In 1966, St. Catherine's School had 161 boarders. This year, it had four, and they will graduate on Sunday. But as the boarding era ends, it offers opportunities for the school to expand.
For decades, girls shimmied down magnolia trees to escape the dorms, sneaked pizzas into their rooms, sunbathed on the roof of the arcade and studied diligently from 7 to 9 nightly.
But after 86 years, an era ends Sunday, when the final four boarders at St. Catherine's School in Richmond's West End graduate. The number of boarding students had declined since the 1980s.
The remaining dorm space will be transformed into modern classrooms. But the boarders' memories and the lessons realized will linger.
"You learned to be independent at an early age," said 1975 graduate Charlotte Fox, who lives in Colorado. "I made friendships that have endured my whole life."
Meeting fellow students from around the globe -- even as far away as Japan and Korea -- was an attraction for some students. But they also got to know themselves better.