A landmark moment in Hill School history occurred in 1920 when The Hill School Alumni Association was formed and purchased the School from the Meigs family. Recreational sports were integral to School founder Matthew Meigs’ vision of a holistic education for boys and young men. The first interscholastic athletics teams were formed and the earliest athletics facilities were constructed during John Meigs’ tenure as Headmaster, laying the foundation for the steady expansion of The Hill School’s athletics program throughout the century since the transference of School ownership. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Alumni Association’s formation, the Alumni Centennial Hall was created as a one-time recognition class honors 13 of the greatest Hill School teams from the first half-century of the Alumni Association’s existence. Those teams include:
More impressive than the 1922 football team’s undefeated 7-0 record is the fact that the team did not conceded a single point during the season. Hill outscored its opponents 200 – 0, an average of nearly 30 points per-game, and defeated both rivals from the era – Lawrenceville and Hotchkiss – by scores of 24-0 and 41-0. After the season, New York Tribune sportswriter Grantland Rice, one of the nation’s most eminent sports media figures at the time, declared Hill to be the Eastern Prep School Champions.
1931-32, 1932-33, 1934-35, 1935-36 Basketball
Hill basketball became a mini-dynasty in the early and mid-1930s, finishing undefeated against high school competition four times in a five-year span and posting two fully unblemished seasons. Led by four-sport star Dick Hebard ’33, the 1932 and 1933 basketball teams each finished with perfect 10-0 records. The 1933 team was particularly dominant, with its closest contest being a seven-point victory over the Princeton Freshmen. For the season, the team’s average margin of victory was 20 points. The 1935 and 1936 teams suffered narrow defeats to the Princeton and Penn Freshmen but were both undefeated against high school competition.
The 1950 Hill tennis team repeated the feats of the 1949 team, finishing the season with an undefeated 8-0 record and winning the Middle States, Eastern Interscholastic, and National Interscholastic tournament championships.
Trailing just twice during the entire season, the 1955 football team was Hill’s third undefeated team in seven years, amassing a 7-0 record and outscoring its opponents 202 – 41. The season finale against a one-loss Lawrenceville team is regarded as one of the rivalry’s classic games. Down a point in the game’s final moments, Hill drove to the Lawrenceville six-yard line, but fumbled on first down. Future NFL running-back Sam Horner ’56 picked up six yards on the next two plays, and then on fourth-and-three Pete Allegaert ’56 found the end zone to lift Hill to a 13-7 victory.
Swimming became a sport at The Hill in 1949, and it did not take long to build a strong program. Hill finished as runner-up in the Eastern Swimming and Diving Interscholastic Championship in 1955 and 1956 before a breakthrough campaign in the 1956-57 school year. Hill finished the season with an overall record of 10-1, losing only to the Yale Freshmen by two points, and claimed the first Eastern championship in program history. The Medley Relay consisting of Bob Kaufmann ’58, Charles “Colonel” Griffin ’58, Bryan Williams ’58, and captain Charles Brown ’57 set a national record.
For the second time in three years, the Hill football team finished with a perfect record, which also marked the program’s fourth undefeated season in a nine-year span, joining the 1949, 1953, and 1955 teams (the 1949 and 1953 teams have already been selected to the Hall of Fame). Hill opened the season with a 13-12 victory over the eventual Inter-Ac champions, Penn Charter, and culminated the season with a 12-7 victory at Lawrenceville. In between, Hill outscored its four opponents (one game was cancelled) by more than 100 points and registered two shutouts.
Setting several new school records – and in one case, a national record - throughout the season, the 1960-61 Hill swimming team finished with an overall record of 8-2 and won the program’s second Eastern Interscholastic (EISC) Championship. In the EISC meet, Sandy Van Kennen ’62 set a new meet record in the 100 Free as Hill finished one-point clear of runner-up Lawrenceville, whom Hill bested 50-36 during the regular season. The 200 Free Relay consisting of Stephen Bliss ’61, Thomas Gale ’61, James Smith ’61, and Van Kennen set a national record in the event.
Finishing the season with a 9-1 overall record, Hill conceded only three total matches in its nine victories and won the final six matches of the season by shutout. The team’s lone setback was a 5-2 loss to Haverford in the third match of the season; Hill later turned the table on the Fords with a 7-0 victory. Additional highlights included a pair of victories against the Penn Freshmen by a combined 13-1 score and a 7-0 shutout of the Princeton Freshmen.
A season which began with five lopsided victories concluded with the third Eastern Interscholastic Championship in Hill’s history, as the team finished 11 points clear of the meet runner-up. For the season, Hill finished with an overall record of 10-2 and defeated the Yale Freshmen for the first time ever, snapping Yale’s 35-meet unbeaten streak in the process. In the deciding event against Yale, the 400-Free relay, Hill’s quartet missed setting a national record by just seven-tenths of a second.
Featuring seven returning lettermen, the 1968 Hill golf team finished the season with a 12-2 overall record, outscoring its opponents 90 - 32 in match play and winning the coveted Crooked Stick rivalry trophy for the first time in 17 years. In postseason play, Hill won both the Philadelphia School Boy and Eastern Interscholastic tournament championships.
We are pleased to also announce the formation of the Frank S. Bissell ’33 Hall.
In 1949, the then-relatively new Hill School wrestling program, guided by second-year coach Frank Bissell ’33, won its first National Prep championship. Twenty-two years later, in February of 1971, the Hill wrestling team hoisted its 17th National Prep championship trophy, the culmination of a dynasty which included 11-consecutive titles from 1949 until 1959. Bissell was at the helm for all 17 titles, retiring in 1973 with a career record of 212-66-4. Hill’s 17 National Prep titles ranks second all-time in the National Prep Championship’s history.
To commemorate this historic era, the Frank S. Bissell ’33 Hall was established to honor all 17 of Hill’s National Prep championship-winning teams, which include: 1948-49, 1949-50, 1950-51, 1951-52, 1952-53, 1953-54, 1954-55, 1955-56, 1956-57, 1957-58 (2013 HOF inductees), 1958-59, 1960-61, 1962-63, 1963-64, 1964-65, 1967-68, and 1970-71.