A Century of Educational Leadership
On December 31, 1912, Clara Sturges Johnson and her husband William Templeton Johnson, former residents of Chicago, opened the doors of Francis Parker School. After returning from France for four years, the Johnsons fell in love with San Diego and decided to move their family to Coronado. The Johnsons were concerned about providing an adequate education for their children in San Diego, and knew that the Francis Parker School in Chicago, where Mrs. Johnson’s older sister's four daughters were enrolled, successfully provided the well-rounded education they sought.
The Francis Parker School in Chicago was established by Colonel Parker, who began teaching at age 16, became principal at a school in Massachusetts, and later earned rank of Colonel in the Civil War. His ideas and educational objectives were later carried out by establishing the Francis Parker School in Chicago a year before he passed away.
With the inspiration of Colonel Parker and their desire for a proper educational system in San Diego, Clara and William Johnson opened the Francis W. Parker School in a cottage where the San Diego Mission Hills Nursery now stands. They had three students.
Over the succeeding 98 years, Parker has grown from those three students to become one of the largest, oldest, and most successful schools on the West Coast. Throughout the history of Parker, superior leadership remains a constant. The following roll call of past Heads of School provides a window into the history and growth of this venerable educational institution.
Miss Fay Henley
Head Teacher, 1912-1913
Fay Henley came to Parker as a primary educator recommended by Columbia University, to launch the new school with students and several teachers. Fay remained at Parker and helped to draft the first school prospectus. The aim of the school was to give the children the opportunity to form habits of doing the right things by really performing practical, real activities. Fay focused on developing students individually, instilling a social awareness, appreciating the environment, and cooperating with their fellow students in a mutually supportive learning environment.
Under the direction of Mrs. Henley, Parker opened its doors on December 31, 1912 in a small bungalow at the corner of Randolph and Ft. Stockton Streets-a site later occupied by the Mission Hills Nursery. Within the year, Mr. Johnson, who later became a leading architect of landmark buildings in San Diego, began design of the current Mission Hills Campus with an innovative eye for how education might be blended with the moderate San Diego climate. His use of classrooms open to the central courtyard, good proportions and pleasing colors, created a unique educational facility that has since been named an historical San Diego landmark building. Rather than spending lavishly on ornamentation, classrooms were filled with photographs and prints of famous pieces of art, and the inspirational quotes of Col. Parker were never far from the students.
Mrs. Adele M. Outcalt
Mrs. Outcalt also came to Parker through a recommendation from Columbia University. She was teaching at the Los Angeles Polytechnic High School in California and came to Parker in the spring of 1913 upon the request of the Johnson’s. Adele was the first Principal of Parker in 1914.
By the end of the first year, the number of students had increased to 60. Mornings began with a flag raising ceremony in the courtyard, a tradition that is still reprised every Monday morning. Tuition ranged from $75-$140 a year, but did not cover expenses. The Johnson’s funded the deficit, which rose as high as $28,000 one year.
The west wing of the school was added in 1914, the north wing in 1918, and the east wing in 1919, completing the quadrangle. The auditorium was completed in 1919.
In March 1919, Herbert Flint was the 100th student to enter Parker, for which he received a bouquet of 100 yellow violets – the flower surrounding the terraces and canyons, and which also inspired the school colors, yellow and gold. 1919 was also the year of the first 12th grade graduate.
On December 19, 1919, the then-traditional Christmas Story tableau was the first presentation in the auditorium. A Parent-Teacher Association was formed in 1914, helping the Johnsons in the management of the School. By 1916, the PTA had grown to 42 members. The Parker Athletic Association was formed in 1918 with tennis, basketball and softball as the three major sports. Football and basketball for boys and volleyball and basketball for girls were soon added.
