Mission & History

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A private school with public purpose, Lick-Wilmerding High School develops the head, heart, and hands of highly motivated students from all walks of life, inspiring them to become lifelong learners who contribute to the world with confidence and compassion.

Head, Heart, Hands

LWHS prepares its students to thrive in college and to be passionate, self-directed, lifelong learners. Toward these ends, its faculty employ a wide range of teaching methods, intended to help every student succeed. LWHS has a long tradition of valuing and integrating the liberal arts, sciences, technical arts, visual arts and performing arts. The resulting rigorous head, heart, hands curriculum provides students with a “toolbox” with which to build lives of consequence and fulfillment. In order to prepare students to assume responsible adult roles in the world, ethical thinking is explicitly woven through the curriculum. Similarly, problem solving and collaborative skill building, including learning when to lead, when to listen, when to contribute, and when to follow, are integral to a LWHS education. Prizing innovative thought, most distinctively through the integration of science, technology and design, LWHS encourages students to marshal the courage to make mistakes in order to learn and become more resilient. LWHS further believes that mindfulness and healthy ways of being, including seeking balance in one’s life, are essential to living a life of care—for self, family, community, and environment.
A private school with a public purpose, LWHS is founded upon a legacy of serving, and being enriched by, students from all walks of life. The school furthers this purpose by producing graduates with the capacity, confidence, compassion and commitment to change the world. The LWHS curriculum is both a catalyst and a vehicle for civic engagement, offering real world insights and inspiring students to contribute their time, talent, and treasure to work that matters. The larger community—local and global—is an extension of LWHS classrooms, providing students opportunities for thoughtful and effective problem solving and stewardship. In addition, LWHS shares its innovative educational models, as well as its knowledge, networks, and resources, with others who are committed to improving lives, prospects, and possibilities for young people.

Early Days of Lick, Wilmerding, and Lux

On September 21, 1874, James Lick established a trust of $540,000 to endow the California School of Mechanical Arts, now commonly referred to as "Lick." George Merrill was hired to create and manage the school as the first director. Lick opened in January 1895, offering free education to boys and girls. The curriculum combined a general intellectual preparation with technical and vocational instruction. Merrill's goal was to create the "educated craftsman."
In 1894, Jellis Clute Wilmerding left $400,000 to the Regents of the University of California to establish and administer another school, the Wilmerding School of Industrial Arts, a school for boys specializing in building trades and architecture drafting. The Regents eventually situated the school next to Lick and, after only a year, invited George Merrill to become the Director of the Wilmerding School, in addition to the California School of Mechanical Arts. 
A nationally recognized pioneer in vocational education, George Merrill was eventually asked to found and administer one more school, the Lux School for Industrial Training for Girls. Miranda Lux died in 1894, leaving money in her will to establish a school. Lux began operating in August 1912, when 120 girls entered its program using the Lick facilities. The curriculum was organized around five subjects: sewing and textiles, food, health, art, and retailing and merchandising. Lux opened its own building the following year, on land purchased from the Lick and Wilmerding Schools. The original Lux building still stands today at the corner of 17th and Potrero Streets in San Francisco.

Last Century
Until 1939, the schools shared facilities, faculty and George Merrill, while maintaining independent trusts, boards and curricula. The Lux motto, "To do common things uncommonly well," expressed the educational philosophy which bound the schools together. Lux closed in 1952, but its early contribution to women was a significant accomplishment and model nationally. 
In 1955, Lick-Wilmerding High School moved to its current campus on Ocean Avenue and became a boys only school, while beginning to develop its outstanding college preparatory curriculum. In 1972, LWHS became co-educational once again and, shortly thereafter, began charging tuition for the first time in its history. 

Our Founders

List of 4 members.

  • Photo of James Lick

    James Lick 

  • Photo of Jellis Wilmerding

    Jellis Wilmerding 

  • Photo of Miranda Lux

    Miranda Lux 

  • Photo of George Merrill

    George Merrill 


LWHS Equity & Accountability Statement

Lick-Wilmerding High School strives to cultivate a diverse, collaborative community of students and adults that is rooted in empathy, equity, respect, humility, and accountability. We commit to uphold the tenets of anti-racism and to interrupt all forms of interpersonal and institutional bias and discrimination. We aspire to create safe​,​ joyful spaces for learning where everyone ​brings their whole selves, feel​s​ known and heard, lift​s​ each other up, and engage​s​ in all aspects of life at LWHS and beyond.

Lick-Wilmerding High School

755 Ocean Avenue | San Francisco, CA 94112 | 415.333.4021
A private school with public purpose, Lick-Wilmerding High School develops the head, heart, and hands of highly motivated students from all walks of life, inspiring them to become lifelong learners who contribute to the world with confidence and compassion.