The eleventh of fourteen children, John Bard was the product of an influential colonial and post-colonial family of physicians and educators. His father, William Bard, was a pioneer in life insurance in this country, something he deemed essential for the protection of widows and children. John was a deeply religious man, determined to use his position in life for the betterment of the less fortunate. With his marriage to wealthy and like-minded Margaret Taylor Johnston, they purchased the estate they renamed Annandale and committed themselves to educational projects in the immediate and surrounding communities. St. Stephen’s was to become the crowning achievement of the Bards’ philanthropies; it was chartered by the State of New York in 1860. Photograph by W. Hoffert.
Shown here at age 74, John Bard was a member of a distinguished family of doctors and educators. His grandfather and great-grandfather, Drs. Samuel and John Bard respectively, were preeminent physicians who practiced both in New York City and from their family estate at Hyde Park, NY. His father, William Bard was a lawyer who founded and administered the “Life and Trust Company,” the first life insurance company in NYS. Together with his wife, Margaret Johnston Bard, a devout woman and a committed philanthropist, John Bard worked tirelessly to create local schools and churches for their community, both at their estate in Annandale, and in the nearby village of Tivoli (then Myersville). In the 1850’s, they built Bard Hall at Annandale which was used as a chapel and a parish school for local children. They subsequently built the Church of the Holy Innocents in 1857, and rebuilt this a year later when the original was destroyed by fire. They also worked with James Starr Clark of Tivoli to build Trinity Church and School, which included a parish school in the basement , and then Trinity Academy, a school for young boys. In 1860, along with other like-minded men, they founded St. Stephen’s College, a training school for young men who intended to pursue careers as Episcopal Ministers. With the death of their only son Willie in 1868, the Bards, along with their three daughters removed to Europe, partially to escape the weight of their grief. Margaret died in 1875, but John Bard maintained an interest in the institutions he had helped found until his death in 1899. He is buried in the Bard cemetery. In 1934, the trustees of St. Stephen’s College renamed the college Bard in honor of its founders who had transformed the cultural climate of the area.