The History of MMI Preparatory School
To understand why MMI has such a commitment to providing a quality education to all students who are willing to accept the challenge, you have to know a bit about our history.
In the late 1800s, Eckley B. Coxe, a captain of the coal industry, recognized the profound need for American technical schools for students who would otherwise not have such an opportunity. On May 7, 1879, Coxe opened the Industrial School for Miners and Mechanics. Eleven young men worked in the coal mines by day, then attended two-hour classes six nights a week.
Deep in the heart of the Northeastern Pennsylvania coal belt, MMI began improving lives. An MMI education often meant the difference between the hardscrabble life of a laborer and that of a certified miner, a foreman, or even a superintendent. While most of MMI’s early students managed coal mines, some went off to college. Many returned to the mines as engineers and worked to ease and improve the work environment of thousands.
After a devastating fire in 1888, Eckley Coxe moved the school to a new location and changed the name to the Mining and Mechanical Institute of Freeland. Coxe began offering scholarships to the school’s best students in 1894. After he died suddenly in May 1895, Eckley’s widow, Sophia G. Coxe, assumed responsibility for the school.
The dawn of the 20th century saw MMI’s enrollment continue to grow. Sophia, affectionately known as the “Angel of the Anthracite,” oversaw the construction of a new, larger building and the opening of a day school, which introduced the college preparatory curriculum.
From the beginning, the preparatory program was successful, sending a steady stream of young men to regional and national colleges. MMI’s increasing popularity in the early 1900s (and Sophia’s generosity) fueled further expansion with the construction of chemistry and physics laboratories and a new gymnasium.
Mrs. Coxe also helped subsidize student tuition costs, making the school available to more than just the wealthy. The Angel passed away in March 1926, but the subsidization of student tuition continues to this day.
The school adapted and flourished over the decades, even after a devastating fire on Graduation Day 1964. The ashes still smoldered as the graduates received their diplomas – and as the board of directors announced the school would be rebuilt. Five months later, MMI’s familiar white dome, felled by flames in June, returned to its lofty perch above Centre Street.
In 1970, young women were accepted into the school for the first time. Then, feeling the old name did not adequately describe the school’s function of preparing students for the rigors of college academics, officials changed the name to reflect the ideals of Eckley and Sophia Coxe, the tradition of the region, and the standard of excellence the school was known for.
The name changed, but the commitment remained strong.
Thus was born MMI Preparatory School.
Over the years, our students have achieved much, both individually and as a group. From earning perfect scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test to winning a state basketball championship (the first independent school to do so in Pennsylvania history), MMI remains a place where young men and women are encouraged to pursue their dreams, a place where excellence is achieved.
Eckley B. Coxe opens the Industrial School for Miners and Mechanics.
After a devastating fire, the school is moved to a new location and it’s name is changed to the Mining and Mechanical Institute of Freeland.
Coxe begins offering scholarships to the school’s best students.
Eckley’s widow, Sophia G. Coxe, assumes responsibility for the school after his sudden death.
A new, larger building is constructed, including chemistry and physics laboratories, a new gymnasium and the opening of a day school, which introduced the college preparatory curriculum.
Sophia G. Coxe passes away.
On graduation day, a second fire destroys the school. It is rebuilt five months later.
Young women are accepted into the school for the first time and its name is changed.
MMI Preparatory School is born.