Mission & History

Our Mission

We are a non-profit English-language international school in the heart of Rome whose small size and stimulating collaborative environment offer students a transformative college preparatory experience anchored by the highest standards of academic excellence.

St. Stephen's is a four-year, independent, non-profit, non-denominational, boarding and day school that draws on the strengths of both American and European education traditions to give our students a deeper understanding of the world grounded in western culture. Through close mentoring, intellectual inquiry and inspired teaching in a small class setting, we motivate students to reach their fullest potential and take responsibility for their academic achievement, which readies them for the most competitive universities on both sides of the Atlantic and the joys and benefits of lifelong learning. We foster a warm, collaborative environment – enriched by a vibrant boarding program – so young people gain the confidence to find their true balance and engage fully as caring citizens in a diverse international community. We examine the rich historical layers of Rome as a source for academic inspiration and encourage students to engage its dynamic urban environment. We strive to provide a holistic preparatory experience that lays the foundation for continued academic achievement and a fulfilling life.

Motivating students

A Tradition Rooted

in Academic Excellence

When St. Stephen’s was incorporated in 1962 as a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation in the state of Connecticut, it was only a bold dream. The School’s four founders, led by Dr. John O. 6 Patterson, headmaster for thirteen years at the Kent School in Connecticut, had nothing tangible to offer the new corporation. They brought instead, their dream and a combined total of more than one hundred years of experience in secondary school education. The founders included two longtime Kent associates of Dr. Patterson: Raydon Ronshaugen, former Assistant Headmaster and Curriculum Director at Kent School; Robert E.K. Rourke, a brilliant teacher and author, who was a leader in American secondary school mathematics education; and F.D.L. Stewart, who had extensive teaching and administrative experience as a colleague of E.K. Rourke’s at Pickering College, Ontario. Together, they focused their expertise on developing a strong program of instruction to meet the entrance requirements of the finest American colleges. The School, they agreed, “must be more than just another school; it must be a pace-setter for American education abroad, whose only excuse for being is excellence.”

Twenty-six teachers from American prep schools such as Choate Rosemary Hall, Philips Andover, Kent, Eaglebook and Gillman were on board along with faculty from Italy, France, Norway and other nations to lead this pioneering academic vision for one hundred and fifty students, half of them boarders, who had come from all over the world, from as far as Addis Ababa to Medford, Oregon. St. Stephen’s School provided a first-class curriculum with the best elements of a classical liberal arts education, including two years of Latin or Greek. Its founders chose Rome because they believed the city to be "the symbol and repository of the enduring ethical, cultural and religious values of the West", as well as "one of the most cosmopolitan international crossroads of the modern world." In 1975, St. Stephen's became the first school in Italy to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Two years later, it celebrated its first two IB Diploma graduates. One of the first schools in Europe to adopt the International Baccalaureate, our IB program produces strong results with an average diploma score of 35 points. Throughout its history, St. Stephen’s has steadily built its reputation for academic rigor both in Rome and abroad. It changed locations twice before settling in its current facility – a large villa and former convent in Rome’s historic center, just steps away from the city’s prime cultural wonders—the Colosseum, Circus Maximus and the Roman Forum. While growing rapidly in the last twenty years, the School has increased its commitment to the local and international communities in Rome, as well as U.S. citizens abroad. The founders' dream of "a school whose reason for being would be a quest for excellence, for developing the maturity and wholeness of each member of the community and maintaining the highest standards in all areas and all levels" remains vibrant and alive today. Rome's incomparable historical and artistic traditions are the backdrop against which the school has become increasingly informed by a global vision and a commitment to service and world citizenship.