Among the materials that were provided to me as a finalist in the MICDS Head of School search in 2018 were the results of the most recent annual Parent Survey. I recall being struck by two discoveries in particular: that the average “likelihood to recommend” score was an impressive 4.34 out of 5, and that the average “campus is attractive” score was an amazing 4.93 out of 5—more than two standard deviations above the average survey response, and significantly above the next-highest-regarded area of School life and operation. “If you get this job,” I remember thinking to myself, “don’t get any funny ideas about the campus.”
We inhabit exceptionally inspirational environs at MICDS. The Neo-Georgian architectural idiom that is explicitly embodied in Danforth and Olson Halls—and otherwise implicitly reflected in our other buildings across campus—signifies and connects us to a time-honored intellectual tradition that is shared in the architecture of many other excellent schools, colleges, and universities across our country. The symmetrical orientation of our academic and arts facilities along a north-south axis above and in recess from Warson Road, and the general extension of our athletic facilities perpendicularly westward along a downward slope from that axis, together offer beautiful vistas from diverse vantage points across the 100 acres that are so fortunately ours to enjoy and to steward. Indeed, as I write these words, 4.93 out of 5 begins to feel a little ungenerous.
Not long ago, a member of our community shared with me an aerial photograph of Mary Institute from 1952. The Saint Louis Country Day School had not yet relocated from its Brown Road campus, and the land that MICDS now occupies was largely undeveloped. The image is a reminder both of how far we have come—how much we have grown—and how true we have remained to the original vision of this magnificent site.
The challenge inherent in campus planning is to balance this same tension between preservation and optimization—to sustain connections both to the past and to the future—as the institution necessarily evolves. This year, because MICDS has not updated our campus plan since 2009, we are partnering with architects at Stecker, Labau, Arneill, and McManus, also known as SLAM, to do so. SLAM is a Connecticut-based firm with extensive experience in school facilities planning and design. In February, they led focus groups organized around numerous areas of MICDS programming and operation, and earlier this week they presented summaries of those conversations to our Campus Planning Steering Committee, as well as several suggested areas of investigation for facilities and landscaping improvements and enhancements. We are excited to see where their work will lead.
The ultimate outcome of our collaboration with SLAM will not be immediate changes to our built environment—not the sudden arrival of cranes, backhoes, and bulldozers to our grounds—but rather a road map and prioritization scheme for advancements as opportunities to realize a more perfect school emerge. I will look forward to sharing them with you as they do. Bob Dylan once observed that “he not busy being born is busy dying.” Great schools like MICDS are never busy dying. We are always too busy being born.
Always reason, always compassion, always courage. I wish you a very happy weekend with your families.
Head of School
This week’s addition to the “Refrains for Rams” playlist: You Make Me Feel So Young as performed by Willie Nelson. “And even when I’m old and gray / I’m gonna feel the way I do today / ‘Cause you make me feel so young.” (Apple Music / Spotify)