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Sullins Academy marks Golden Anniversary

BRISTOL, Va. — It’s a school story that dates to 1966 — with the birth of the Episcopal Day School in Bristol, Virginia.

Charles Bledsoe served as headmaster of that day school at Emmanuel Episcopal Church. Bledsoe also remained in that role until 1978 — even after the school for children moved in 1977 to the former site of Sullins College, a school which closed in 1976.

Along the way, the Episcopal Day School became known as Sullins Academy. Today, too, the history pamphlet of Sullins Academy notes the school as “the product of a unique convergence of two institutions: the Episcopal Day School and Sullins College.”

Sullins College opened in 1914 and offered both an academy for younger girls and a two-year college program for high school graduates. The private educational institution called Sullins Academy remained on the old college campus — in Martin Hall — for more than 20 years. “Martin Hall had a lot of history, a lot of character,” said the school’s longtime business manager, Twana Meade.

But then came the move to its current location, 22218 Sullins Academy Drive, Bristol, Virginia, off Lee Highway. And that, Meade said, may have proven to be the greatest challenge in its history.

“We were in modulars for a year,” Meade recalled. “And then we moved in here in November of 1999.”

That month is when the current school of Sullins Academy opened — thanks to a successful capital campaign and a gift of land.

“We have 33 acres here,” said Roy Vermillion, the current head of the school. “And, with that 33 acres, this was built as an elementary school. And many of the classrooms have restrooms inside the class-room.” A Chicago native, Vermillion, 51, grew up in Pikeville, Kentucky, and came to Sullins Academy a couple of years ago. This year, Vermillion presides over Sullins Academy as it celebrates its 50-year anniversary in 2016.

Vermillion stresses the school’s “individualized instruction” sets Sullins Academy apart. “And we have 100 percent parental support,” Vermillion said. “They really want an extraordinary education for their child.” Current enrollment is 153 pupils, from pre-K to grade 8. Many pupils, Meade said, are children of Sullins Academy graduates.

“Character education, for us, is very important — having a manner of the week, having a value of the month — and making sure that character is paramount to who we are,” Vermillion said.

“For all of us, this is not a job,” Vermillion added. “We arrive early; we stay late. This is our life. We very much believe in the mission in what we’re doing here. And, because of that, and having parents who are fully committed, we have students who behave and do the right thing.”

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