Memphis University School

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Memphis University School
MUS logo.png
Memphis, Tennessee
United States
Type Private
Motto Veritas Honorque
Established 1893
Grades 7–12
Gender Male
Enrollment 660
Mascot The Owls
     Yale Blue
     Harvard crimson
Rival Christian Brothers High School
Yearbook The Owl
Literary Magazine The MUSe

Memphis University School (MUS) is a college-preparatory, independent, day school for boys, grades 7–12, located in Memphis, Tennessee.


The Original Campus (1893-1936)[edit]

Edwin Sidney Werts and James White Sheffey Rhea founded MUS as a college-preparatory school for boys in the fall of 1893. Their purpose was threefold: to prepare boys for competitive colleges, to provide them with a liberal arts education, and to help them develop into cultured Christian gentlemen. Patterned largely after Werts's alma mater, the University of Virginia, MUS embraced high academic standards, strong moral development, and an emphasis on athletics. The school adopted red and blue as its official colors to represent the academics standards of two universities, Harvard and Yale. In a short time, the school's reputation was so sound that many of America's leading colleges began to exempt MUS students from entrance examinations or allowed them to take the exams at MUS. After a disappointing initial enrollment, MUS prospered. Within three years, it outgrew its temporary quarters in the old Bethel Building in Downtown Memphis and occupied the Clara Conway Institute at 297 Poplar Avenue. Shortly after the move, the proprietors built their own building on a small campus near the corner of Madison and Manassas. There the school remained until 1936, when economic factors forced its closure.

The Current Campus (1955-Present)[edit]

The economic boom of the 1950s revitalized MUS, and classes began again in 1955 under the leadership of Col. Ross M. Lynn and a dedicated Board of Trustees chaired by Alexander Wellford. The School relocated to its current 94-acre (380,000 m2) campus at 6191 Park Avenue in East Memphis. By 1958, it graduated its first seniors. Like the first MUS, the new one emphasized academic excellence, high moral standards, strong athletic development, and gentlemanly conduct. Its student-enforced honor system became the moral heart of the school. During the 1960s, the new MUS grew to maturity. Seniors acquired off-campus lunch privileges; Hutchison School moved in next door; the Hyde Chapel was built; and sophisticated language labs were added. Leigh MacQueen became academic dean, Bill Hatchett guided annual student tours to Europe, and MUS worked at living up to its namesake. Clubs and other extracurricular activities proliferated as students increasingly helped run the school.

In the 1970s, the school added the Hull Lower School, the Hyde Library, the Fisher Fine Arts Wing, and the McCaughan Science building, fulfilling the school's basic physical plant needs. Ellis Haguewood began his irreverent and hilarious school day picture day (SDPD) talks and a sixteen-year stint as yearbook adviser. The school's academics became stronger in a climate of increased diversity. Both faculty and curriculum grew much stronger through the 1970s and the 1980s, and enrollment crested at nearly 600 students.

In the 1980s, the school lost two beloved leaders with the deaths of Col. Lynn and Lower School Principal John Murry Springfield. Growth, innovation, and academic excellence continued, however, under Gene Thorn's leadership. In 1990, the school constructed the Sue H. Hyde Sports and Physical Education Center, symbolizing that it had become as much an athletic as an academic powerhouse. Thorn retired in 1992, and William Campbell served for three years as headmaster in order to fill the vacancy until the Board of Trustees selected MUS Upper School Principal and Interim Headmaster Ellis Haguewood to lead the school.

Under the leadership of Headmaster Haguewood and Chairman of the Board Ben Adams (1996-2004), MUS implemented a long-term strategic plan. This included a master plan for expanding and updating the physical plant and a massive capital campaign (more than $21 million total) to fund improvements. The Crump Firm's master plan included a new tennis center with a clubhouse, renovation and expansion of the Hull Lower School, erecting a commodious new Campus Center, and razing and replacing the Upper School and the Clack Dining Hall. Construction, including the new Dunavant Upper School, was completed by January 2003. Alumnus Trow Gillespie, who had spearheaded the fundraising, replaced Ben Adams in 2004 as chairman of the Board of Trustees. Bob Loeb became chairman in 2008, followed by Sam Graham in 2013.


MUS enrolls about 620 students from grades 7-12. The student-faculty ratio is 8 to 1, and average class size is 15 students.[1]

The school’s intensive academic program emphasizes Advanced Placement and Honors Accelerated courses, offering 21 AP courses for college credit. Historically, more than 94 percent of MUS students score a 3 or above on their AP exams. MUS grades are weighted on a 4.0 scale.

Every year a large portion of MUS students are honored by College Board for their performance on standardized tests. In the Class of 2016, 15 were named National Merit Semifinalists. Together with the school's 13 National Merit Commended students, they made up 26 percent of the senior class.

MUS boasts a 100 percent four-year college acceptance rate. The Class of 2016 was accepted to 112 schools in 32 states, as well as Washington, DC. Seventy-four students in the Class of 2016 reported receiving 290 scholarship offers totaling $12.3 million.


