Harvard School, a military school with 42 boys, was established in 1900 by Grenville C. Emery in a barley field at what is now the corner of Western Avenue and Venice Boulevard in Los Angeles. Mr. Emery received permission from Charles W. Eliot, Harvard University President, to use the Harvard name.
In 1911, Harvard School became a non-profit corporation when Mr. Emery transferred ownership to the Episcopal Church. By the mid 1920’s Harvard had outgrown its original campus. A plan to reestablish the school on a site near Westwood was abandoned because of the worsening Depression. Following the vision of two-time Headmaster Bishop Robert Gooden (1912-1930 and 1934-1949), the school borrowed $25,000 from aviation pioneer Donald Douglas and moved to the defunct Hollywood Country Club on Coldwater Canyon in 1937 and became an independent, self-governing school.
The leadership of Headmasters Gooden and his successor, William Chalmers (1949-1969), established the school's reputation as a first-rate academic institution and laid the groundwork for the fundamental changes that occurred under Headmaster Christopher Berrisford (1969-1987), early in whose tenure the military tradition was discontinued and the boarding department shut down. By the time Thomas Hudnut became headmaster (1987-2013), Harvard was a day school whose enrollment had grown to exceed 800.
Westlake School for Girls
In 1904, Jessica Smith Vance and Frederica de Laguna opened the doors of Westlake School for Girls on Sixth Street and Alvarado Street, named for its location near Westlake Park in Los Angeles, now known as MacArthur Park.
Westlake moved to a larger site on Westmoreland Avenue in 1917. In 1927, Miss Vance and Miss de Laguna acquired the land at the North Faring Road location from Harold Janss who wanted the School to become an anchor for the development of Holmby Hills. Miss Vance and Miss de Laguna operated Westlake until their deaths in 1939 and 1942, respectively. The School was purchased by Sydney Temple, whose daughter, Helen Temple Dickinson ’31, was Headmistress until 1966, when Westlake became a non-profit institution. About that time, Westlake phased out its elementary school and in 1966 Nathan O. Reynolds (Harvard School Class of 1951) became the first male to head Westlake. Enrollment reached 700 during the 1970’s.
In October 1989, the Boards of Trustees of the two schools agreed to merge the schools, with Tom Hudnut as Harvard-Westlake’s first Headmaster. Full coeducation began in September 1991, with an enrollment approaching 1600, grades 7 - 9 at Westlake's North Faring Road location and grades 10 - 12 at Harvard's Coldwater Canyon campus.
In the fall of 2005, the organization of the school's leadership changed. Headmaster Tom Hudnut became president of Harvard-Westlake, and Head of Middle School Jeanne Huybrechts became head of Harvard-Westlake School.
In the fall of 2008, an expanded and renovated Middle School campus opened at the North Faring Road location.
In August 2013, Richard B. Commons became the second president of Harvard-Westlake.