From the desk of Wally Dawkins, Athletic Director:
The year was 1997.
Steve Dement’s vision of starting a Christ-centered, college prep school in Bullard, Texas had come to fruition.
The Brook Hill School opened its doors to 31 students on a 300 acre site in rural East Texas in a place where you wouldn’t really expect a to find a school.
Mr. Dement had researched and visited numerous schools on the East Coast that were not only prestigious, but also aesthetically “Ivy League”, and different from anything ever seen in Texas.
Since I began working at Brook Hill in 2008, the connection of Brook Hill to those schools “back east” has fascinated me. I have often wondered what has made those schools so exceptional. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit four of those schools, and not only has my fascination with them grown, my commitment to Brook Hill has increased.
My qualifications to be an Athletic Director are basically related to the experiences I’ve had over a 35 year coaching career. While just coaching, I had the opportunity to work for some really good AD’s, and some really bad ones. By working for some good Athletic Directors as well as a few bad ones, I was able to learn what to do, as well as what not to do. Since becoming the AD at Brook Hill in 2009, I have called upon my relationships with Athletic Directors various schools for guidance and direction. I decided the time had come however, to find out what made these prestigious private schools on the East Coast so successful both academically and athletically. Beginning last June, I began making contacts with, and setting up half day meetings with the Athletic Directors of four of the most prestigious schools in the U.S.
On December 14th, my wife Laurie and I flew out of DFW en route to Boston, Massachusetts.
Our first stop was in Concord Mass., where I would visit Middlesex School, which was founded in 1901 by Frederick Windsor. Laurie, who teaches 4th grade at Brook Hill, would visit with the staff at the Nashoba Brooks Elementary School in Concord, a private girl’s school.
Middlesex sits 5 miles outside of Concord on a road much narrower than FM 2493. When you pull up to Middlesex, you are greeted with red brick gates, just like Brook Hill, and as you wind your way back onto the campus, its similarities to BH are astonishing. All of their facilities have the red brick façade, many with the white columns, and perfectly landscaped. Sound familiar?
One major difference was the snow. There was a ton a lot of it. NOT like Bullard!
The Middlesex Athletic Director, Joe Lang, has been at the school since 1996. He was not only welcoming and generous with his time, but extremely helpful in assisting me with ideas and information of how Middlesex Athletics operate. Coach Lang is an outstanding guy and presented me with a Middlesex pullover after our meeting. It was an invaluable experience to meet Coach Lang and visit Middlesex.
Tuesday December 16th saw Laurie and I travel to Exeter New Hampshire to visit one of the oldest boarding schools in America, Phillips Exeter Academy which began in 1781. Phillips Exeter is a school with an unequaled reputation for not only competitive athletics, but excellence in academics and its sprawling campus sits high on a hill overlooking the small and quaint New England town.
Rob Morris, the Athletic Director at Phillips Exeter was unbelievable. He spent several hours with me touring their massive athletic facilities, and was very helpful to me in detailing how the athletic program there works. At Phillips Exeter, 30-35% of their senior class attends Ivy League schools, and several athletes from various sports are receiving NCAA D-I scholarships this year, including 3 in football. It was apparent to me that Rob Morris is a huge reason for Phillip Exeter’s continued success.
My next stop was the prestigious Milton Academy in Milton, Mass. which opened its doors in 1798. Milton Academy has an alumni list second to none including Governor Deval Patrick, Robert and Teddy Kennedy, T.S. Eliot and one of my favorite artists… “Sweet Baby James” Taylor.
Athletic Director Lamar Reddicks was a class act, visiting with me regarding Milton’s Athletic Policies, the coordination of athletics and academics, and a tour of their “gigantic” equipment room where all their uniforms were kept. It was the first time I had seen school ski team uniforms. Lamar is a Milton guy and was an Assistant Coach at Harvard for 7 years before coming back home to Milton to serve as their Athletic Director.
The last stop was at The Trinity School in New York. The Trinity School is the oldest continuously opened school in America starting in 1701. The Trinity School began in the Trinity Church which is just across the street from the World Trade Center Memorial. The Athletic Director at Trinity is Pat Krieger, a graduate of Rice and who coached in private schools in Texas for 18 years. Pat was extremely gracious and hospitable to me and took me up to their roof top tennis courts, donated by alum John McEnroe, whose children attend Trinity. Pat presented me with great ideas concerning athletics, and gave advice and encouragement that was extremely valuable. Laurie also met with The Trinity School’s Lower School Principal Rosemary Milliman. Mrs. Milliman gave Laurie two books regarding the history of The Trinity School, as well as Trinity LS handbooks and materials, and was very hospitable.
I have expressed to each one of these athletic directors how much I appreciated them visiting with me and offering their advice and useful information.
One of the biggest takeaways for me was the loyalty of each school’s alumni. Not only do the alumni support the school financially, but they send their children and grandchildren to their alma mater. To know at one point, that each of these fantastic schools were only 18 years old, just like Brook Hill is today, is an inspiration and encouragement to me.
I think it is very important, that you know where you’ve have been before you can figure out where you are going!
My visits to these 4 schools have shown me where we need to be headed.
And that’s another reason to be “ALL ORANGE…All the Time”!