Ethel Dummer Mintzer
Ethel “Happy” Sturges Dummer graduated from Francis Parker School in Chicago. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1918 she came to teach at Parker as physical director and drama teacher. In 1922, and at the age of 27, she became Principal of Parker. In 1930, teacher Irene Thuli became Principal and Ethel was promoted to Director of Parker. Ethel had several loves: community and civil affairs, San Diego League of Women Voters, co-founder of the Civic Affairs Council, founder of the Inter-Club Legislative Council, and charter member of the San Diego Round Table.
“Mrs. Mintzer wanted above all to teach each student to think for himself, to develop individually in each child so that he could take his place as an individual and not become a blind follower” - Parker Board President Armistead Carter after Ethel’s death in 1938.
In 1927 management of the school was officially transferred over to the Parker School Association, an organization of parents, educators, and interested citizenry. Students often sang together in class and at assemblies, as drama and art were closely integrated into all of the traditional academic subjects. Ethel placed great importance on the use of dramatics in the education and development of the children; alumni agree that this opportunity to perform and get public speaking experience, to develop poise and self-confidence, served them later in college and careers.
High school students started a monthly publication sheet called Ginger Snap, then introduced The Parker Post. Money was raised by subscriptions, advertising, sale of a school calendar and events such as the school fair.
From 1920-1929, the Junior Class wrote, edited, and managed the annual Gold and Brown yearbook. This included getting bids for outside printing and professional photography, and selling advertising space.
The stock market crash of 1929 took its toll on the local economy and the families of Parker families. Struggling to fill the classrooms, the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades were eliminated, not to be reinstated until Parker purchased the Linda Vista property almost 40 years later.
Irene F. Thuli
Born in Chicago, Irene attended the University of Chicago and married her husband her sophomore year. The Thuli’s then moved to New Mexico, where she taught for ten years. In 1922, they moved to San Diego and enrolled their three children at Parker, and Irene continued to teach for three years as assistant principal until she became principal in 1930. On retiring she opened up an educational counseling, tutorial and remedial service until 1966. During this year, Irene was awarded the “Woman of Achievement” Award by the San Diego branch of the AAUW.
The Depression years were a time of trial for the country, and Francis Parker School was not immune. Mrs. Johnson, who had separated from her husband and moved to New York, suffered great financial losses in the depression years, and could no longer support the Parker deficit. By 1932, enrollment had dropped to 60 students, with parents working part time at the school to pay tuition. On April 17, 1932, The Association announced Parker’s doors would close. This vote brought tears to Mrs. Mintzer’s eyes, and provoked Association President Armistead Carter to call the meeting back to order. A small group of parents decided they simply had to preserve the school, which was recognized throughout the United States as an outstanding example of progressive education. The faculty agreed to accept as salaries whatever money could be raised – one of the chief reasons Parker was able to keep the doors open.
In 1941-1942, Mrs. Johnson had to put the school up for sale. With a ready buyer in the Catholic Archdiocese, an organization of Parker parents stepped in to buy the school for $22,500. In 1943, Arnholt Smith, President of the Board, was recognized for his devotion, ability and zeal…”that prevented the sale of the school to outside bidders, financed the school’s unique plan of ownership by the Parents Association, carried out a program of improvement in buildings and grounds, enabled the School to set up a substantial reserve, and stimulated the largest enrollment” in the school’s long history.
Due to wartime and the attack on Pearl Harbor, Parker game nights were discontinued, barrage balloons were in the air to protect against attack, and students in gym class filled and sewed sandbags on the playground, which became part of the bomb shelter on the schools east wing. In 1946 The Secondary Association (of private schools) in California formed an affiliated organization of lower schools. Parker was one of the eight schools in the state invited to join.
Edgar N. Sandford
Edgar graduated from Cornell University in 1934 and completed all of the requirements for his Doctorate in Education at Yale University. He taught at the Asheville School in North Carolina, Lake Forest Academy in Illinois, and at the Westover School in Connecticut served as Director of Studies and Assistant to the Principal. Edgar also continued his love for children outside the classroom by working for eight years in summer camps as assistant director and nature counselor.
