacher Leadership. Being the oldest of five girls has helped to prepare her for her job at Grier! Gina and her husband, Steve, reside on campus. They have three sons: Steven, Justin and Stewart and two granddaughters.
Business Manager, Marlene Halbedl, oversees the business office operations at Grier. She is a graduate of St. Francis University and has worked at Grier for over 30 years. She lives with her husband Gerald near the campus but travels regularly to the Pittsburgh area to visit her four children and seven grandchildren.
History of Grier School
In 1853, fifty-six years after the establishment of the Borough of Birmingham, a girls’ school, The Mountain Female Seminary, was created. While the original school closed its doors only a few years later, Lemuel and Sarah Grier reopened it in 1857. Having taught at a co-ed school previously, Lemuel and Sarah were convinced that single-sex education was a better idea. Their good friend, Nancy Jane Davis, accompanied them to help open the new school.
In 1861, two seniors comprised the first graduating class. In 1869, the Grier family moved into Shelter Oak – a home built for them on campus. By 1870, enrollment had grown to 45 boarding students. Although the “Seminary” had always been known as a school for girls, a dozen male students enrolled during the years 1870-1881. Personal comfort and convenience were greatly enhanced in 1874 when gas lamps and steam heat were installed. By 1880 phone service was available! In 1883 Art Hall and Gate House were built. After the death of his father, Alvan Grier assumed management in 1888.
The Gymnasium was completed in 1889. In 1901, the school became a member of Association of Colleges and Preparatory schools. The tradition of “friendly” school competitions between the Green and Gold teams was established and school seal was fashioned and remains today. In 1910, the first Pineneedle was printed with photographs of the 8 graduating seniors. By 1920, one hundred students were enrolled, the largest enrollment the school had seen.
In 1932, Dr. Thomas Grier became Director of the school after the passing of his father, Alvin. A few years later, his wife, Solveig, joined him and together they directed the school. In 1937, the school name was officially changed to Grier School. How many alumnae remember Jimmy La Rosa joining the staff as Riding Instructor? He served in that capacity for 47 years. More recent students and staff know his wife, Jeanetta, who has lived on our campus since 1945.
By 1948 enrollment had jumped to 147 students. . In 1953, the 100th Anniversary of the school, ten students were elected to the National Honor Society and the first TV was installed in the lounge! In 1956, Mr. and Mrs. Silas Dubbel joined the staff and stayed until their retirements in 1994. In 1963, Trustee Hall was built as well as an indoor riding arena. Trustee is still home to many Grier girls, but the indoor was replaced in 2006. The year of 1965 brought changes. Thomas Grier passed away and Solveig Grier was appointed Head of School. At that time, son, Douglas, and his wife, Harriet, returned to the school to assist in its administration. In 1970, Douglas became Headmaster.
When Ed LeBlanc joined the faculty in 1972, the Children’s Theatre was established. About that time, the stables were remodeled and the first class of seniors participated in the Senior Project program. Ray and Maddie Kelly brought their appreciation of nature to Grier in 1973; whale watching was only one of the innovations sponsored by the Kellys. In 1974, the Griers decided that providing summer camp experiences to younger girls was a good use of the school’s facilities and the Allegheny Riding Camp was born. Today, girls come to the campus in the summer to ride, dance, and study art. International students come to prepare for the coming school year by brushing up on their English. By 1975, an outdoor swimming pool had been added and more International students and ESL instructors were seen on campus. Reminiscent of the 1870’s, three 7th grade male day students were enrolled during this time in order to accommodate faculty children on campus.
In 1978, the 125th anniversary was held. That year also marked the retirement of local artist and teacher, Andrew Moore. The Big Sister program began in order to provide a more welcoming atmosphere to “new girls.” Ray Kelly was named Headmaster, Douglas Grier, President, and Marlene Halbedl joined the staff in 1980. The same year, the first International Night was held. In 1982, the Gymnasium was built. Major reconstruction occurred in Davis Hall, the kitchen, and stables. The art department was expanded during this time.
By 1984, computers arrived on campus and the task of organizing computerized alumnae records began. A Computer Resource room was installed; Grier had entered the computer age! Students remember an assembly featuring a computerized robot. Also in 1984, the PA Dance Theatre troupe was invited to give a performance on campus. Soon after, Grier Dance was introduced as a regular sport. Andrew Wilson arrived at Grier in September 1986 as “Señor Andrés,” Grier’s Spanish teacher. Students attended Congressional Sub-committee hearings in Washington, DC. New landscaping for the entrance drive was installed in 1987. A Steinway Grand piano was purchased for the growing music department. A new outdoor riding ring was built and students from nine foreign countries were enrolled. In 1988, Ed LeBlanc retired in December. New music teacher, Darcy Nelson, arrived - an event that proved to be very interesting to Señor Andrés. Science department improvements were made thanks to alumnae donations. 1989 brought the starting of the School Rock Band with faculty member James Pingry (Neil Young) as a lead guitarist and vocalist.
In 1990, photo-silk-screen was introduced to the art department, Ray Kelly retired, and Kay Hunter became the new Head Riding Instructor. Andrew Wilson and Darcy Nelson married in the summer, just before Andrew began work full-time as the Director of Admissions. In 1991, Mimi Wutz was named Headmistress. A community outreach program was started with ARAMCO girls visiting local area schools and talking about their culture. During 1992, Douglas Grier celebrated his 25th anniversary. There were 143 students enrolled at Grier representing many states and 14 countries. It was a sad day in 1992 when Jimmy LaRosa passed away. 1993 brought a jump in enrollment with 152 students. Three Birmingham houses and the Zoeller House were purchased for use as dormitories and faculty homes. Sister schools were established in China & Japan. In 1994 a winter program was established for South American students; students from 18 countries participated. PSU Altoona offered classes to our students in 1996. Also in that year, the student laundry was moved. The soccer field expanded, and the school celebrated the 50th anniversary of Jeannetta LaRosa’s arrival at Grier. The Internet and e-mail provided many opportunities for communication and education. By 1997, students from 17 countries were enrolled. The first email addresses were published in the Alumnae Directory. Improvements to the barns occurred in 1998 and a Medieval Festival was held.
Headmistress, Mimi Wutz, retired in January of 1997. Upon her departure, Mrs. Andrea Hollnagel became Acting Head of School. Andrew Wilson became Acting Assistant Head of School. Gina Borst became Acting Dean of Students. By the fall of 1998, Grier's Board of Trustees decided that Ms. Hollnagel, Mr. Wilson and Mrs. Borst no longer had to be "Acting" and they officially became Head of School, Assistant Head of School and Dean of Students. Upon Andrea Hollnagel's retirement in June of 2007, the Grier Board of Trustees asked Mr. Wilson and Mrs. Borst to be co-heads of school, as Headmaster and Head of School. They have served in this capacity ever since, helping to guide the school through a period of great growth and prosperity.
The Grier family and community suffered a loss when Solveig Grier passed away in 1999. In that year, Green and Gold competitions and Prom were reinstated. Merit trips recognized the hard work of honor students each marking period. Andrew Wilson helped to develop the school’s website and Nickelodeon was on campus for a week to film a segment on boarding schools. The 10-year accreditation process highlighted the need for improved arts facilities. Quick action remedied that situation; groundbreaking occurred for the new Music/Visual Arts Center in 2000. 174 students were enrolled at the start of the new millennium. In addition to representing over twenty states, students from eighteen countries also attended. In 2001 the Arts Center was completed, opening for classes in January. A historic Birmingham Log Cabin dating to 1814 was moved closer to campus.
Building projects continued in 2002 with planning and groundbreaking for the new Science Center. In 2003 the building was completed, and a Sesquicentennial Celebration was held in June for all alumnae. Sue and Gary Sorensen initiated the Home Away from Home program. In January of 2003, Emily Zientek arrived to be our riding instructor. She took a program that had become very small and in short time turned around the momentum and created a very competitive riding program that attracts national attention. In the Spring of 2011, Grier's Western Riding team came in first place in the national competitions held in Maryland. In 2004, the Infirmary was moved to its current location and North Cottage became a much-needed overflow dormitory. The gift of the Rexroad Student Center by Barbara and Jennifer Rexroad ’85, originally designated as a student center, also quickly became a dormitory in order to meet the need for additional dormitory space.
Construction on The Performing Arts Building began in 2005. This spectacular building became a necessity due to the recent growth of dance at Grier. Today more than 100 students participate in the dance program. Other improvements in 2006 included a school-wide wireless Internet system and a state-of-the-art Fitness Center where the indoor swimming pool had been. The beautiful Landon Library opened in November 2006, located in the former dance studio space. A new Indoor Equestrian Center became a reality in January 2007, which covers 22,500 square feet of land at the upper part of the campus. This space provides riders with a fine facility for practicing as well as hosting home equestrian events. In 2009 the Richard Green Family barn was added to the Equestrian Center so horses and riders would have access needed to the center in the winter months. 2010 brought 17 day students to the Grier campus for the first time. They were invited to be part of the Elite Scholar program, involving our honors and AP class offerings. In 2012 we saw the opening of Wren's Nest, a new cottage dorm in the village of Birmingham. Along with housing ten boarding students and a housemother, Wren's Nest also provides a large living space for our day students to use as their home on campus. Then in 2012, old North Cottage was demolished and a new 3 story dorm and classroom area was opened, keeping the same name (pictured below). The enrollment in the day program grew in 2011-2012 to 25 students. For the 2012-2013 school year, Grier had 248 boarding students and 35 day students. In 2013, Cardinal Cottage was built next to Wren's Nest and serves as a dorm and lounge area for younger day students. 2014 brought an additional classroom to the Science building and the start of a new music building to be completed in the spring of 2015.
Grier's rural setting provides a lovely backdrop for members of the school community to enjoy nature. Grier's extensive acreage includes numerous fields and mountain trails. There is even a renowned trout fishing stream, the Little Juniata, that flows beside the campus. Whether students plan an outdoor activity or just stop to sit on an outdoor bench, they cannot help but notice that their surroundings are peaceful and beautiful.
A self-perpetuating Board of Trustees governs the school. The fourth generation of the Grier family, Douglas Grier Ph.D., currently holds the position as Director of the school. He is still very active in the administration and admissions. Dr. Grier is joined on the administrative team for Grier School and Grier Summer by Andrew Wilson (Headmaster), Gina Borst (Head of School) and Marlene Halbedl (Business Manager). Together, the four members of the administration have 108 years of experience working at Grier!
Grier School Email Addresses and Phone Extensions for 814-684-3000