Then and Now



In 1744, itinerant minister Samuel Finley was called to be the permanent pastor for the newly formed West Nottingham Presbyterian Church. He agreed on one condition – that he be supported to open a school. The congregation agreed and built a small log cabin next to his new home in what is now Rising Sun, MD. This foundation was the beginning of West Nottingham Academy.

Samuel Finley believed in educating the whole person, training his charges to be useful and productive members of society. Along with the regular curriculum of the day (Latin and Greek, Logic, Arithmetic, Natural Philosophy, etc.) students worked in the fields to help support their school and shared dinner-table conversations with many luminaries of the time who stopped by to visit The Reverend Finley. The success of his ideals is etched in the early history of the United States. Our first graduates include people like Benjamin Rush and Richard Stockton, both signers of the Declaration of Independence; Drs. John Morgan and William Shippen, founders of the first medical school in North America; and numerous senators, governors, doctors and preachers – people who helped form this nation.

In 1812, WNA was chartered by the State of Maryland and moved to its current location. The first school building was destroyed in a storm, so a newer facility was erected a few hundred yards away, eventually being replaced by the nicer and roomier J. Paul Slaybaugh Old Academy, which stands on our campus today. Students at WNA maintain their connection to this past by processing through the foundation of that first building (reimagined as the Mary C. Wright Spiro Sunken Garden) on their way to graduation. Students also enjoy classes in the recently christened WNA Sustainability Center located in the Steele Log Cabin, built on campus in the late 1940s as a tribute to The Reverend Finley’s original log-cabin school.


Though the school severed its formal ties with the Presbyterian Church in, Samuel Finley’s commitment to preparing the young for life still guides West Nottingham Academy, even as we expand our programs and facilities to meet the needs of the many modern students who are part of our community. For example, students who need extra assistance to be academically or socially successful in our program can turn to the Chesapeake Learning Center for support and we have also developed a robust English as a Second Language curriculum for the many students who join us each year from all around the world.

Students’ needs are served in teaching buildings like Finley/Bathon (erected in 1961 and refurbished in 2003) the C. Herbert Foutz Student Center, Magraw Hall (photo to right) and the several new and recently renovated dormitories on campus. Their education is grounded in a classic Liberal Arts curriculum supported by elements unique to WNA, such as the Artist-In-Residence Program and Signature Programs in Environmental Sustainability, the Visual and Performing Arts, and STEM and Technology Innovation. And, like their predecessors, our students also learn from a wide range of visitors who speak with us as a part of the Col. Richard R. Hallock Faculty and Friends Speaker series. Our foundation may be older than the United States, but our vision is firmly on the future.