St. Mark's School of Texas

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St. Mark's School of Texas
10600 Preston Road


United States
Coordinates32°53′25″N 96°48′03″W / 32.890363°N 96.800762°W / 32.890363; -96.800762Coordinates: 32°53′25″N 96°48′03″W / 32.890363°N 96.800762°W / 32.890363; -96.800762
TypePrivate, day, college-prep boys' school
MottoCourage and Honor
HeadmasterDavid W. Dini
Faculty132 full time teachers
Number of students877
Campus42 acres (17 ha)
Athletics conferenceSPC
Endowment$140 million[1]
Tuition$30,872 (average, inclusive of fees and books)

The St. Mark's School of Texas is a nonsectarian preparatory day school for boys in grades 1–12 in Dallas, Texas, US accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest.


St. Mark's traces its origins to the Terrill School for Boys, which was founded by Menter B. Terrill in 1906. The six original teachers included Terrill, who had been valedictorian at Yale, as well as his wife, Ada (one of the first female graduate students at Yale), and his father, James, a former college president. Terrill's school was explicitly intended to rival east coast prep schools. Terrill quickly recruited the sons of some of Dallas's most affluent citizens and also boarding students from throughout the southwest. By 1915, Terrill School sent 14 of its 33 graduates to Ivy League colleges.[2]

As headmaster, Terrill encouraged Miss Ela Hockaday to open a girls' school in Dallas in 1913. Schools descended from Terrill have had some affiliation with the Hockaday School for over a century, with shared social events, artistic performances, and some classes.

After Terrill retired in 1916, the school became increasingly seen as a sports school, liberally recruiting "semi-pro athletes" who allowed the school to compete against much larger high schools as well as teams of college freshmen from Rice, SMU, and TCU.[3][4] Terrill's sports teams were very successful during the era, often going undefeated and winning state high school championships in both football and ice hockey in the 1920s.[5] One head coach of that era, Pete Cawthon, went on to become head football coach for Texas Tech and the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National Football League as well as the athletic director for the University of Alabama.[6] In 1930, the football team was undefeated and unscored upon, and the basketball team won a prep school national championship.[7]

The Terrill School soon faced academic competition from Texas Country Day School, founded in 1933 with 10 boys and four teachers.[8] Within two years of its creation, Texas Country Day was advertising that its faculty included "Rhodes Scholar and Harvard, Dartmouth, and Amherst men." In 1939, the school recruited the previous year's Heisman Trophy winner, Davey O'Brien, to be its three-days-a-week football coach; 61 of 65 high school boys tried out for spring football that year.[9][10]

In the context of the Great Depression, World War II, no endowment, and a small student body, Terrill School failed by 1946. Terrill re-emerged as the Episcopal-associated Cathedral School for Boys in 1946. Within four years of Terrill's demise, several local business leaders tried again to create an elite Dallas institution by merging Texas Country Day (1933–1950) and the Cathedral School (1946–1950) effective in September 1950.[11]

St. Mark's is the result of this merger, and it was immediately and robustly supported by some of Dallas's most successful businessmen of the post-World War II era. Beginning in the 1950s, for example, two of the founders of Texas Instruments donated a total of nearly $50 million, helping to create the solid endowment and modern campus. By the 1960s, Time' magazine called St. Mark's the "best equipped day school in the country."[12]

The school today[edit]

In contrast to the Terrill School, which was created and spearheaded by its eponymous founder (and then failed after he died), St. Mark's has been driven by donors, most of whom have actively served on its board of trustees. As D Magazine once asserted, "there are some prep schools where the headmaster embodies the institution’s traditions and goals. St. Mark’s is not one of them. St. Mark’s has its roots in its board of directors, which in turn is rooted in the city’s most-established establishment – oil, high technology and, in the old days, cotton."[13]

From the school's inception, members of the board focused on creating an endowment and encouraging the study of science. In the 1960s and 1970s, Texas Instruments' co-founders Cecil H. Green and Eugene McDermott donated a math and science quadrangle, the main library, the greenhouse, the planetarium and the observatory.[14]

The early emphasis on science facilities was not random. As a former St. Mark's headmaster once said: "St. Mark's is a Sputnik school pragmatically established by industrialists who were interested in turning out scientists."[15] The science facilities have contributed to the career development of a number of future scientists, including Alan Stern, who traces his current role as principal investigator of NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto to his early participation in the St. Mark's planetarium, observatory, and astronomy club.[16]

Much of the McDermott-Green Science Center was replaced in January 2019 by the Winn Science Center. Designed by Robert A.M. Stern, the Winn Center includes a new planetarium and greenhouse, classrooms, and labs that focus on DNA science, engineering, biotechnology, and robotics. The new facilities also expand an ongoing project with the University of Texas at Austin which allows students to have direct internet access to observatories in Alpine, Texas and rural Peru.[17][18] The science center was spearheaded by a $10 million gift from Steven Winn ‘64 and completed through $40 million in gifts from 57 other families.[19]

The expansion of interests outside of science is reflected in the names of the buildings that are neatly scattered on its 42-acre North Dallas campus. For example, funding for Centennial Hall was spearheaded by a $10 million donation from the family of Harlan Crow, while Kenneth A. Hersh ‘81 largely funded the Robert K. Hoffman ‘65 Center.[20] Other major donors have included Ralph Rogers, who donated the natatorium,[21] the family of Lamar Hunt, which donated a football stadium, the Roosevelt family, which contributed a carillon and a Letourneau pipe organ,[22][23] and Tom Hicks, who funded for a new gymnasium. The Lower School has its own library, while the main library, named after Ida and Cecil H. Green, is heavily computerized but also features 56,000 volumes.[24]

Other major contributors have included such parents and alumni as Algur H. Meadows, Charles Nearburg ‘68, Ross Perot, Jr. ‘77, and Everette DeGolyer.[25]

St. Mark's was rated in 2016 as having one of the ten most beautiful high school campuses in the state.[26]


  • Menter B. Terrill (1906–1916), Terrill School[27]
  • M.G. Bogarte (1916–1931), Terrill School
  • Sam "Pop" Davis (1931–1946), Terrill School
  • Rev. Charles A. Mason (1946-1948), Cathedral School for Boys[28]
  • Rev. Alfred L. Alley (1948-1950), Cathedral School for Boys[29]
  • Kenneth Bouvé (1933–1949), Texas Country Day
  • Robert Iglehart (1949–1956), Texas Country Day and St. Mark's
  • L. Ralston Thomas (1956–1957)
  • Thomas B. Hartmann (1957–1963)
  • Christopher Berrisford (1963–1969)[30][31]
  • John T. Whatley (1969–1983)[32][33][34]
  • David Hicks (1983–1993)[35][36]
  • Arnold Holtberg (1993–2014)[37]
  • David Dini (2014–present)


The school's 877 students are spread across first through twelfth grade, with 392 in the Upper School, 335 in the Middle School, and 150 in the Lower School. Average class size is 16, and the overall student/faculty ratio is 8:1. Of the 132 faculty members, 80 have advanced degrees, including 9 with doctorates. As of 2018, 30 faculty members have been at the school twenty years or more. There are 22 fully endowed faculty positions, including 16 Master Teaching chairs. Male: female ratio among teachers is 50:50.[38]

20% of the overall applicant pool was accepted to St. Mark's in 2018. Of those accepted, 92% enrolled at St. Mark's.[12] 98% of St. Mark's students continued into the next grade at St. Mark's in 2018 (i.e., the school had a 98% retention rate).[39]

For the 3rd consecutive year, the 2018-19 St. Mark's Fund yielded over $4 million. For the 11th consecutive year, over half of the school's alumni donated to this annual fund, as did about 90% of the current parents. Total gift receipts in 2017-2018 were $14.6 million. As of September 2018, the school's endowment was $140 million.[40][41][42] This translates into an endowment of over $117,000 per student. 17% of students received financial aid for the 2018-19 school year, with an overall outlay for financial aid of $2.8 million.[43]

While the first African-American student did not enter St. Mark's until 1965, 46% of the school's 877 boys are now students of color, a group that includes boys who identify as African American, Asian American, and Hispanic.[44]

Graduation requirements include participation in the freshman-year 10-day Pecos camping trip and 4 years of physical education (and/or participation on sports teams). All students must perform 4 years of community service (15+ hours/year). Students must also take the equivalent 18 full-year courses during Upper School, including 4 years of English and 3 years each of lab science, social studies, mathematics, and a foreign language, as well as one year of a fine art. In addition, all students must satisfactorily complete a Senior Exhibition, in which each boy creates a project that demonstrates a special talent, skill, or interest to the faculty and the rest of the student body.[45]


SM academics can be summarized through a variety of indicators: SAT’s, APs, National Merit, success of academic teams and individuals, college placement, and independent rankings.

For the 90 boys in the class of 2019, the median SAT was 1520 (780 Math; 740 Reading and Writing). [46][47]

SM students took 519 AP tests from among the 19 AP courses offered in 2017-18. 83% of these AP Tests earned a 4 or 5.[48]

31 SM students in the class of 2019 were named Semi-finalists by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, while 28 were named Commended Students. These results indicate that about 1/3 of the 90 seniors scored in the top 1% on the PSAT/NMSQT, a standardized test, while another 1/3 scored in the top 2%.[49]

St. Mark's academic teams and individual students have earned national recognition in recent years.

For example, the 4-student 2017 Upper School Quiz Bowl team won the National Academic Quiz Tournaments’ Small School National Championship for charter and private schools.[50] In 2016, the Upper School team was ranked 2nd nationally among private schools.[51] Both the Upper School and the Middle School quiz bowl teams won Texas state championships in 2017.[50] The middle school team also finished 2nd nationally at the 2014 National Academic Quiz Tournaments.[50]

St. Mark's math and science (STEM) teams have also won national competitions.

For 4 consecutive years (2015-2018), the St. Mark's fourth grade class has finished 1st in the nationwide WordMasters Challenge. Overall, about 150,000 4th graders take this test, which focuses on vocabulary, analogies, and word usage.[52][53][54]

St. Mark's students won the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2003 and 2019. In the more recent competition, a 7th grader tied for first after having also won the 2018 national spelling bee for students of South Asian descent and after having placed in the top 40 in the Scripps competition in both 2017 and 2018.[55][56][57]

In 2016, a senior was a finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search; he was one of forty finalists nationwide and the only Texan.[58][59] Also in 2016, a senior was recognized as a National Student Poet by a program within the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities; he was one of five national winners selected from over 20,000 applicants.[60][61][62]

In 2019, a senior was named a United States Presidential Scholar by the Presidential Scholars Program. He is the 8th SM senior to win the award in the past decade [63] In 2014, a student won his second straight Indian national championship in the International Mathematical Olympiad.[64]

In a 2019-2020 survey, St. Mark's was rated as the best private school in Texas, the best school (public or private) for STEM in Texas, the best boy's high school in the country, the best private K-12 school in the country, and the 2nd best private high school in the country.[65][66]


85% of Upper School boys play at least one of the 17 varsity sports that are offered at St. Mark's.

Varsity teams primarily compete with the sixteen other private schools in Texas and Oklahoma comprising the Southwest Preparatory Conference (SPC).[67]

St. Mark's won the 2019 SPC Athletic Directors Cup, which is an overall measure of all the athletic teams that compete in the SPC. The SM athletic program has won this award 13 of the prior 15 years.[12][68][69][70] Some individual teams have had lengthy periods of success. Lacrosse won 9 SPC championships between 2004 and 2013. The swim team won 20 conference championships between 1995 and 2016. The tennis team won 13 championships between 1975 and 1990. Water polo won 15 regional championships between 2001 and 2016. Wrestling won 37 conference championships between 1973 and 2015. Some teams also compete outside the conference. For example, competing against 6A schools, the SM water polo team won 5 Texas state championships between 2014 and 2019. [71]

The following SM teams have won Texas state championships.[72][73][74][74][75][76][77][78][79][80][81][82]

St. Mark's Texas State Championships
Sport Year
Crew 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013
Fencing 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001
Football 1918
Ice Hockey 1929
Lacrosse 2013
Water Polo 1975, 1977, 2009, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019
Wrestling 1982, 1983, 1994, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011

Some well-known alumni were athletes while at St. Mark's. For example, Luke Wilson was part of a 1989 St. Mark's track quartet that still holds the fastest 4x400 relay time in SPC conference history (3:21.38), while Tommy Lee Jones went on to become an all-conference offensive lineman for Harvard's football team.[83][84][85] Boz Scaggs was a track and soccer star while at St. Mark's, though it was also during high school that he took his first guitar lessons from a classmate, Steve Miller; while in high school, they created a band called the Marksmen.[86]

As of 2018, two alumni currently play in the National Football League: Ty Montgomery '11,[87][88] and Sam Acho '07. At least 5 other alumni also played in the NFL: Emmanuel Acho '08, Kalen Thornton '00, Jabby Andrews '29,[89] Deck Shelley '25,[90] and Bill Vaughn '20.[91]

30 St. Mark's seniors signed to play a collegiate sport between 2015 and 2018.[92][93] [94]

Extracurricular activities[edit]

As of 2018, St. Mark's recognized 90 extra-curricular clubs and offered 24 fine arts courses.[95][96]

SM activities that have received consistent national recognition include journalism, creative writing, debate, photography, chess, and design.

For example, the Columbia Scholastic Press Association judges school publications from around the country and awards about a dozen Gold Crowns in each category each year. The 2019 award was the 16th straight Gold Crown for the student newspaper, which is a national record. The award was also the 6th straight for the literary magazine. As of 2019, the school yearbook had won either a Silver or Gold Crown for 10 consecutive years. Also in 2019, the middle school magazine won its 3rd consecutive Gold Crown, an award given to only 1 or 2 publications in the country. [97][98][99][100][101][102][103] [97] In 2015, the middle school literary magazine won a Gold Circle Award from Columbia by finishing third in "use of typography," which is notable since they were junior high school students competing against over 11,000 high school and college publications.[104]

In 2018, the SM student newspaper and literary magazine also won National Pacemaker Awards from the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA). The newspaper has won 8 Pacemaker Awards since 2005. In 2017, the yearbook won its 6th Pacemaker Award in 7 years and its 11th overall.[105][106]

St. Mark's seniors have been named journalist of the year in the state of Texas for seven consecutive years (2013–2019) by the NSPA. In 2019, a senior was named NSPA’s national journalist of the year; he became the fourth SM student in 7 years to rank among the country’s top three high school journalists.[107][108][109][110][111]

The debate team has won four national policy debate titles,[112][113] most recently winning the National Debate Coaches Association title in 2016. In addition, the team won the "world championship" at the 2015 International Public Policy Forum.[114][115][116] The school itself annually hosts one of the most prestigious high school debate tournaments in the country, the Heart of Texas Invitational.

The school's photography program has been named best in state by the Association of Texas Photography Instructors (ATPI) for twelve consecutive years (2007–2018). The ATPI contest draws about 7000 entries from about 90 schools scattered across 5 states. [117][118][119][120] At the 2017 Texas High School Shoot Out (hosted by the photography department at Texas A&M), St. Mark's students won half the available awards, including Best in Show and Best Portfolio, as well as first place in the categories of Smartphone, Still Life, and Landscape.[121].

Chess is widely popular at SM. As of 2018, 60 lower schoolers were on the team. Some continue through high school. For example, a St. Mark's student won the national high school chess championship in 2014.[122] At that time, he became a chess international grandmaster, thereby becoming the youngest person with that rank in the Americas.[123] Two other SM students have earned National Master status while still in high school (in 2012 and 2016). [124]

Between 2015 and 2017, four SM students won top awards for design from the nationwide YoungArts competition. In addition, 17 SM students were finalists in that YoungArts competition between 2009 and 2018.[125][126] Since 2010, multiple SM students have had their films selected for inclusion in the SXSW film festival.[127] One student had his work profiled in Popular Photography magazine,[128] and another earned 17 Palm Awards on the road to being an Eagle Scout (a feat achieved by two dozen boys in the history of Scouting).[129]

The avidity with which students pursue extracurricular activities is mocked in the film Rushmore, which was co-written by Owen Wilson '87, who — like the film's protagonist — was asked to leave the school prior to graduation. Rushmore was set at a fictional cross between St. Mark's and Houston's St. John's School, the alma mater of the other co-writer and director, Wes Anderson. The film features a protagonist who participates in dozens of clubs and activities.[130]

The local press has written about ways in which St. Mark's blends in and differs from the rest of Dallas.[131][132][133]

National Controversies[edit]

St. Mark's and its alumni have become embroiled in several 21st-century controversies.

One alumnus, Richard Spencer ‘97, is a prominent white nationalist who coined the term alt-right and who has punctuated some of his speeches with a Nazi salute.

To protest Spencer’s notoriety and anti-immigration views, his SM classmates began an online fundraiser in November 2016 to assist refugees to Dallas.[134] As of November 2018, the fundraiser had raised $64,000.[135]

Appalled by Spencer's ongoing influence, Graeme Wood ‘97, wrote a lengthy article, “Richard Spencer Was My High School Classmate,” for the June 2017 The Atlantic, where he is a contributing editor.[136]

Another alumnus, Kurt Eichenwald ‘79, wrote a series of Newsweek cover stories critical of candidate Donald Trump and then spoke critically of President-elect Trump on December 16, 2016, during an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox television. Later that evening, knowing that Eichenwald had a self-documented seizure disorder,[137] a white nationalist retaliated by sending Eichenwald epileptogenic GIFs over Twitter.[138][139] The ensuing seizure lasted 8 hours and was life-threatening.[140] Within hours of a suspect being arrested for aggravated assault with a hate crime attachment, Spencer announced the creation of an online defense fund for the admitted perpetrator.[140]

Ned Price '01 started working for the Central Intelligence Agency in 2006, soon after graduating from college. His 11 years of service included being spokesperson for the National Security Council under President Barack Obama. Price resigned from the CIA in February 2017, immediately outlining in a Washington Post editorial the reasons that he was unable to work in a Trump administration.[141] While some critics suggested that former security agents not speak out, Price and others defended their decisions in a joint New York Times op-ed piece.[142] Price then went to work as a Fellow for the New America Foundation and became a political analyst for NBC News.

St. Mark's became embroiled in the Me Too movement in 2018. A former SM teacher had apparently been allowed to resign from his teaching job at Phillips Exeter Academy in 1980 after having admitted to making sexual advances towards an underage student.[143] He was given excellent letters of reference from Exeter and then spent several years teaching at the Trinity School in New York City. In 1984, the teacher moved to Dallas, where he taught at St. Mark's until his retirement in 2012. No allegations of misconduct are known to have been uncovered since the episodes at Exeter in the late 1970s, and it appears that St. Mark's was unaware of the allegations until after the teacher retired.[144]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Terrill School
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Alumnus, but graduated from different high school.
  3. ^ a b c Texas Country Day


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