"In many ways Edgar Sanford typifies the new generation of independent school principals…he believes the best approach as an independent school principal is two-fold: first – to provide students with intensive individualized instruction in the fundamentals; and second – provide guidance in many other aspects of living to give the child a full and well-rounded education” – “Frank Talk About a Private School,” San Diego Magazine, Nov. 1952.
Dr. J. Rollin Grant
Dr. Grant earned a BA degree from Cornell College in Iowa and an MA degree from the University of Colorado. He was a superintendent in Iowa schools for 20 years and administrator at Macalaster College in Minnesota before coming to Parker.
Under Dr. Grant, Parker enrollment increased from 130 to 330 students in just eight years. During his 14 year tenure, the operating budget nearly tripled, and the high school grades were reintroduced for the first time since the Depression: 10th grade in 1962, 11th grade in 1967, and 12th grade in 1968. Buildings on the Mission Hills Campus were expanded to meet the increased student demand and the changes in program required to accommodate the high school courses. Grant placed a premium on education through travel, including taking students on trips through National Parks and an annual trip to guest lodges in Tecate, Mexico.
Dr. Douglas C. Crone
Dr. Crone, born and raised in Binghamton, New York, received a BA from the State University of New York at Buffalo, an MA from the State University of New York at Albany, and an Ed.D from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He was an assistant professor at the College of General Studies at Rochester Institute of Technology, and before coming to Parker was the Headmaster of Westminster Boys’ School in Atlanta, Georgia.
“His door is always open to students and faculty, for his office is a place of business as well as relaxation. His main goal is to produce a well-rounded person, one who can excel in academics and the arts as well as sports.” – “Dedication to Dr. Crone,” The Cavalade, 1978, page 4.
In 1971, Parker faced the challenge an opportunity to meet an increased demand for independent school education in San Diego. The Board of Trustees approved the purchase of the San Miguel School for Boys, an Episcopal boarding school in the Linda Vista community, for $1.2 million. The Linda Vista Campus would house the 7th-12th grades, leaving the lower grades at the historic Mission Hills Campus.
In December 1973, the bank that carried the School’s line of credit failed, and the bank’s successor called in some of Parker’s outstanding notes that had been used to purchase the Linda Vista property. Through a series of urgent appeals to its families, and sale of a portion of the land in Linda Vista, the School weathered the financial crisis. The School went on to add new buildings on the Linda Vista Campus to accommodate an ever-growing enrollment, including the opening of the Middle School classroom building in 1986.
L. Jerral Miles
Miles had a BA degree from California State University, Chico, and did his graduate work at the University of California, as well as in Oregon, Massachusetts, and Singapore. His previous work included being Chairman of the English Department and Head of the Upper School at The American School in Singapore, Headmaster of the Potomac School in McLean, Virginia, and Headmaster of Darrow School in New Lebanon, New York.
“What works for children is a democratic style in which the adult retains authority but uses it flexibly, with due respect to the wishes, needs, and inspirations of the children. A school like Parker is organized and is perceived by its children as an institution that helps people learn the truth” – “The Essence of Parker Education Pt. II,” Parker Perspective, July/August 1994.
Under Miles, Parker garnered a reputation as one of the leading K-12 schools in southern California. Student population rose to nearly 1,000, and new buildings were added on the Linda Vista Campus to accommodate the growth. The Athletic Fields were refurbished, and the Upper School Field House was built in 1995, in a successful effort to attract students in search of a first-class athletic experience to accompany an excellent college preparatory education. In 1996, the School began to plan for the construction of a new theater to ensure that the its long tradition in the performing arts would have a place in the well-rounded education of all students.
Dr. W. Lee Pierson
Interim Headmaster, 1994 - 1995
Dr. Pierson obtained a BA from Princeton University, an MA in International Politics from the University of Pennsylvania, and an Ed.D from Harvard’s School of Education. He was president of Athens College in Greece, Europe’s largest independent school; worked as assistant to the U.S. Commissioner of Education; and was Headmaster of Rye Country Day School in Rye, N.Y. from 1979-1993. Dr. Pierson came to Parker as an interim Headmaster in 1994 and became permanent Headmaster in 1995.
