Longtime Heathwood Head of School Bob Shirley has been honored with the 2018 Distinguished Service Award by the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS). The award is given annually by SAIS to a head of school or senior administrator in recognition of a long and distinguished career in independent education.
Dr. Shirley served as Head of School at Heathwood for 23 years, from 1978 to 2000, joining the Heathwood community at a pivotal time in the school’s history when both the current campus and the Upper School were just a few years old. Under his leadership, Heathwood came to be recognized not merely as one of the best independent schools in South Carolina but as a school deserving of national attention for its innovative programs and strong emphasis on experiential learning.
“Bob Shirley left an indelible mark on the soul of Heathwood,” said current Head of School Chris Hinchey. “He was visionary in the construction of Heathwood’s distinctive curriculum, overseeing the development of our Senior Exhibition capstone thesis project, our Winterim experiential learning week, and the Johns Island senior service project. All of these amazing opportunities are now close to 30 years old."
All told, Dr. Shirley has more than half a century of experience as an educator. In addition to his time at Heathwood, he has served as Head of School at Charleston Collegiate, interim head at several schools, and interim Executive Director of the Columbia Museum of Art. He also served on the SAIS Board of Trustees from 1994-2000. He holds a BA from Furman, an MA from Wake Forest, and a Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina.
After relocating to North Carolina and then to Charleston, Dr. Shirley and his wife, Thrace, have recently returned to Columbia—and to Heathwood, where Dr. Shirley is currently partnering with Upper School Head George Scouten to teach a seminar on Plato that’s open to Heathwood students, parents, and faculty.
Co-teaching with Dr. Shirley is a particularly meaningful experience, Dr. Scouten said, because “Bob Shirley had a significant impact on my philosophy as a teacher and on my approach to what a model school should look like. After all, Bob was my first Head of School, and we even co-taught an AP English class together his final year at Heathwood. I am proud that Chris, Middle School Head Suzanne Nagy, Early Childhood and Lower School Head Stephanie Scanlon and I can continue to build upon his work here at Heathwood Hall, and I hope we honor his legacy even as we continue to move the school forward.”