• jemicyhistory

The History of Jemicy


Mission Statement

Jemicy School educates talented and bright students with dyslexia or other related language-based learning differences, by addressing both their intellectual strengths and their learning needs.

The school utilizes creative, multisensory, research-based programs and techniques to develop reading, writing, spelling, (math), and organization skills; promote a love of learning; and prepare students for the intellectual and social challenges of college and life.

Camp Bombadil

In 1972, Jemicy founders Joyce Bilgrave and David Malin created a camp – Camp Bombadil – to serve the needs of children experiencing difficulty in the traditional classroom due to dyslexia and other language-based learning differences. The name “Bombadil,” which comes from a J. R. Tolkien character who likes to sing nonsense words, expressed the playful and creative nature of its founders. Camp Bombadil was fun. Although primarily established to provide daily tutoring in reading, using the Orton-Gillingham approach, students rode horseback and had wood shop, archery, tennis and swimming. The students loved camp and, after eight intensive weeks of language and math tutoring, they were known to “hit the ground running” at the start of school. The camp, held at Joyce and Bob Bilgrave’s farm in Phoenix Maryland, was a great success until it closed due to the sale of the property in 1982.

Parents of campers, experiencing their children’s success, encouraged its founders to open a school. So Joyce Bilgrave and David Malin teamed with educator Margaret Rawson and psychologist Roger Saunders, both internationally recognized pioneers in the field of dyslexia, to pool their expertise. Camp parent Taylor White spearheaded a fledgling Board of Trustees and leased the J. Jefferson Miller estate. This mansion was called “Jemicy” – a name crafted from the first syllable of each of his children’s names: Jefferson, Mickey, and Cynthia.

The Opening of Jemicy

On September 12, 1973, The School at Jemicy Farm opened with 51 students and 16 faculty members. Teachers held classes throughout the house and Joe Chidester, a beloved science teacher, even taught some of his classes in a chicken coop. The school had horses and other animals on campus, and the faculty utilized all 60 acres on this sprawling rural estate as classroom space. Two years later, the school moved to its current 23 acre Lower and Middle School Campus in Owings Mills. Jemicy has matured, and today offers well-equipped classrooms and advanced technology. Now, as in 1973, Jemicy is up-to-date on the most recent research in the field of language-based learning. Yet, the relaxed, camp-like feeling remains. On the Lower and Middle School Campus, the Head of School and Admission offices are in a converted barn; the students still build forts in the woods. Faculty members are even allowed to bring dogs to campus if the dog passes the “therapy dog certification” program.

Jemicy Today

We take great pride in the lives we have changed in over four decades and are excited about the many more we will impact in the future. Today, Jemicy enrolls approximately 360 students on two campuses and serves grades 1 – 12, having added a high school after merging with Valley Academy in 2003. In 2009, the School purchased the former Ruxton Country School property and relocated the Upper School from Towson to its current 57 acre campus in Owings Mills, just short distance from the Lower/Middle School Campus.

In response to the growth of the school’s science, performing arts, and athletic programs, Jemicy’s Step Forward Campaign raised funds over the past few years to support the construction of a stand-alone Lower School green science classroom; a flexible performing arts theater on the Upper School Campus, which will be utilized by students on both campuses (grade 1-12); and is in the process of expanding the Lower/Middle School gymnasium, adding a multipurpose/lunchroom, and designing improved Middle School science classrooms. Fiscally sound, Jemicy’s annual operating budget exceeds $12 million and its current endowment is approximately $18 million.

Jemicy embraces both the excitement and challenges facing schools in the 21st Century. As we guide students through the process of obtaining, analyzing, and applying the information now instantly available, we continuously update our curriculum and employ emerging technologies in order to expand the platform from which to acquire knowledge, and in doing so, we prepare our students for success in life and careers of the future.