"In my view, students at Parker become truly sophisticated people. My definition of sophisticated is: appreciating and respecting and learning from and feeling comfortable with and rejoicing in positive differences and diversity” – “Parker’s Scholarship Program Creates a More Sophisticated Lancer Community,” Parker Perspective, Winter 1998.
Under the leadership of Dr. Pierson, Parker took the form and attained the stature as a mature educational institution that it enjoys today. Enrollment rose to 1,000 students, and for the first time in its history, Parker turned away student applicants at all grade levels. Advanced Placement offerings in the Upper School increased by 30%, and the entire School turned to a more global focus in the educational program. Foreign exchange students arrived at the Upper School, and educational trips abroad expanded to include programs in Europe, Africa, and Central America.
The Amelita Galli-Curcci Performing Arts Center was opened in 1998. The operating budget, reached $20 million, including more than $1.5 million in tuition assistance for families of limited financial means. Campus master plans were begun for both campuses, and the first-ever long-term capital campaign was begun and completed to help fund building construction, and to increase the level of the endowment. From 2001-2003, renovation of the Lower School was completed, modernizing all of the original campus buildings and adding a new library, science classrooms, and a computer laboratory.
Head of School, 2002-2006
McIntire arrived at Parker in 2002 with an Ed. S. from The University of Virginia; an MA from Western Carolina University, North Carolina; and a BA from St. John’s University, Minnesota. He was the Executive Director of the Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools, and had been Head of School at Albuquerque Academy.
During McIntire’s tenure, enrollment reached its long-range target student population of 1,160 students, with an acceptance rate of approximately 1 in 4 applicants. The Board approved implementation of the Linda Vista Campus master plan that will convert the remainder of the old San Miguel School for Boys to a facility of national standing. Major renovations to the athletic complex were completed, including installation of a state-of-the-art synthetic field that accommodates multiple uses, even in wet weather. In 2005, the School broke ground on a brand new Upper School building complex, including the newly completed Viterbi Science center and 29 new classrooms.
Dr. Richard Blumenthal
Head of School, 2006-2010
Dr. Blumenthal served as Parker’s 11th Head of School in 94 years. He came to Parker with a Ph.D. and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University and an A.B. in English, summa cum laude, from Princeton University. He also was awarded a Advanced Professional Certificate in not-for-profit management from the Stern School of Business, New York University.
Prior to his appointment at Parker, Dr. Blumenthal served as the Head of three highly reputed schools: The Harley School in Rochester, NY (1991-1999); The Dalton School, New York, NY (1999-2001), and the Chinese International School, Hong Kong (2002-2006).
Dr. Blumenthal’s career started in 1972 as a Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Dijon, France. He then spent a year at Curry College in Milton, MA, before moving on to the Trinity School in New York (1976-1991) where he chaired the Modern Language Department.
Mr. Kevin Yaley
Head of School, 2010 - Present
In 2010, following an extensive national search by the Board of Trustees, Kevin Yaley was named the 12th Head of Francis Parker School. He transitioned from his previous role as Interim Head of School, a position he held since July 1, 2010, having previously served as the Associate Head of School at Parker for five years. Prior to that, he served as Parker's Director of Admissions for one year and also taught history, ethics and philosophy at Parker.
Before his decade with Francis Parker School, Yaley taught for ten years at University of San Diego High School. In addition to his extensive teaching and administrative background, he is regarded as one of the most successful high school soccer coaches in San Diego history, having led his teams to six CIF championships.He received his B.A. and M.A. in theology from the University of Notre Dame and his M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from San Diego State University. Yaley received the Excellence in Teaching Award from University of San Diego High School in 2001, and participated in the Independent Schools Institute at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He was a Fellow at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Edward E. Ford Fellowship for Aspiring Heads. He is currently a board member of the prestigious California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) Board of Standards.