Malvern Prep is the direct continuation of the academy program founded in 1842 by the Augustinians as the “preparatory” school for what is now Villanova University. The Augustinian community purchased the farm called Belle-Aire in January 1842, to establish a college and monastery under the patronage of St. Thomas of Villanova. During the next year, Rev. John O’Dwyer, the first president, worked tirelessly to get the school up and running, and traveled to Europe in search of qualified faculty. The first Mass was celebrated on St. Augustine’s Day, August 28, 1843, and the seven students that year were all under the age of 16. The original academy building, built in 1848, is now called Alumni Hall, and stands just behind the Chapel at Villanova.
Villanova did not grant its first college degree until 1857. As the school grew and modern education began to take its present form, a distinction grew between the “academy boys,” the “college boys,” and the “seminarians.” In 1901, the academy was named “St. Nicholas of Tolentine Academy,” and in 1922, the college program was expanded. The decision was made to move the academy program from the college campus. About the same time, the Rosengarten family of Malvern planned to sell part of its holdings located on Warren Avenue and Paoli Pike. Thus in 1922, because of the Augustinian need and the availability of 143 acres in historic Chester County, the academy relocated to its current setting. The academy changed its name to “Villanova Preparatory School” in the early 1920’s, which began the gradual phasing out of the old academy. The school was soon renamed Malvern Preparatory School to reflect its geographical location and give the school its own identity. Malvern Prep graduated its first class in 1927.
Located northwest of Malvern Prep’s property is the site of the Paoli Massacre during the Revolution, making it a central point for historical interest. Malvern Prep owned the 40-acre landmark until 2000 when it was purchased and preserved as a National Historic property.
Although only two buildings on the Rosengarten estate could be used for school purposes, Austin Hall (original farmhouse) and the St. Augustine Friary (farm building), they were more than ample in providing classroom and living space for the predominantly boarding student body of 19 and the original faculty of three Augustinians and a layman.
In the intervening years, the original buildings were supplemented. Tolentine Hall (dormitory), Good Counsel Hall (classroom building), and Villanova Hall (gymnasium, now called Stewart Hall), were all completed in 1924. When the student body reached the 200 mark in 1953, the following buildings appeared in rapid succession: Sullivan Hall (library and cafeteria); Our Mother of Good Counsel Chapel; Dougherty Hall (gymnasium); and Vasey Hall (auditorium). In 1961 Dennis Hall (classroom building) was added, as well as Alumni Hall (indoor swimming pool). Austin Hall was refurbished in 1986 to hold administrative offices. Carney Hall (classroom building) was built and opened in 1988. It now contains 18 classrooms, the Dean of Students office, a Health office, and a television studio. Dougherty Hall and Good Counsel Hall were renovated and updated in 1995 and 1996 respectively.
In 1997, Tolentine Hall underwent extensive renovation to become a fine arts center. Construction was completed on the Donald F. O’Neill Sports Center in 1999. Villanova Hall, renamed Stewart Hall, was renovated in 2000 to be used as a dining hall. In November 2000, the first and third floors of Sullivan Hall were renovated to be state-of-the-art science classrooms. Alumni Hall was transformed and established as a wrestling facility in February 2001, and an addition was built onto Dougherty Hall for a rowing tank in March 2001. The rowing practice facility was renamed the Melton Rowing Center in 2004, in memory of Fr. John H. Melton, O.S.A., who founded the program. A new campus entrance, called St. Augustine Circle, was added and a statue of “St. Augustine - Teacher” was blessed at that location in August 2001. In the summers of 2002 and 2003, several athletic fields were added or renovated. In 2003, St. Rita’s Hall was renovated to make it more comfortable for teachers to use between classes. In 2004, the soccer/lacrosse field was dedicated Father Flynn Field. In 2005, the pews in the Chapel were refurbished, air conditioning was added to Carney Hall, and Dougherty Hall’s weight room was renovated and transformed into a Strength and Conditioning Center to promote healthy living.
In 2006 Malvern razed Vasey Hall to make room for the Rev. David J. Duffy, O.S.A. Arts Center. Sadly on January 9, 2006, Malvern lost its long-time president Fr. Duffy. On July 1, 2006, James H. Stewart (Head of School) was named President and the Rev. James R. Flynn, O.S.A. (Assistant Head) was named Head of School.
The School completed the construction of the Duffy Arts Center in 2008 and completely renovated Tolentine Hall to house Upper School administrative offices, the Counseling Department and classrooms. Dennis Hall was also demolished in 2008 to create an academic quad.
In October 2011, the School dedicated the Pellegrini Athletic Complex, named in honor of longtime Head Football Coach Gaspare “Gamp” Pellegrini. The multi-purpose sports center features a state-of-the-art, synthetic playing field, all-weather track, tennis courts; home and visitors’ stands with a seating capacity of more than 1,300; a new scoreboard, and so much more.
In November 2011, the Board of Trustees adopted a five-year Strategic Vision, outlining seven key goals for the future of Malvern Prep. In December, 2011, the Board appointed Christian M. Talbot as Malvern’s 13th Head of School, effective July 1, 2012. Rev. James R. Flynn, O.S.A., the 12th Head of School, succeeded James Stewart as Malvern’s third President on July 1, 2012.
Malvern Prep, whose mascot is the “Friar,” is a member of the Inter-Academic League (Inter-Ac) which is comprised of Episcopal Academy, Germantown Academy, William Penn Charter, Haverford School and Chestnut Hill Academy.
Embracing its earliest roots, Malvern Prep regards 1842 as its founding year and features it on the School seal.