The History of Gerstell Academy for More Than Twenty-Five Years of Developing Leaders

Gerstell Academy was established in 1996 by Dr. Frederick G. Smith. His vision is to maintain a school where students have the opportunity to develop into leaders when placed in a structured, caring environment based on the Gerstell Academy Leadership Principles and Attributes. At Gerstell Academy, our student’s potential to become leaders, to learn, to grow morally, to be physically fit, and to compete, is maximized. This learning environment provides standards and expectations that are clearly articulated and maintained. After much planning and hard work by a small organizational staff, the first seven students entered Gerstell Academy on September 5, 2002. That first year, the school operated in the shadow of the construction site of Robert E. Smith Hall. This building opened its doors to 59 students from 47 families on September 2, 2003, growing from a single Kindergarten/Pre-First class to a single class for grades Pre-Kindergarten through Fourth. Dedicated on October 10, 2003, Robert E. Smith Hall is a fifty-seven thousand square foot state-of-the art facility built during 2001-2002. The building contains thirty-three classrooms, two science labs, two art rooms, two music rooms, a multi-purpose room, administrative offices, and a Leadership Board Room.

On September 1, 2004, the Lower School expansion included students in grades Pre-K through 5th grade. Over the following four years Gerstell Academy grew one grade at a time and graduated its first eighth grade class in June of 2008. The Upper School opened its doors to twenty students in September of that same year. The Inaugural Commencement Exercises were held on June 9, 2012, on the quadrangle celebrating a major milestone for Gerstell Academy. Twenty students from the Class of 2012 became Gerstell Academy’s first alumni.

In addition to the advancements in the overall Middle and Upper School academic program, the athletic program continued to flourish into a full Middle and Upper School interscholastic athletic program. Gerstell Academy became a member of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) during the 2011-2012 academic year and won soccer and lacrosse championships that same year. The John Paterakis, Sr. Athletic Center is a 70,000 square foot indoor facility which includes the 40,000 square foot Deborah Paterakis Gymnasium. The Paterakis Athletic Center provides for an NCAA regulation basketball court and volleyball courts. The center also includes a 3,500 square foot weight and cardio training room, a dance studio with a floating dance floor, an athletic training room, a multi-purpose/wrestling room, four physical education locker rooms, nine academic classrooms and administrative and faculty office spaces.

The campus boasts excellent outdoor athletic facilities:
  • The Venice K. Paterakis Stadium complex, which seats 1000 spectators, consists of a Sportexe turf playing surface and a six-lane olympic grade rubberized track.
  • Eight regulation tennis courts
  • Six natural turf athletic fields
  • A regulation baseball field
  • A cross country course
The Carolyn B. Smith Hall opened in 2010. This 24,000 square foot facility houses the Gerstell Academy dining hall named “The Wilson Room” on the first floor as well as additional classrooms. On the second floor there are three modern science laboratories as well as classroom, conference room and faculty offices. The school’s College Guidance offices are also located on the second floor. In 2011, the Senior Roost, an outdoor patio for seniors and alumni, was completed and was enjoyed by our first graduating class. Collectively, the buildings on campus display prominently over 180 leadership portraits. These portraits represent local, state, national, and international leaders for the students to study and critically evaluate.

The Alumni House was completed in 2019 and is a ten thousand square foot structure designed to provide a place for our alumni to meet, study, develop their business operations and to get married. It is the center for the Office of Development and Alumni Relations. The Alumni House consists of Freedom Hall, multiple rooms, a leadership board room, a full kitchen, a large outdoor patio and office space. The uses and capabilities for events is endless. Alumni socials, reunions, and holiday gatherings have been hosted in the Alumni House, as well as special events for students on campus such as National Honor Society inductions and the Children’s History Challenge. The major donors for the Alumni House were Next Gen, Moose, Lily and Kona Foundations.

The Smith Memorial Baseball Field is dedicated to the memory of brothers Henry, Michael, and Julian Smith. Julian (1920-1993) was father to Gerstell Academy, Inc. Founder, Dr. Frederick G. Smith. All the brothers were avid, as well as excellent baseball players. As youngsters they cleared the land on their summer farm in West Virginia and created their own baseball field. On their field they competed against local teams in the area and were very successful. The boy’s baseball careers were interrupted by World War II. Henry, the eldest enlisted in the Army, Michael in the Merchant Marines, and Julian, the youngest in the Navy. All returned home safely.

Henry played outfield for the Johns Hopkins University Blue Jays and never made an error. Michael played with local teams in Baltimore and had such a great arm that he could throw a baseball from home plate over the right field fence at the old Oriole Park. Julian was a super pitcher who competed within the most competitive club teams of the day and struck out 19 batters in one game. He tried out for the Baltimore Orioles but was not signed because he could not meet the physical standards as he was diagnosed with degenerative joint disease in his left hip. Their love of baseball carried throughout the remainder of their lives, and they were avid fans of the Baltimore Orioles. The Board of Trustees proudly named and dedicated the Gerstell Academy baseball field in their honor in 2020.

The sculpture of the Peregrine Falcon, mascot to Gerstell Academy, was created by internationally known sculptor Andrei Kazantsev, was gifted, and commissioned in 2020 by Alexander F. Smith, Jason R. Smith, and Eric G. Smith in honor of their father Frederick Gerstell Smith, founder of Gerstell Academy, who served as President from 1996-2015. The Peregrine Falcon is a prized and respected raptor known worldwide for its tremendous physical abilities, hunting prowess, intelligence, and loyalty. Peregrine Falcons mate for life, returning to the same nest each year, which they fiercely defend. Like the Peregrine Falcon, Gerstell students are loyal to their school, families, and communities, achieving their goals and nurturing future leaders to uphold this legacy. Made of stainless steel, this Peregrine Falcon sits atop a sphere, which represents Earth and the responsibility that Gerstell Academy students have to defend and protect it. Gerstell Academy leaders possess global knowledge and worldly influence because of the leadership education they have received. These positive leaders respond to challenges, maintain focus, and achieve results.
2500 Old Westminster Pike
Finksburg, MD 21048-1823