News & Politics

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.

—Chris Vogel

Name Position Year of Graduation
St. Albans
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




Phillips Exeter

Dan Brown author 1982
Kent Conrad US senator 1966
Judd Gregg US senator 1965
John Irving author 1961
Charles C. Krulak former commandant, US Marine Corps 1960
John D. “Jay” Rockefeller IV US senator 1954
Gore Vidal author 1943




Phillips Academy Andover

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




Sidwell Friends

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