TEXAS COUNTRY DAY SCHOOL

Bud Brooks

TEXAS COUNTRY DAY SCHOOL. Texas Country Day School opened in 1933 in Dallas and was founded as an alternative to the long-established and prestigious Terrill School for Boys.  As Terrill’s emphasis shifted towards athletics in the late 1920s, a group of Dallas families approached Terrill’s retired founder, Menter B. Terrill, and ask him to offer tutoring services to some of their sons. Terrill obliged and tutored a dozen or so boys for a few years in a small building at his home. After Terrill passed away in 1931, the parents banded together and decided to open an entirely new school in 1933, and that school was Texas Country Day School (TCD), which opened at the corner of Preston Road and Walnut Hill Lane, north of the Dallas city limits, and began with an enrollment of ten students.

The school’s founding was generously supported from some of the leading businessmen and families in Dallas, including the chairman of Republic Bank of Texas, Wirt Davis, who was TCD’s first board president. The board hired Kenneth Bouvé, an Amherst and Brown graduate, as its first headmaster, who came to Dallas from Tabor Academy in Massachusetts. TCD brought in a succession of teachers and other staff from many of the elite eastern colleges and prep schools in order to offer high-quality scholastic studies for Dallas boys in the manner of the great eastern prep schools.

As the school’s reputation grew, it attracted more interest from other leading Dallas families and businesses, including some of the top oilmen in the country. TCD eventually needed new facilities, and Davis opted to buy property just north on Preston Road and establish a new campus at the now-familiar 10600 Preston Road address. The first building was Founder’s Hall, which opened in 1940. Only three years later, the building caught fire, and, although it was not totally destroyed, heavy damage necessitated its reconstruction. During this period, the school held classes at nearby Southern Methodist University, and the boarder students were housed in private homes and at SMU until the new building could be completed. Before the building opened, Wirt Davis passed away, and when the building reopened in September 1946, it was renamed Wirt Davis Hall.

Texas Country Day, now with Eugene McDermott leading the board, demanded that the educational standards be improved and undertook an ambitious program to bring in better teachers, strengthen the curriculum, and expand the financial commitment to the school. He recruited more of Dallas’s leading businessmen to the board who helped raise more money to accomplish exactly that. When Bouvé resigned in 1949, the board hired another outsider as headmaster, Robert Iglehart, who further accelerated the growth of the school’s financial and educational standards. He brought with him a lengthy list of eastern prep school credentials and took on the Texas Country Day School challenge with vigor when he arrived in 1949. Iglehart also sought to shift the school away from its Texas-style cultural roots and to institute a more sophisticated curriculum with music, art, and other cultural programs more befitting a top-flight prep school curriculum.

Athletics at Texas Country Day were never quite as intense as at Terrill School, but the school offered team sports such as football, basketball, track and field, golf, baseball, archery, and later soccer. TCD’s Broncs often struggled with participation and for a few years had to play either six-man football or had to play against area club teams or junior varsity teams from local high schools. TCD also had a military influence with drill programs, rifle classes, and other related activities, and during World War II this ramped up significantly as a part of the overall war effort. A number of TCD graduates served in World War II, and a few died in service.

Just as quickly as Iglehart arrived, negotiations started in order to merge Texas Country Day School with Terrill’s successor, Cathedral School for Boys, and in late 1949 the boards of the two schools announced that the new school, St. Mark’s School of Texas, would be formed after the end of the academic year in 1950. Iglehart continued his campaign of raising the academic and disciplinary standards, and those translated into the new St. Mark’s as Iglehart remained the headmaster of the combined schools and sought each year to grow and burnish the credentials of the school. Iglehart resigned as headmaster in 1957.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Dallas Morning News, December 24, 1949; July 23, 1950. William R. Simon, St. Mark’s School of Texas: The First 100 Years (St. Mark’s School of Texas, Booksmith Group, 2006).

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Handbook of Texas Online, Bud Brooks, "TEXAS COUNTRY DAY SCHOOL," accessed September 18, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/kbtex.

Uploaded on August 16, 2018. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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