Birmingham's reached a milestone this year and on Friday, dozens of Eton teachers, students, alumni and parents turned out to wish the school a heartfelt happy birthday.
Founded in 1986, the Eton Academy is an independent co-educational school for students with reading, attention and other learning challenges. Each class has 10 or fewer students.
"There are so many businesses and organizations that start and stop," said Eton's head of school Pete Pullen. "But Eton has remained and not only has it remained, but it has flourished."
The afternoon ceremony included tours of the school by Eton teachers and students, a presentation by an Eton alumna, a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce and a special performance by Eton students.
There was a special appearance Friday by Eton's founder and head of school until 2003, Mary Bramson Van der Tuin, who now lives in Texas.
Van der Tuin said before starting Eton Academy in 1986 — which began its life as the Adventure School in 1980 under the head of Gary Pedersen — the only experience she had with special learners was a former student during her teaching days and her daughter. One wasn't able to turn thoughts into words on paper, the other — her daughter — wasn't able to perform math involving time.
After teaching at Cranbrook for a number of years, Van der Tuin began fundraising to create Eton. Twenty-five years and $10 million later, Van der Tuin said she couldn't be happier with what Eton has become: a school that's served more than 1,400 students and graduated 304.
"You never know how blessings occur," she said.
The ceremony even had an unplanned speaker — 9-year-old Matthew Teitelbaum, who is currently in his first year at Eton.
Teitelbaum approached Pullen before the ceremony and asked to say a few words. He told the crowd that his personal goal is to be a heart surgeon and he knows Eton is the way to get there.
"Eton is my life," he said.
Eton Academy through the years
- 1980: Gary Pedersen founds the Adventure School as a tutorial for children who find it difficult to learn well in a traditional school setting.
- 1986: Eton Academy opens as a full-curriculum school with Van der Tuin as headmistress.
- 1988: Eton purchases the St. Columban school building and begin renovations; Eton is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
- 1989: The Kresge Foundation awards Eton a $200,000 grant.
- 1990: Gymnasium is renovated through donations from the Taubman Company.
- 1991: Eton receives a Kresge Van Dusen Challenge Grant of $300,000
- 1993-4: Eton's program received continued accreditation by the North Central Association of Central States.
- 1997: Eton receives North Central Accreditation with distinction.
- 1998: Eton receives a Blue Ribbon Award from the United States Department of Education
- 1999: Edward Levy establishes a $250,000 scholarship program.
- 2002: Alumni base grows to more than 1,000 students
- 2003: Pete Pullen is hired as the new head of school.
- 2004: Eton enrolls a record 192 students in grades 1-12; Mary and Robert Flint estate donates $1.1 million for scholarships and building renovations.
- 2005: Eton develops a three-year strategic plan
- 2007: New playground built solely through private donations; Pistons Palace Foundation renovates Eton's library and establishes the Community Resource Center and Literacy Lab.
- 2008: Eton receives ISACS accredidation with highest commendations.
- 2011: Eton celebrates its 25th anniversary