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St. John's Northwestern Leadership Academies foster excellence in young adults through structured, engaging programs. Learn more about our history, mission, and opportunities.

The History of St. John's Northwestern Military Academy

St. John's Northwestern Military Academy, the largest school of its kind in the Midwestern United States, was created when two of the nation’s most prestigious military boarding schools joined forces.

Founded by Colonel Harlan Page Davidson, Northwestern Military and Naval Academy fulfilled his lifelong dream of establishing a school for young men patterned after a cadet lifestyle.  After two devastating fires in Highland Park, Colonel Davidson rebuilt his school in stone on the shores of Lake Geneva, in Southern Wisconsin. Davidson’s son, Colonel Royal Page Davidson, became the school’s Superintendent in 1911.

In Delafield, St. John’s founder, the Reverend Doctor Sidney T. Smythe, exercised his dynamic personality for thirty-nine years by inspiring, guiding and instilling a strong sense of pride in his cadets. He was a beloved man. Writings from his time described him as a firm, compassionate man whose life was devoted to young people. Roy F. Farrand followed Dr. Smythe as the president of the academy in 1923.  The new president of St. John’s Military Academy served as a Colonel and later attained the rank of Brigadier General in the Wisconsin National Guard. General Farrand guided the Academy through a period of steady expansion and progress for thirty-eight years.

In 1995, St. John's Military Academy and Northwestern Military and Naval Academy merged to become St. John's Northwestern Military Academy. Continuing in the traditions of both schools, today's Academy educates students through emphasis in Academics, Athletics, Character & Service, and Leadership.

Creating St. John's Northwestern Leadership Academies

St. John's Northwestern Leadership Academies was implemented in summer 2018 with the goal of enabling the Academy to evolve the school's mission and offering its academic and summer programs to both young men and women within a coeducational model. The Academies includes St. John's Northwestern Military Academy (academic year program) and St. John's Northwestern Summer Leadership Academy (summer programs). There will also be St. John's Northwestern Global Learning Academy (part of the English as a Second Language program), which is currently in the formative stages.