• jemicyhistory

The History of Jemicy

1973 - 2013

To those who built our foundation - we thank you.

To our alumni, who have gone on to successful careers in law, medicine, art, engineering, film, real estate,
enology (wine making), education, landscaping, and service - we thank you.

To our teachers and leaders, who inspired their education and creativity - we thank you.

To our donors, who have generously supported us and made possible so many of our goals - we thank you.

To those who are now carrying forth the mission of Jemicy and joyful experience of learning - we thank you.

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

As we begin our 40th year, we take great pride in the lives we have already changed and are excited about the many more we will impact in the future. Today, Jemicy's enrollment exceeds 320 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 Campus from Towson to its current 57 acre campus in Owings Mills, just short distance from the Lower/Middle School Campus. Fiscally sound, Jemicy’s annual operating budget is over 10 million, and the endowment exceeds $16 million.

Over the years, Jemicy's Professional Outreach Program has provided training programs to public, independent, and parochial school teachers, and tutoring services to children and adults. Additionally, Jemicy willingly shared its expertise with founders of two area schools that were established to serve a similar learning population.

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.