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Grand River Academy is one of the oldest private boarding schools in Ohio. Its history dates back to 1831, when benefactor Dr. Orestes K. Hawley endowed a school with a building and several acres of land on the banks of the Grand River.

grand river history

NEW: Check out images from GRA's Founder Day presentation by Mrs. Ginny Seifert (Austinburg Historian) HERE!

The First Century:

The school’s founders articulated a philosophy that values physical, intellectual, and moral education that continues to this day. The school (then known as Grand River Institute) was moved to its present location in 1835, when a building that was on the river bank was transported to land in Austinburg after a substantial gift from Joab Austin “lured the school into town.” The actual move was accomplished by 100, 200, or 300 oxen, depending on who tells the story.

The 1930's:

During its first century of existence, the school went through many changes. Its long history almost came to an end with the Great Depression. Fortunately, the school came under the direction of Carl and Ruth Bauder. They lived and worked on campus, building the school back up as a primary and junior high school. To help get through the lean times, they embarked on fundraising trips that took them “as far away as Cleveland.” Together, the Bauders set standards that are upheld today, including an emphasis on boys’ educational needs, individualized instruction, and small class sizes. They also gave the school its current name, Grand River Academy.

The 1960's:

It was on one of the Bauders’ many fundraising trips that they met an entrepreneur and inventor named George Armington, who was ready to retire to a sedate life in Austinburg. With Armington’s support new buildings soon enhanced the campus, which allowed for more students. Having focused on primary education for decades, the school once again offered a high school curriculum. The first two graduates, George Finelli and Roger McCaughtry, received diplomas in 1964. Backed by the Armington family, and buoyed by teachers like Bud Field, whose name now graces Grand River Academy’s Student Center, the school progressed.


Under the guidance of Headmaster Tim Viands, Grand River Academy's boarding school for boys continues to grow, both in size and reputation. Now occupying dozens of buildings on 200 acres and serving students from across the United States and around the world, it still remains true to its mission: the physical, intellectual, and moral education of boys through small class sizes, individualized instruction, and supportive teachers.