Mary Harlan Doherty was born in 1862 in the Dayton Street neighborhood of Cincinnati. She graduated from Woodward High School in 1880 at a time when women were not expected to go to college, but rather to marry, raise children, and take care of household duties. Miss Doherty, as she was known, saw the world differently. She felt strongly that women should not only possess solid social skills, but also be prepared for college. She graduated from Cornell University in 1899. In 1906 she established the College Preparatory School for Girls in the former home of Superior Court Judge and Ohio Governor George Hoadley, with a class of 125 students. Enrollment doubled by 1920, with Miss Doherty guiding her students under the school's motto, Ad Summum, meaning "To the Highest Point," or, as she viewed it, to strive for excellence, hard work, and service.