PHS has a proud history of academic excellence. The predecessor schools - Sunset Hill for girls (established in 1913) and Pembroke-Country Day for boys (founded in 1910) - created the foundation on which PHS has been built.

The two schools had a common founder. Vassie James Hill founded the Country Day school in 1910 (which would later merge with The Pembroke School in the 1930s) and together with Lalla Ruth Carr Patton, co-founded the Sunset Hill School in 1913.

Mrs. Hill was a woman of tremendous vision. She supported the work of pioneering educator John Dewey and what became known as the Progressive Movement. Driven by a strong belief that the education of young people is society’s most important act and that great value must be placed on children and their individual capabilities, Mrs. Hill set out to establish schools unlike anything Kansas City had ever known.

Mrs. Hill and the school’s early leaders believed in the simple idea that independent education makes a difference in children’s lives. Their vision and actions form the foundation upon which Pembroke Hill stands today. They believed:

  • Every child matters;
  • Individual teachers have a significant and lasting impact on their students;
  • Participating in the classroom, in the laboratory, on the stage and on the athletic fields is the best way to learn;
  • It is the whole educational experience that truly shapes the child; and
  • Independent education, through its effect on young people and their families, makes an important difference in the welfare of the community at large.

After several years of discussion, Sunset Hill and Pem-Day merged in July 1984. During that next school year, 1984-85, the girls remained on the former Sunset Hill campus, and the boys stayed on the former Pem-Day campus. Separate graduation ceremonies were held. Co-education began in 1985-86.

The two schools had many similarities. Both were highly regarded independent schools and were dedicated to high academic standards. They had common founders. Teachers often taught courses at both institutions, and many families sent their daughters to Sunset and their sons to Pem-Day. Several activities, especially the performing arts programs, involved students from both Pem-Day and Sunset Hill.

PHS adopted several traditions from each school. For example, the students voted for the school's colors (red and blue) to remain the same as Pem-Day's. The school's motto (Freedom With Responsibility) came from Sunset Hill. To this day, May Day, a much-loved Sunset Hill tradition, is observed each spring.

Mrs. Hill was successful in her pursuit of establishing great schools, and today, a century later, Pembroke Hill is still grounded in her fundamental belief that students learn best by actively participating in a wide variety of experiences.