Mission & History
Charles Wright Academy provides a rigorous liberal arts program guided by an ethos of excellence and compassion. Within a diverse learning community, we foster self-reliance, integrity, social responsibility, and humor, empowering our students to achieve their personal best in mind, body, and spirit. - Adopted by the Board of Trustees, December 2006
When Lowell Elementary in Tacoma was damaged by an earthquake in 1947, some of its students in kindergarten, first, and second grades were taken in by Annie Wright Seminary, a K-12 girls' school in the North End of Tacoma. Annie Wright was founded in the late 1800s by railroad magnate Charles Barstow Wright in honor of his daughter Annie. Parents of boys who attended were so pleased that they wanted the school to continue coed into higher grades, but Annie demurred, as it was by charter a girls' school. The appetite for a private school for boys was, nevertheless, whetted and became an important factor in the founding of Charles Wright Academy.
Sam and Nathalie Brown proposed the founding of a boys' school to Bishop Stephen Bayne of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, who gave the concept his blessing and plans went forward.
Sam and Nathalie and a small group of interested parents purchased from Amerigo Centoni 127 acres on Chambers Creek Road in rural Pierce County, including a frost-killed peach orchard, a spaghetti restaurant, a cottage, a pump house, and several sheds.
The first school year began with forty boys and a faculty of five on September 16, 1957. The next day the pump went out and with it the water. Two weeks later the new well "came in" at 172 feet.
The fifth year of operation began with faculty carrying furniture into the new Upper School building, sweeping up the sawdust, and installing a toilet. Four weeks later our first-ever football team won its first-ever game, defeating Lakeside 12-7.
In the spring of 1964, our first graduating class, all fourteen of them, assembled in the Brick Gym for Commencement, during which Howard Abraham Lincoln spoke for the class. The seniors and dates adjourned for a harbor cruise and then a midnight meal at Steve's Gay Nineties.
In September of 1970, Charles Wright Academy admitted its first girls and has been co-ed ever since. The school maintains its historical ties to the Episcopal Church. It employs a full-time chaplain, but does not teach a specific religious doctrine as part of the curriculum. The school is open and welcoming to families of all religious traditions as well as those with no religious affiliation.
Today, Charles Wright serves nearly 700 students in preschool through the twelfth grade. Truly one of the premiere schools in the Northwest, CWA sends its graduates to the best colleges and universities in the country. We prepare our students for their futures through a demanding academic program in an environment which fosters the development of character and independence.