7380 Girard Ave

La Jolla, California


History of the Gillispie School


Ada Gillispie’s devotion to children in 1931 inspired her to raise funds to provide care for children in need.

Ada Gillispie

The Gillispie School began as a small cottage that served hot meals to the underprivileged children of single mothers or working parents in La Jolla in the lean  years of the Great Depression.  Its founders, pediatrician Samuel Gillispie and his wife, registered nurse Ada, had the prescience to offer the children in their care  early childhood learning and opportunities long before nursery school was the norm.

With support from the La Jolla Kiwanis Club and the community at large, Gillispie grew from a tiny orphanage and preschool, established in 1933, to a vibrant, diverse educational community serving children ages 2 to sixth grade.  Through its evolution, Gillispie has remained at the leading edge of early childhood education, breaking ground on its current site in 1953, building out additional  grades in the 1980s, adding rigorous curriculum development and assessment in the 1990s, winning awards for technological innovation from Apple and the  National Association of Independent Schools in the 2000s, and launching a sustainability initiative to green the School’s building and ground the students’  environmental education.  Throughout, the School has  maintained its commitment to the arts, music, and physical education. 

In the last few years, the School has invested considerably in faculty education and advancement through the establishment of The Gillispie School Endowment for Excellence in Teaching. New initiatives include the construction of the Field of Dreams, an exceptional playing field, and a school-wide commitment to community service that sees the School partnering with local charities and other organizations. The Gillispie School was founded to support the children of La Jolla, both within its walls and without; with a vision of community engagement and ethical education, some eighty years after the founding of Gillispie’s little cottage, the

Gillispie Cottage

The Gillispie Cottage circa 1937, located at 7623 Girard Avenue, included a nursery school, resale shop and orphanage for 14 children, ages 6 -14.  

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