Prep Schools of the Power Brokers
Is St. Albans the nation’s most powerful prep school?
When current Washington Post executives Bo Jones and Don Graham sat in the Harvard bleachers 40 years ago watching former vice president Al Gore play basketball, says a fellow Crimson grad, the future newspapermen cheered, “Go, you St. Albans product!” It was an inside joke: Jones and Graham are St. Albans “products” too.
Now newly appointed White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten is the latest in a series of St. Albans grads to rise to prominence and power. Looking at a list of former St. Albans boys wielding inside-the-Beltway influence—which includes several Bush family members, at least five senators and congressmen, and a slew of influential people’s sons—it raises the question of whether St. Albans is the nation’s most powerful prep school.
“I think these things go in waves,” says Post education reporter Jay Mathews. “But I think you could say with some confidence that St. Albans gets the prize this year.”
Over the past century, New England boarding schools such as Phillips Exeter and Phillips Academy Andover might have owned the title. But putting aside George W. Bush, his father, brother Jeb, and former Dick Cheney aide Scooter Libby, all Andover graduates, the elite boarding schools have cooled down, with fewer alumni rising to power.
“It shows the era of boarding schools is declining,” says Mathews. “It is no longer the cultural preference amongst the most powerful families.”
The St. Albans pedigree doesn’t come cheap. Tuition for the 2006–07 year will top $26,500, and in September St. Albans will begin an $80-million capital campaign.
The school hasn’t always been a carefree place for the children of the rich and sometimes famous.
Bolten was thought to be instrumental in persuading Bush confidante Karen Hughes to send her son, Robert, to St. Albans, where he turned out to be very unhappy—an unfortunate match that helped encourage Hughes to leave the White House and return to Texas in 2002.
Robert was not the only powerful son to leave the high-pressure school before graduation.
Marion Barry’s son, Christopher, left St. Albans in 1990 while his father, then DC mayor, was facing personal problems. News reports said Christopher left in part because other students were teasing him about his father.
Dan Quayle’s son Benjamin transferred to Gonzaga, and in 1996 Albert Gore III left St. Albans in eighth grade amid a flurry of pot rumors to attend Sidwell Friends, where fellow graduates include Chelsea Clinton and Donald Rumsfeld’s daughter Valerie.
|Evan Bayh||US senator||1974|
|Joshua Bolten||White House chief of staff||1972|
|Marvin Bush||brother of President Bush||1974|
|Neil Bush||brother of President Bush||1973|
|Harold Ford Jr.||US congressman||1988|
|Rodney Frelinghuysen||US congressman||1964|
|Al Gore||former US vice president||1965|
|Donald Graham||Washington Post Company chair||1962|
|Brit Hume||Fox News television anchor||1961|
|Jesse Jackson Jr.||US congressman||1984|
|Bo Jones||Washington Post publisher and CEO||1964|
|Thomas Kean||9/11 Commission chair||1953|
|J.W. Marriott Jr.||Marriott International CEO||1950|
|Kent Conrad||US senator||1966|
|Judd Gregg||US senator||1965|
|Charles C. Krulak||former commandant, US Marine Corps||1960|
|John D. “Jay” Rockefeller IV||US senator||1954|
|Paul “Jerry” Bremer III||US civilian administrator in Iraq||1959|
|George H.W. Bush||former US president||1942|
|George W. Bush||US president||1964|
|Jeb Bush||Florida governor||1971|
|Lincoln D. Chaffee||US senator||1971|
|Clay Johnson III||deputy director, Office of Management and Budget||1964|
|Patrick J. Kennedy||US congressman||1986|
|John F. Kennedy Jr.||presidential son; publisher||1979|
|Albert Gore III||son of Al Gore||2001|
|Chelsea Clinton||daughter of former president Bill Clinton||1997|
|Oleg Alexandrovich Troyanovsky||former Soviet ambassador to the UN||1937|
|Bill Nye||TV’s “science guy”||1973|
|Doug Gansler||Montgomery County state’s attorney||1981|
|Charlie Gibson||host, ABC’s Good Morning America||1961|
|Tricia Nixon Cox and Julie Nixon||daughters of former president Richard M. Nixon||1964 and ’66|