The St. John's Story
“The worth of a school grows out of the achievement and character development of students, the wisdom and competence of faculty, and the hope and trust of parents.”
– Grace Cook, First Director of St. John's Episcopal School
Thought Leader. Strategic Visionary. Caring Educator. Committed Parishioner. Empathetic Friend. — These are only a few examples of the roles that describe Grace Cook, who led St. John’s through its first accreditation. Shortly after, Mrs. Cook’s role as Director shifted to Head of School. In the early 1980s, it was rare for a woman to serve as the head of any company or organization; however, in 1982, not only was Mrs. Cook perfectly suited for this position, but she possessed the dogged determination for setting a strategic direction for the School so that it could achieve transformative growth during the ensuing decade. She worked tirelessly to distinguish St. John’s among private schools, and her dedication to every student, every teacher, and every family helped to exponentially grow the School’s enrollment and was the guiding spirt for the first capital campaign, which would serve to support the architectural framework of St. John’s today.
When Mrs. Cook became Head of School after St. John’s was incorporated by the Church and gained accreditation by the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS) and Texas Education Agency (TEA), this unprecedented achievement was a result of Mrs. Cook’s cultivation of the exemplary academic experience that established St. John’s, the oldest Episcopal school in Dallas, as one of the most respected independent schools in Dallas. More than 40 years later, enrollment has doubled to nearly 500 students who are nurtured through the process of discovery, encouraged when learning from failure, and challenged to think beyond what they know to be possible to achieve their very best.
As the Head of School, Mrs. Cook never swayed from the School’s mission by remaining committed to a program of academic excellence designed to train the mind, strengthen the character, and enrich the spirit of each student in a Christian environment. Whether educational, financial, or spiritual, Mrs. Cook was adept to identifying students’ needs and never wavered from developing opportunities for their continued exploration and growth. Upon her retirement in 1995, after serving and leading the School for more than two decades, she left a legacy that embodies the values and ideals that inform the St. John’s Code, which unifies the St. John’s community today. At St. John’s, faculty, staff, and students alike continue to be guided by Mrs. Cook’s philosophy:
- Our own imperfections are somewhat arrested by our maturity and experience. Our students are not as fortunate in this regard and depend upon our guidance and direction. We need to discipline students surely and compassionately; to sympathize with them and to help them through the inevitable periods of self-doubt and uncertainty; to strengthen them both physically and spiritually; to challenge them; to help them appreciate their possibilities as educated men and women; to listen to them; to share in their laughter, their occasional disappointments, and their successes.
- St. John’s is not a perfect School. We have too few examples of hoped-for things and too many examples of their opposites. St. John’s reflects its own values and the values of society beyond the School. The facts of an imperfect world are balanced against our hope for a better world and our faith and trust in that possibility.
- St. John’s does not just take smart children and pump facts into them. We do not just teach the academically able. Our mission includes making children academically able.
- It is certainly not inevitable or even necessary that a school sense some incompatibility with teaching the very able as well as the not so able as a compromise of standards, excellence, or professional integrity. The bright motivated, willing student does not demand much encouragement, guidance, instruction, or professional expertise. It is the unmotivated, reluctant, immature student who requires our patience, individual attention, faith, praise, and expert pedagogy.
- Each of our students deserves a positive experience from his association with us. Let us not have to plead guilty to a judgment of indifference or not caring. We are engaged with the minds and character of our students, but more importantly we are engaged with the dreams and hopes of every parent. Parents have placed their children with us and their trust as well.
We celebrate Mrs. Cook’s philosophy and vision, and we are reminded of her pioneering spirit, audacious tenacity, and unequivocal dedication to every student and family that makes St. John’s the special place dearly loved by so many.