About Us

Our History

Our Founders—Agents of Change

Girls Preparatory School was founded in 1906 by three women—Tommie Payne Duffy, Eula Lea Jarnagin, and Grace McCallie—whose intrepid resolve changed history for girls in Chattanooga.

At the dawn of the 20th century, three educators dared to dream of a school in Chattanooga that would prepare young women for college. GPS seeks to honor its founders’ vision by fostering an educational environment that preserves tradition, values integrity and scholarship, and encourages forward thinking.

The best evidence of the founders’ vision is seen in the generations of families who entrust GPS with their daughters’ education. These families believe, like our founders, that investing in a girl’s college preparatory education is a powerful springboard to her success. They understand the commitment of GPS’s faculty and administration to educating the whole girl. Finally, they value the sisterhood that the GPS community fosters. Girls are welcomed into a sisterhood starting in grade six that uplifts them from the classroom to the playing fields. This sisterhood strengthens and deepens well beyond graduation day, providing GPS women with an invaluable network through which they can learn and grow.  

History + Milestones

At the turn of the century, girls were denied the foreign language and laboratory science classes necessary for continuing their education beyond high school. Even though they were still 14 years away from securing the right to vote, Duffy, Jarnagin, and McCallie were undaunted. As educational entrepreneurs, the three women of vision invested $100 each and announced the establishment of a school for girls. Opening on September 12, 1906, the school combined challenging academics with public speaking and physical activity. In 1907, Ruth Eleanor Teas received the first GPS diploma and attended Western, an Ohio college for women. Since then thousands of girls have passed through these halls and have gone on to impact the world.
1914: The first May Day celebration was a picnic with a Greek theme. Today’s spring tradition honors the seniors and their May Court with dances and a winding of the May Pole.

1915: GPS moves to a new building on Palmetto St., adding a science lab, study hall, and multi-purpose space. An additional lot provides space for P.E. classes.

1918: On March 10, Grace McCallie dies. In her honor, the Grace McCallie Scholarship is awarded.
1945: GPS establishes a school-wide Honor System. The Honor Code remains a foundational part of the school for students and alumnae.

1945: With the end of the tenure of founders Duffy and Jarnagin, the school begins operation by a Board of Trustees. The Board purchases land in North Chattanooga for a new campus site.

On August 29, the Class of ’47 buries a time capsule in the new school’s Cornerstone, a time capsule opened in 2006 at the school’s Centennial celebration.
1974: With the only girls golf team in Tennessee, the GPS Bruisers compete against local boys teams.

1977: The Class of 1978 begins the “turning the ring” tradition. Even today, alumnae recognize each other by their distinctive black onyx stone topped with the GPS crest.

1990: The physical education department adopts a new program, SHAPE, standing for Starting Habits to Attain Physical Excellence. The program receives recognition as one of the top high school physical education programs in the Southeast.
1999: GPS welcomes a sixth grade to the newly built Elizabeth Lupton Davenport Middle School.

2005: GPS fields a varsity lacrosse team, the first girls team in Chattanooga.

2005-06: Students, faculty, alumnae and friends commemorate the 100th anniversary of GPS with a walk from the campus to a celebration at Memorial Auditorium, passing the site of the original school. The walk is followed by a party to honor the contributions of the city’s only independent girls’ school.