Established 2012 in Memory of Dale Regan
This award is given by the SAIS Board of Trustees to a head of school or senior administrator in recognition of a long and distinguished career in independent education as well as service to SAIS. Recipients are recognized at the SAIS Annual Conference.
The creation of this award in 2012 was inspired by the life and work of Dale Regan, who devoted 34 years of her life to the Episcopal School of Jacksonville, and who, posthumously, was the award’s first recipient.
Doreen KellyRavenscroft School – Raleigh, NCAward Presentation Video
Doreen Kelly has been the head of Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, NC, since 2003, after joining the faculty in July 1999 as the head of lower school.
Among her significant contributions to the school is the “Lead from Here” program developed in conjunction with the Center for Creative Leadership focusing on leadership and citizenship. In addition, Doreen holds several certifications as a trained executive coach and assessment provider.
Doreen currently serves on the SAIS Board of Trustees as well as the board of the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools. She is a member of the Southern Headmasters’ Association and also sits on the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women executive leadership team. She also served as a faculty member for the NAIS Institute for New Head’s for nine years.
Prior to joining Ravenscroft, she served as upper school director of studies, head of middle school, English teacher, and volleyball coach over a 10-year career at Trinity-Pawling School in Pawling, NY. She also taught English for two years at D’Education Populaire, France.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Doreen has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in education. She and her husband, Chris, have three children, all Ravenscroft alumni.
Dennis ManningNorfolk Academy – Norfolk, VAAward Presentation Video
Dennis Manning served as head of Norfolk Academy, the nation’s eighth oldest school, from 2001-2023. During his 22-year tenure he also taught English in the upper school.
Under Dennis’s leadership, the school saw the completion of two capital campaigns, the most recent and largest in its history raised over $68M, allowing for the construction or expansion of numerous on-campus facilities, as well as the creation and development of the Batten Leadership Program, which includes the five Fellows programs, Medical Scholars, and Leadership Lab, and an expansion of engineering and science education, beginning with the Engineering, Design, and Innovation Program (EDI) in the lower school. During Dennis’s tenure, the school increased student diversity from 7% to nearly 30% students of color, implemented a diversity, equity, and justice statement in 2018, and increased professional development to focus on deepening community members’ sense of belonging. The school also strengthened its student-led, faculty-guided honor system with the establishment of a middle school honor council. Dennis has also hired and mentored a number of independent school leaders, including five current independent school heads.
For a decade, Dennis served on the SAIS Board of Trustees, including a two-year term as president. He has also served on several non-profit boards, including the Wake Forest University Board of Visitors, the Smithsonian Libraries, VAIS, and Westminster-Canterbury. He is a past president of the Norfolk Forum, the longest-standing public speaking series in the country. He currently serves as a member of the TASIS Foundation Board, which oversees schools in England, Switzerland, Portugal, and Puerto Rico.
Dennis earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wake Forest University. He began his teaching career at Woodberry Forest School. He subsequently served as dean of freshmen and English instructor at Washington and Lee University and head of school for The American School in England. He and his wife, Beth, have two children, Mary Heath and Will.
Katherine KoonceThe Covenant School – Nashville, TNAward Presentation Video
Dr. Katherine Koonce: A Legacy of Transformation and Safety
Dr. Katherine Koonce, a visionary leader and educator, left an indelible mark on The Covenant School in Nashville during her tenure as its head. Her transformative leadership from 2016 until her untimely passing in a tragic event at the school on March 27, 2023, brought about remarkable achievements and lasting change.
Under Katherine’s visionary leadership, The Covenant School witnessed remarkable expansion, with school enrollment surging by over 30%. She led initiatives to elevate athletic and arts programs, rejuvenate playground facilities, and drive the growth of robotics and coding offerings, providing students with cutting-edge opportunities.
Notably, Katherine initiated the groundbreaking Ignite program at Covenant, tailored specifically for 5th and 6th graders, emphasizing faith, leadership, and responsibility, empowering these young learners to embrace their unique potential. Her unwavering commitment to parent involvement also resulted in the development of informative school-based seminars benefitting the broader Nashville community.
A Lifelong Commitment
Katherine’s passion for education was evident throughout her career. Her journey began at the Susan Gray School at Vanderbilt University, where she laid the foundation for her exceptional work in special education. After relocating to Georgia in 1987, she continued her mission in this field. The family returned to Nashville in 1998 and shortly after Katherine took on the role of learning services director at Christ Presbyterian Academy, where she made a lasting impact. Subsequently, she served as academic dean for seven years, culminating in her appointment as head of The Covenant School in 2016.
An Educational Luminary
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Katherine’s formative years at St. Joseph Catholic School and University High School instilled a strong foundation. She pursued higher education at Vanderbilt University, earning her bachelor’s degree in special education. Furthering her expertise, she obtained a master’s degree in education specializing in learning, behavior, and attention difficulties from Georgia State University. Her educational journey culminated in a doctorate in education from Trevecca University.
A Hero’s Legacy
Tragically, Katherine Koonce’s life was cut short during a mass shooting at The Covenant School on March 27, 2023. Her unwavering commitment to safety ensured that all teachers had completed active shooter training, a measure that ultimately saved hundreds of lives. Alongside Katherine, five others lost their lives in this heartbreaking incident, including three young students – Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, all age nine, and two dedicated staff members – substitute teacher Cynthia Peak and custodian Michael Hill.
Dr. Katherine Koonce’s legacy continues to inspire us all. Her vision, leadership, and dedication to education will forever be remembered, guiding future generations toward a brighter and safer future.
Rachel DeemsSpartanburg Day School – Spartanburg, SCAward Presentation Video
Rachel Deems was named head of Spartanburg Day School in 2012. Under her leadership, the school reached its highest enrollment in almost 20 years and surpassed the strategic endowment goal. She previously served at two independent schools in Georgia: head of The Westfield School in Perry for four years and director of development at Stratford Academy in Macon for nine years. Prior to that, she served as chief administrative officer, assistant provost, and dean of students at Mercer University and director of alumnae affairs and vice president at Judson College.
Rachel has volunteered for the Spartanburg Philharmonic Orchestra, United Way of the Piedmont, Globalbike, the Rotary Club, and the Spartanburg Regional Hospital System. She also formerly served as a board member of both GISA and SAIS.
A native Alabamian, Rachel holds a B.A. from Judson College and an M.A. from The University of Alabama
Jack HallCarterBaldwin Executive Search – Atlanta, GAAward Presentation Video
Jack Hall served as head of The Walker School in Atlanta from 2011-2022, overseeing the school’s largest capital campaign and spearheading the New Avenues Immersive Dyslexia Program. He previously served as head of Augusta Preparatory Day School for 12 years. Prior to that, he was a teacher, coach, and administrator at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta for 11 years, founding upper school head at The Out-of-Door Academy in Sarasota, and the director of admission & financial aid at MICDS in St. Louis. In July 2022, he joined CarterBaldwin Executive Search.
A native Atlantan, Jack is an avid Braves fan and a dedicated Sunday School teacher who has also served on and chaired the boards of both GISA and The Stony Brook School as well as serving as a facilitator for the SAIS Institute for New Heads.
Jack holds a B.A. in theatre from Davidson College, an M.S. in athletic administration from Georgia State University, and an M.A. in education administration from Columbia University, where he was a Klingenstein Fellow.
Marifred CilellaThe Howard School – Atlanta, GAAward presentation video
Marifred Cilella has served as head of The Howard School in Atlanta since 2005. Under her leadership, the school has experienced a tremendous amount of growth and change that she has overseen, beginning with moving the campus across town all the way to the latest $14.3 million capital campaign. The new location and larger facilities have allowed The Howard School to broaden its horizons and offer new programs.
Before moving to Atlanta, Marifred served as founding director of The Russel & Mary Williams Learning Project at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis. She began her career in administration at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School in Columbia, SC, first as lower school principal, and ultimately, as associate head for finance and operations. Prior to those positions, she was as a teacher, consultant, continuing education director for the American Association of Museums, and she served on the White House domestic affairs staff.
Marifred has held a variety of leadership positions in the independent school community. In addition to serving on the SAIS Board of Trustees, she served as a board member of the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA), the International Dyslexia Association-Georgia (IDA-GA), and as a member of the Advisory Council of the Disabilities Ministry of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. She served as president of the Atlanta Area Association of Independent Schools (AAAIS) and continues to serve on the AAAIS Executive Committee. She is the president of the Georgia Association of Private Schools for Exceptional Children (GAPSEC), has been recognized on numerous Who’s Who lists, is a graduate of Leadership Atlanta, served on the Atlanta Beltline Planning Committee, and is a current member of the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta.
Marifred received her B.A. in English from Rosary College (now Dominican University) and her Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Notre Dame. She completed additional graduate work in early childhood education and educational leadership at the University of South Carolina as well as The Principals’ Institute at Harvard University.
Mark ReedJohn M. Belk Endowment – Charlotte, NCCharlotte Country Day School – Charlotte, NC (2009-2021)Award presentation video
Mark Reed served as head of Charlotte Country Day School from 2009-2021. During his tenure, he led efforts to substantially increase the school’s endowment to its current high of $64 million. Enrollment also grew under his leadership, and a reenrollment rate of 97% was achieved. A capital campaign that yielded over $100 million afforded the construction of five new buildings plus three renovations.
Prior to his arrival at Country Day, Mark served as the assistant head at St. John’s in Houston, where he worked his way up from roles including teacher, coach, dean of students, and interim director of advancement.
A native of Montana, Mark received his undergraduate degree from the University of Houston, his master’s in independent school leadership from Columbia University, and an honorary doctorate of education from Lees-McRae College. He was a world-class high jumper from 1986-1993 and competed on the international track and field circuit.
In addition to serving on and chairing the SAIS Board of Trustees, he has served on the boards of the Foundation for the Carolinas, the Good Fellows Club, the North Carolina Banking Commission, and Atrium Health. He is a field professor and advisory board member of the Klingenstein Center at Columbia University as well as the National Merit Scholarship Advisory Council.
Jill MutiAshley Hall – Charleston, SCAward presentation video
Since Jill Muti’s appointment as head at Ashley Hall in 2004, she has spearheaded efforts to revitalize the school’s classical curriculum and execute a comprehensive master plan encompassing programmatic advances, new and re-purposed facilities, community engagement, and global immersion. Under her leadership, the school has added 95,000 square feet of teaching space, tripled their endowment, and completed three capital campaigns.
Jill previously served as assistant head at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, NC, where she also served as chair of the fine arts department. Throughout her career she has taught instrumental and choral music and has performed throughout Europe and the United States in recitals as well as an orchestral musician.
In 1996, Jill and her husband Lorenzo founded Spoleto Study Abroad, a nonprofit organization that provides arts and humanities studies in Spoleto, Italy, for secondary students and faculty from around the globe. More than 70 schools have partnered with Spoleto Study Abroad.
Jill is a past member of the SAIS Board of Trustees and currently serves on the boards of the National Coalition of Girls Schools, the Headmistresses Association of the East, and is a council member of The Heads Network.
She is a graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy and earned her bachelor’s degree in music and English literature from Depauw University. She continued her studies at the Wiener Hochschule für Musik in Vienna, Austria, and holds a master’s degree in musicology from Duke University.
Marcia Prewitt SpillerWoodward Academy – Atlanta, GAAward presentation video
Marcia Prewitt Spiller is the senior vice president for academic and student life at Woodward Academy. She previously spent two decades as head of The Children’s School in Atlanta. Spiller served on the SAIS Board of Trustees and also chaired the boards of both NAIS and GISA. She is currently board chair of The Enrollment Management Association and a board member of the Atlanta Speech School, Planned Parenthood of the Southeast, and YMCA of Metro Atlanta. She conducts seminars and workshops on diversity, multi-cultural curriculum, and teacher training.
Spiller is a 10-year veteran of the /I/D/E/A/ Fellows Summer Institute for Distinguished Educators as well as a graduate of Leadership Atlanta. She has served on over 30 accreditation teams throughout her career and has also consulted on accreditation with schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Spiller earned her bachelor’s in elementary education at Fisk University and her master’s in educational administration from Georgia State University.
Sandra AdamsSummit School – Winston-Salem, NC (1990-2008)Award presentation video
Sandra Adams began her independent school career teaching Latin at Summit School in Winston-Salem, NC, in 1967. In 1990, she was named head of school and over the next 18 years, she led Summit in raising more than $22 million to build a library, an athletics center, a dining room, a 2nd-3rd grade building, a playground, and renovate the junior high building.
Adams served on the SAIS Board of Trustees from 1994-2006, including appointments as treasurer, secretary, vice chair, and chair (2004-2006). She chaired 12 accreditation visits. She also served on the boards of NAIS and NCAIS, and she was the first female member of the Southern Heads Association. In 2008, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley awarded The Order of the Long Leaf Pine to Adams upon her retirement from Summit School in recognition of her 41 years of service.
Adams earned her BA in English and Latin from Wake Forest College. She returned to her alma mater to earn a master’s degree in counseling and later earned her Ed.D. from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.
Bob ShirleyHeathwood Hall Episcopal School – Columbia, SC (1978-2000)Award presentation video
Bob Shirley served as head of Heathwood Hall Episcopal School in Columbia, SC, from 1978-2000. From 2000-2012, Shirley was the executive director for the National Center for Independent School Renewal but also held other school positions during that tenure. In 2000, he took the role of interim head at Gaston Day School in Gastonia, NC, and in 2001 filled the role of interim head at Bimmer and May School in Chestnut Hill, MA. In 2003-2004, Shirley took a short departure from education as the interim executive director at the Columbia Museum of Art. He served as head of Charleston Collegiate School in Charleston, SC, from 2005-2011, and as interim head at Woodlawn School in Davidson, NC, from 2014-2016.
Shirley served on the SAIS Board of Trustees from 1994-2000. He holds the record for chairing the most accreditation visits with 26.
Shirley earned three degrees: a BA from Furman University (1958), an MA from Wake Forest University (1970), and a Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina, Columbia (1990).
Kirk WalkerMcCallie School – Chattanooga, TN (1999-2014) and SAIS President (2015-2019)Award presentation video
Kirk Walker served as head of McCallie School in Chattanooga, TN, from 1999-2014. He led the school through a great period of growth that included the construction on two new dorms and a new dining facility, enhancements to the campus chapel, and a 30 percent increase in enrollment.
In 2015, Walker was named president of SAIS after many years of deep engagement with the association, serving the SAIS Board of Trustees as secretary, treasurer, accreditation committee chair, and board chair. He helped launch the initial SAIS accreditation program and has participated on 12 SAIS accreditation visits. Additionally, he chaired the board of the Tennessee Association of Independent Schools (TAIS).
After graduating from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, with a BA in comparative religion and as a Morehead Scholar, he began a teaching career and later earned both his MS in English education and his Ph.D. in curriculum development at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University. He served as a supervisor of instruction in Ft. Campbell, KY, as head of Bright School in Chattanooga, TN, (1982-1990) and as head of Ensworth School in Nashville, TN, (1990-1999).
Sarah WhitesideAltamont School – Birmingham, AL (2007-2017)Award presentation video
Sarah Whiteside began her career in 1978 as a Latin teacher at Altamont School. In 2003, she was named assistant head and head of the middle school. In 2007, she became head of school.
Under her leadership, Altamont successfully completed a $10 million campaign that supported the school library, a center for the arts, new athletics and wellness facilities, and additional funds for scholarship and endowment. She has overseen the launch of a 1:1 laptop program as well as a new computer science program, a center for ethical leadership, and teacher research grants. In 2017, Altamont became the first school in Birmingham to install a solar array to reduce energy consumption on campus.
Whiteside served on the SAIS Board of Trustees for three years. She received her undergraduate degree in 1969 from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College with a major in Latin. The following year she received an M.A. in classical archaeology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Pat TaylorJackson Academy – Jackson, MS (2007-2017)Award presentation video
With a career in education spanning more than 40 years, Pat Taylor began his career in 1972 as a history teacher at St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile, AL, and for the next 35 years served St. Paul’s as dean of students, principal, and assistant head of school. He also served as head of Houston Academy in Dothan, AL.
Taylor served as head of Jackson Academy for more than a decade, where he proved visionary, leading the academic team as it advanced into STEM education, an Apple K-12 one-to-one environment, divisional restructuring that created a middle school, and personalized learning influenced by new brain research.
Taylor earned degrees from the University of South Alabama and LaSalle University. He served on the SACS Alabama state committee, the SAIS accreditation committee, and is currently serving on the board of AISA.
Marvin LishmanMagnolia Heights School – Senatobia, MS (1981-present)
Marvin Lishman became head of Magnolia Heights School in Senatobia, MS, in 1981.
Lishman holds an undergraduate degree from Mississippi State University, a master’s degree from Delta State University, and an Ed.D. in educational administration and supervision from University of Mississippi. He has also served as an adjunct professor at Mississippi College and Delta State. Lishman has served on numerous committees and in leadership roles for SAIS, SACS, MAIS, and AdvanceEd. He served on the SAIS Board of Trustees from 2009-2016, including as secretary of the executive committee.
Ned FoxCharlotte Latin School – Charlotte, NC (1976-2001)
Edward (Ned) J. Fox, Jr, devoted 52 years to the field of K-12 independent education. He served as head of Charlotte Latin School in Charlotte, NC, from 1976-2001, and prior to that was upper school head at Collegiate School in Richmond, VA, and on staff at numerous other independent schools. He also served as interim head at six independent schools from North Carolina to Texas to Arkansas to New Mexico. Additionally, Fox served in leadership positions for SAIS, NAIS, NCAIS, SACS and many other civic and charitable organizations, including service on the national board of the Cum Laude Society. During his career, he participated in over 70 SACS accreditation visits and led the development of the accreditation program for SAIS.
Fox graduated from Woodberry Forest School in Woodberry Forest, VA. He went on to earn his undergraduate degree in history from Rice University, his M.A.T. in English from Johns Hopkins University, and his Ed.D. in school administration from Nova Southeastern University. He taught seminars on independent school administration at colleges around the country, including Vanderbilt University, as well as founding the SAIS Administrative Institute in 1983 and the SAIS Institute for New Teachers in 1985.
A resolution adopted by the Collegiate School Board of Trustees in 1976 upon Fox’s departure reads, “Ned Fox is a gentleman, at home with all manner of people, equally at ease at a play, in a library, a museum, or the cheering section of a sports arena. With his sense of humor and ready repartee, he is the center of most school groups. He is not an ivory tower scholar, but respects learning as a basis for quality instruction. In establishing curriculum and programming, he has always been creative and innovative.”
J. Robert ChambersAthens Academy – Athens, GA (1983-2013)
Bob Chambers served as head of Athens Academy for 30 years, from 1983 to 2013. Prior to that, Chambers was the assistant head of Pace Academy, where he began his career in 1963 as a science teacher and athletic coach. Chambers served on the boards of GISA, SAIS, NAIS, and the Georgia High School Association, among others, and he also chaired the SAIS accreditation committee. He holds bachelor of science and master of education degrees from the University of Georgia.
J. Peter JernbergJackson Academy – Jackson, MS (1988-2014)
Peter Jernberg retired from his role as president of Jackson Academy in 2014, after 47 years of service. His career began in 1967 at Indianola Academy where he served as history teacher, coach, and academic dean before being appointed head in 1979. In 1988, Jernberg was named head of Jackson Academy.
He served in a variety of leadership roles for MAIS, SAIS, SACS, and AdvancED, including as chair of the SAIS board and vice-chair of the SACS board. He holds bachelor of arts and master of education degrees from Delta State University.
William W. JablonMaclay School – Tallahassee, FL (1976-2014)
Bill Jablon retired from Maclay School in 2014 after 45 years, 38 of those years as head. He began his career in 1969 as an English teacher at Maclay. In 1976 he was appointed head and since then the campus has grown from 130 students on 44 acres to over 900 students on 100 acres.
Jablon, who holds degrees from Boston College and Florida State University, served as board chair of both SAIS and FCIS, and also was a board member of NAIS from 1990-1994.
Dale ReganEpiscopal School of Jacksonville – Jacksonville, FL (2007-2012)
Dale Regan began teaching English literature at Episcopal School of Jacksonville, FL, in 1978. She became an administrator in 1983 and served as department chair, curriculum director, academic dean, communications director, and assistant head. She was named head of school in 2007, the first woman to hold the title since the school opened its doors in 1968. She quickly embarked on a $4 million campus construction effort that led to two new buildings on the campus. She was a Jacksonville native who attained degrees at Florida State University and the University of North Florida. Dale kept river rocks in a basket in her office, encouraging faculty to take one to keep as they pondered difficult decisions. She also used them in chapel, building complex rock piles to show students how important steadiness was in achieving goals. At her memorial service, students passed out hundreds of river rocks they’d decorated bearing messages like love, courage, and faith.