The faculty includes 78 teachers, two college counselors, and four guidance counselors. Fifty-three faculty members hold master’s degrees, and five hold doctorates. Together they average 22 years of teaching experience. Sixteen faculty members are alumni of the school. MUS maintains nine endowed teaching chairs for its faculty.[2]

Campus Life[edit]

MUS offers a broad array of extra curricular student activities, all of which contribute to the school’s mission of developing well-rounded young men of strong moral character. Students may be involved in student government, theater, publications, music (the Studio Ensemble, Pep Band, Drum Corps, and Beg to Differ, an acapella group, being the four biggest venues for musical involvement), speech, honor groups and numerous clubs formed around specific interests. Clubs are organized by the students each year. Past organizations have included: Book clubs, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Diversity Club, Petanque, Computer Club, Cinamagic Club, Environmental Club, Chess Club and Students Against Drunk Driving.

The Student Council, Honor Council and Civic Service Organization, three of the school’s most esteemed organizations, are entirely student-run. Campus-wide elections are held every year to fill these positions, with campaigns that include social events and speeches.

MUS students, especially seniors, enjoy remarkable freedom. Free periods, off-campus lunches, and individual parking spots are just some of the privileges that students are afforded, but these rights can be forfeited if a student is in poor academic or disciplinary standing.

Philosophy and Traditions[edit]

With a history spanning more than 100 years, MUS is rich in tradition and philosophy, much of which is developed and maintained by its student body. In addition to academic excellence, the school has long elevated and embraced the virtues of leadership, honor and service.

Mission Statement[edit]

Memphis University School is a college-preparatory school dedicated to academic excellence, cultivation of service and leadership, and the development of well-rounded young men of strong moral character, consistent with the school’s Christian tradition.[3]


Memphis University School is committed to high standards of honor and integrity, academic performance, service, leadership, and athletics, and to the transmission of Judeo-Christian values.

An MUS education is characterized by a rigorous curriculum, a lively exchange of ideas, supportive teaching, and adherence to an honor code. Its objective is to instruct students in the skills and subject matter of the humanities and sciences, to engender successful habits and techniques of learning, and to instill the foremost principles of personal responsibility, morality, and gentlemanly conduct.

A dynamic extracurricular program devoted to excellence promotes leadership and service and encourages development of physical fitness and a rich variety of talents and interests. Non-denominational and non-sectarian, MUS seeks to foster a respectful appreciation of the spiritual nature of people and honors the sincere expression of widely differing faiths. MUS aspires to be a community of mutual respect and concern regardless of individual differences.[3]

Community Creed[edit]

Written by seniors in the class of 2001, the Community Creed was approved by the Student Council and adopted by the students as a statement of the ideals and virtues that have governed student behavior and attitudes since the inception of the school.

As students of Memphis University School, we share a duty to preserve our tradition of general excellence by upholding the principles that define and unify our community.
  • Truth and Honor: An MUS student tells the truth, does his own work, honors his commitments, and respects the property of others and of the school.
  • Scholarship: An MUS student actively seeks knowledge and understanding, and he encourages that pursuit among his classmates.
  • Service: An MUS student contributes his time and abilities to the welfare of his school and of the greater community.
  • Respect: An MUS student is courteous and kind and appreciates everyone in his community.
  • Humility: An MUS student may be confident but never arrogant or boastful.
  • Involvement: An MUS student develops leadership, cooperation, communication, self-discipline, and friendships in activities outside the classroom.
  • Accountability: An MUS student takes responsibility for his actions and accepts their consequences.[4]


One of MUS’ defining traditions is its Honor System, a tradition that has endured since the beginning of the school. Its purpose is to foster a high spirit of honor and integrity in the student body. The Honor Council, elected by the student body, is responsible for upholding the Honor System by investigating cases of cheating, stealing, or lying in connection with academic work or campus life.[5]

MUS is also known for its long-standing tradition of community service. Service projects are planned and coordinated by the student-led Civic Service Organization, which strives to make a positive impact in the community and to inspire a spirit of altruism among the students.[6]


MUS athletic teams compete in the West division of the Tennessee Super Prep Conference, which includes their cross-town rival Christian Brothers High School. MUS’ athletic program is highly decorated, with state-of-the-art facilities that include five on-campus playing fields, two basketball gyms, a weight room, and expansive training and equipment areas.

At Memphis University School, the athletic program serves as a means to support and realize the mission of the school. As an extension of the classroom, athletics allow students to compete, to achieve goals, to become well-rounded young men of strong moral character, consistent with the school’s Christian tradition.

– MUS Sports Philosophy[7]

MUS teams are nicknamed the Owls and are represented by the mascot Lloyd the Owl. They are also known as the Buzzards, an alternative nickname, as well as “Big Blue” and “The U.”

The MUS football team is a perennial state powerhouse, winning state championships in 1985, 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2009. The lacrosse team is also successful, winning 10 TSLA state championships since 1990, including the last three. Jerry Peters completed a 52-year career as the MUS varsity basketball head coach in 2012, having earned 1,001 wins and the 2007 state championship.[8]

Every year, a handful of MUS student-athletes sign letters of intent to play collegiate sports, and The Commercial Appeal has perennially recognized MUS students and coaches for their athletic accomplishments at the Best of the Preps awards banquet.


MUS has roughly 4,000 active alumni, 60-70 percent of which return to the Memphis area to live. MUS produces a disproportionately large number of community leaders relative to its small alumni base.

Approximately 400 Memphis-area alumni are corporate officers (presidents, vice presidents, CEOs, CFOs, COOs, VPs, controllers, or owners), 90 percent hold graduate or professional degrees, and several serve as elected officials and civil servants. MUS alums are particularly involved in the fields of business, finance, law, healthcare, and real estate.[9]

Notable alumni[edit]


External links[edit]

In the media: