St. Mark's School of Texas

St. Mark's School of Texas

Courage and Honor
10600 Preston Road
Dallas, Texas 75230
United States
Coordinates 32°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
Type Private, day, college-prep boys' school
Religious affiliation(s) Non-sectarian
Episcopal (historically)
Established 1906
Headmaster David W. Dini
Faculty 125
Grades 112
Number of students 845
Campus 40 acres (16 ha)
Athletics conference SPC
Mascot Lion
Endowment over $100 million[1]
Tuition $22,627–$28,149

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


St. Mark's traces its origins to the Terrill School, 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 (who had been one of the first women to attend graduate school at Yale), and his father, James, who had previously been a college president. Terrill's school was explicitly intended to be Dallas' initial effort to supply an education that could rival that of east coast prep schools. Terrill quickly recruited the sons of some of Dallas' most affluent citizens, and also recruited students from throughout the southwest to become boarders at the school. 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, which she did in 1913. Schools descended from Terrill have had some affiliation with the Hockaday School for over a century, with students participating in shared social events, artistic performances, and some classes.

After Terrill was forced to retire because of ill health 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.[3][4] St. Mark's sports teams were very successful during the era, often going undefeated and winning at least one state high school football championship in the 1920s.[5] In 1930, the football team was undefeated and unscored upon, and the basketball team won a prep school national championship.[4]

The Terrill School faced academic competition from Texas Country Day, which was founded in 1933 with 10 boys and four teachers.[6] 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.[7][8]

In the context of the Great Depression, World War II, no endowment, and a small student body, Terrill School failed by 1943/44. Terrill re-emerged as the Episcopal-associated Cathedral School in 1944.[9]

Within a decade of Terrill's demise, a cluster of Dallas business leaders tried again to create an elite Dallas institution by merging Texas Country Day (1933–1953) and the Cathedral School (1944–1953).

St. Mark's is the result of this merger, and it was immediately and robustly supported by some of Dallas' 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." [10]

In 1983, St. Mark's celebrated its 50th year, based on the 1933 establishment of Texas Country Day. In 1988, the Board decided to trace the founding of the school to the Terrill School rather than Texas Country Day, thus leading to the anomaly of a 50th anniversary and a 100th anniversary occurring only 23 years apart.[11][12]

Former headmasters


Many school activities take place each year. For example, St. Mark's has a wilderness program that begins with a week-long trip for fourth graders to the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Camping continues through middle school and culminates in the summer before 9th grade with a mandatory ten-day camping trip in the Pecos Wilderness in New Mexico. Some students go on to be upper school "sherpas," who help faculty lead this annual rite of passage.[26] The first freshman trip, in 1971, was to the Big Bend of Texas. Annual trips to the Pecos Wilderness began the next year.

Other activities have their own traditions, ranging from the international travel of the choir[26] to a wide variety of community service projects[27] to events and activities that focus on environmental sustainability on campus.[28]

The school uniform features grey pants and a white button down shirt. Seniors wear blue shirts with their grey pants.

St. Mark's is nonsectarian, with weekly nondenominational chapel services led by an ordained Episcopalian chaplain.

The school's motto is "Courage and Honor."

The school today

Approximately 850 students are spread across first through twelfth grade, and the overall student/faculty ratio is 8:1. Of more than 120 faculty and administrative members, 86 have advanced degrees, including nine with doctorates. As of 2016, 23 faculty members have been at the school 20 years or more. There are eighteen endowed chairs for teachers and administrators.[29]

On its 40 acre-campus is an array of buildings, most of which are named after well-known Dallas families. 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.[30]

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."[31] These science facilities have contributed to the career development of a number of future scientists, including Alan Stern '75, 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.[32]

In more recent years, the natatorium was named in honor of Ralph Rogers,[33] the Lamar Hunt family donated a football stadium, and Tom Hicks funded a new gymnasium. The Roosevelt family contributed a carillon in 2005 and a Letourneau pipe organ in 2013.[34][35] 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.[36]

Spearheaded by a $10 million donation from the family of Harlan Crow,[37] the Centennial Project raised over $110 million when it ended in June 2013. The Project led to additional endowed teaching chairs as well two new state-of-the-art academic buildings. Centennial Hall houses the Math, English, History, and Administrative departments, while the Robert K. Hoffman '65 Center — funded largely by Kenneth A. Hersh '81 — houses the Language, Debate, Journalism, and College Counseling programs, in addition to the Student Store and Senior Lounge.[38] Other major contributors have included Algur H. Meadows, Charles Nearburg, Ross Perot, Jr., Al Hill, Jr., Everett DeGolyer, and H. Ben Decherd.[15]

The first African-American student entered St. Mark's in 1965. 46% of the school's 852 boys are now students of color, a group that includes boys who identify as African American, Asian American, and Hispanic.[39]

93% of current parents donated to the 2015-16 annual fund, as did 59% of all living alumni (a new school record for alumni participation). A total of $3.4 million was raised for the year.

As of 2015, the school's overall endowment was over $100 million.[1] This translates into an endowment of over $117,000 per student. The annual outlay for financial aid in 2015-16 was $2.4 million. There are 18 endowed Master Teacher chairs, including three for department chairs and one for the headmaster.[40]


21% of the overall applicant pool was accepted to St. Mark's in 2015. Of those accepted, 92% enrolled at St. Mark's.[10] 98% of St. Mark's students continued into the next grade at St. Mark's in 2016 (i.e., the school had a 98% retention rate).[41] All SM students go to college.

Between the 2013 and 2016, 105 seniors were named semi-finalists by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation; this number represents about 30% of the graduates during those 4 years. In addition, over 60% of the seniors were named either National Merit Semifinalists or Commended students during that time frame.[42][43][44] For the class of 2016, the average SAT was 2160 on a 2400-point scale.[45]

St. Mark's math and science (STEM) teams have won national competitions. For example, in 2013, the 11th/12th grade team finished 1st nationally in a contest sponsored by the Technology Student Association, while the 9th/10th grade team finished 1st nationally in 2015. In that year, two different SM 9th/10th grade teams finished 1st and 3rd in state, while three different SM 11th/12th grade teams finished 2nd, 4th, and 12th in Texas.[46][47]

The Upper School's Quiz Bowl team was ranked 2nd among private schools in the U.S. in 2016.[48] The Middle School team finished 2nd nationally at the 2014 National Academic Quiz Tournaments. Fourth grade classes from St. Mark's finished 1st in their division in national team WordMasters competitions in both 2015 and 2016. In 2016, 10 S.M. boys scored 100% on that Wordmasters test, which was 20% of the total number of perfect scores in the country.[49][50]

In 2016, a senior was a finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search; he was 1 of 40 finalists nationwide and the only Texan.[51][52] 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 1 of 5 national winners selected from over 20,000 applicants.[53][54] Seven St. Mark’s seniors have been named Presidential Scholars by the Presidential Scholars Program since 2003.[55] In 2013, a student won the Nestle Very Best in Youth Award, 1 of 18 winners from around the country.[56] An 8th grader from St. Mark's won the 76th Scripps National Spelling Bee. In 2014, a St. Mark's student won the national high school chess championship [57] and became a chess international grandmaster, thereby becoming the youngest person with that rank in the Americas.[58] Also in 2014, a student won his second straight Indian national championship in the International Mathematical Olympiad.[59]

A 2016 survey ranked St. Mark's as the best all-boys school in the U.S.,[60] while a 2015 survey ranked the school 8th among all American private schools in regards to "smartness."[61] Another 2016 survey ranked St. Mark's as the best private school in Texas in regards to teachers and college preparedness as well as the best overall.[62] Multiple other surveys have ranked St. Mark's highly in regards to academics and college placement.[63][64][64][65][66]


St. Mark's organizes 17 varsity sports teams for the approximately 350 Upper School boys. Most teams compete within the Southwest Preparatory Conference (SPC), which sponsors competition in a dozen sports for 17 private schools in Texas and Oklahoma.

St. Mark's has won 15 consecutive SPC "Directors Cups" (2002–2016), which is a measure of a school's overall performance within the conference.[10][67][68][69]

The following records were found at the St. Mark's Website and the Southwest Preparatory Conference Website.

St. Mark's Southwest Preparatory Conference Championships
Sport Year
Baseball 1958, 1962, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1974, 1975, 1979, 1980, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2016
Basketball 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1973, 1974, 1984, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1994, 2004, 2005, 2007
Cross Country 1961, 1962, 1963, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1980, 1988, 1989, 1990, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2013
Football 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1973, 1974, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2007, 2008
Golf 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1977, 2006, 2011
Lacrosse 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
Soccer 1962, 1963, 1964, 1967, 1970, 1971, 1975, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1985, 2012, 2013
Swimming 1974, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
Tennis 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1995, 2002
Track and Field 1958, 1961, 1965, 1968, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
Volleyball 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1991, 2005, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014
Wrestling 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015

Some SM sports teams successfully compete against public and private high school teams from throughout Texas.[70][71][72][72][5][73][74][75][76][77]

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
Lacrosse 2013
Water Polo 1975, 1977, 2009, 2014, 2015, 2016
Wrestling 1982, 1983, 1994, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011

Some well-known alumni were better known as 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.[78][79][80] 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.[81]

At least seven alumni play, or have played, in the National Football League: Ty Montgomery '11,[82][83] Emmanuel Acho '08, Sam Acho '07, Kalen Thornton '00, Jabby Andrews '29,[84] Deck Shelley '25,[85] and Bill Vaughn '20.[86]

In recent years, about 10% of St. Mark's graduates have gone on to play intercollegiate sports in college.[87][88] Fifteen alumni have signed to play college lacrosse since 2001. 23 other alumni have run college track or cross-country since 1989. A total of 81 St. Mark's graduates have gone on to play NCAA football, with 39 signing to play for college football teams between 2000 and 2016.[89] In 2016, William C. Rhoden wrote an article in the New York Times on how a current St. Mark's student is using his basketball skills to gain acceptance into a top flight Division III college.[90]

Other St. Mark's alumni involved in professional sports include several who did not play the sport in college, much less professionally. Taylor Jenkins '03 was able to land a summer internship with the San Antonio Spurs during college in 2006 — he is now an assistant coach for the NBA's Atlanta Hawks.[91][92] Matthew Silverman '94 is president of baseball operations for the MLB Tampa Bay Rays, after being recruited from Goldman Sachs.[93] Brian Auld '95 did play a college sport — he was captain of the Stanford lacrosse team. However, he became president of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays through the same path as did Jenkins and Silverman: business school.

Two alumni have owned professional sports teams. Ross Perot, Jr. '77 has owned the Dallas Mavericks, and Clark Hunt '83 owns FC Dallas and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Extracurricular activities

As of 2016, St. Mark's recognized 55 clubs for the 350 Upper Schoolers. Some are "interest groups" that rarely meet, but others are significant commitments that lead to external recognition.[94][95]

Both the school newspaper and literary magazine won 2016 Gold Crowns, the highest award given by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.[96][97][98] About a dozen publications win Gold Crowns in each category each year in the U.S. The 2016 award was the 13th straight Gold Crown for the newspaper, and fourth straight for the magazine. As of 2016, the school yearbook had won either a Silver or Gold Crown for seven consecutive years.[99][100][101] St. Mark's seniors have been named journalist of the year in the state of Texas for four consecutive years (2013–2016) by the National Scholastic Press Association; in 2016, St. Mark's seniors finished first and second in this statewide competition. Three of the four state winners also placed among the top three high school journalists in the country.[102][103] In 2015, the middle school literary magazine won a Gold Circle Award from Columbia Scholastic Press by finishing third in "use of typography," which is notable since they were competing against over 11,000 high school and college publications.[104]

The debate team has won four national policy debate titles,[105][106] 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.[107][108][109] 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 for ten consecutive years (2007–2016).[110][111]

Since 2010, multiple SM students have had their films selected for inclusion in the SXSW film festival.[112] One student had his work profiled in Popular Photography magazine,[113] and another earned 17 Palm Awards on the road to being an Eagle Scout (a feat achieved by 2 dozen boys in the history of Scouting).[114]

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.[115]

The local press has long written about ways in which St. Mark's blends in and differs from the rest of Dallas.[116][117][118]

Notable alumni

^Alumnus, but graduated from different high school.

@Terrill School

+ Texas Country Day


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