Miami Country Day School didn’t start out as a matchmaker when its founders opened its doors 75 years ago.
But for several families, the school, and its “whole student” approach, altered lives.
Laura Morgan Horton, an attorney who specializes in estate planning and probate, laughs when she recounts her first date with now-husband Mallory.
“I was visiting my parents and he asked me out to dinner. When we started talking about, ‘Where did you grow up?’ whatever I said, he said, ‘Me, too!’ I was getting suspicious. I’d never seen him before.”
The ‘Me, toos’ kept coming. When Mallory, then an Air Force Academy grad and currently a pilot with United Airlines, asked where she had attended school, both chimed in unison: Miami Country Day.
“Now I know you’re lying,” Horton remembers telling her astonished date. There were 17 people in her graduating class of 1983. She knew everyone.
That’s when the couple found out there was a six-year age difference. Mallory, 54, graduated from Miami Country Day’s ninth-grade class in 1977 before the school added a high school component, and he went on to graduate from Miami Edison Senior High.
“There was so much overlap,” Horton, 48, said. Favorite teachers. Shared philosophies.
Three dates later, he proposed. The couple married six months later, have been together for 24 years, and are raising three children — ages 16, 14 and 11 — in Coral Gables.
There have been 2,431 graduates since 1981, the first year Miami Country Day had a 12th-grade graduating class, and 1,229 graduates between 1938 and 1980.
On Saturday, many of these students’ stories and those of their teachers will be shared as the independent private school on the outskirts of Miami Shores celebrates its first 75 years with a birthday party in its new Katherine E. Franco Center for Learning Resources.
At the gathering, the school plans to unveil a timeline of significant events, dating to that day in September 1938 when L.B. Sommers and C.W. “Doc” Abele opened the facility as Miami Country Day & Resident School for Boys. That first year two teachers educated nine boys.
Today, 18 current teachers and administrators at the coed institution have been with the pre-K-12 school for 25 or more years.
John C. “Jack” DuBois, for example, would begin his career at Country Day in 1954 teaching history and Latin and, at 86, remains active as an alumni advisor. The Hortons both had DuBois for Latin.
“We loved learning Latin from him,” Laura Horton said. “He was always entertaining. My husband had him also for football. It’s funny, we didn’t grow up together but we lived these parallel lives and had these shared experiences. He talks about something and I know exactly what he’s referring to. That’s unusual in Miami since we are so transient.”
The 75th anniversary is “a great time to take pause and celebrate as the school has a wonderful history,” said Head of School John Davies, a 28-year-veteran. But it is also a time for action.
“Moving ahead, what is it we need to be doing now to make sure we are meeting the needs of our students,” he pondered.
Miami Country Day, like other schools, has had to keep pace with rapid technological advancements. A $10 million “Securing the Future” campaign in 2005 helped the school expand and add the Franco Center in 2010.