Miami Country Day School says goodbye to longtime head John Davies

Dr. John Davies, longtime head of Miami Country Day School, is retiring after 32 years in the community. Here, he is sitting next to a sculpture he designed after being inspired by artist Robert Indiana on Wednesday, June 6, 2018.
Dr. John Davies, longtime head of Miami Country Day School, is retiring after 32 years in the community. Here, he is sitting next to a sculpture he designed after being inspired by artist Robert Indiana on Wednesday, June 6, 2018.

It is not too often that people describe their boss as "calming" and "relaxed," but that is precisely what came to Miami Country Day School teacher Carolyn Dorn's mind while reflecting on John Davies' 32-year involvement in the community.

In 2001, Dorn's husband had a heart attack, and she was unreachable when the call came in to the school office. Since she could not be located, Davies drove to her house to deliver the news. He rang the doorbell, told her what had happened, and drove her to the hospital.

"It was this calming, matter-of-fact force that makes this a favorite story," Dorn recalled. "Anybody could have done that for me, but it was John's empathy and compassion ... he feels what other people are feeling and you don't find that often."

Davies was head of school at Country Day for 18 years, and he grew to be one of the most loved and cherished people in South Florida's vast community of educators.

"My wife and I are staying in Miami because all of our friends are here," Davies said of his future plans. "Many if not most of our friends are based upon relationships at this school."

Beyond being an effective administrator, it was his kindness, integrity, and commitment to service that truly impacted the Country Day community. He was fully dedicated to the well-being of students and made all his decisions in their best interest.

"His No. 1 thought has always been 'kids first,'" said Charles Sennett, the school's athletic director. "It's not about parents and faculty and staff, it's about how a decision will impact the kids."

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Dr. John Davies, longtime head of Miami Country Day School is retiring after 32 years on Wednesday, June 6, 2018. C.M. Guerrero

Davies fully embodied his role as the head of school. His devotion to the success of the students, whether in kindergarten or high school, shone through in every way possible.

"He has lunch in the cafeteria every single day," County Day Media and Publications Manager Abra Adrabi said. "He really puts in the effort to be a part of our community."

The Country Day community is a tight-knit one, with generally 1,350 students each year in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. The school near Miami Shores was founded in 1938, and has vastly grown as time went on. Since becoming head of school, Davies improved various aspects of day-to-day life at Country Day. He has greatly expanded the arts and sports programs ― in fact, his own artistic endeavors are featured at the entrance of the school with his Robert Indiana-inspired statue.

"There is no one aspect of human existence that is not made better by the arts," Davies said.

Although the arts are of utmost importance to Davies, he has also supported other aspects of student life. The athletic program has blossomed under his tenure ― in the past 18 years MCDS has won 93 championships, 5 state championships, and 14 regional titles.

"The arts and music has been his true passion ... but Davies has been our Spartan superfan for years," Sennett recalled.

When Davies became head of school, Country Day had a gymnasium and "inadequate" fields. Sennett believes that it is through the constant support of Davies that allowed the athletic program to truly succeed. "His first five years of the program, he did so much for our facilities. By building them, the teams just took off and became a lot more successful."

Alongside caring for his family and students, Davies was genuine and kindhearted toward the Country Day faculty, treating them with the utmost respect, Dorn said. She recalls the interest he would take in each and every conversation she had with him, no matter how mundane it may have seemed at the time. On multiple occasions, she spoke with Davies and then found a book on that same topic in her faculty box.

"It's that very topic that you talked about with John in a casual setting," Dorn said. "He thought enough about it and enough about the person he was talking to that he immediately ordered a book and put it in their box. That's special."

Davies was even supportive to those some might view as contenders.

"We were never competitors," said Joan Lutton, former head of The Cushman School in Miami. "We are intellectually connected and we learned a lot from each other."

Actions like these truly define Davies as a person.

"John lived our mission," Sennett began. "He personified it, he believed in it ... when you've been here 32 years you'd better believe in it."

Upon speaking to Davies, his love for Country Day is clear. He has spent much of his life a part of the school community. One of his favorite aspects of being a part of the school for 32 years is being able to watch students grow. He plans to continue to be an active participant in the alumni community during his retirement.

"It's really hard to describe what it's like to know somebody who is 11, 12, 13 years old and then to see them as a professional and then as a parent," he said. "The opportunity to spend time with our graduates do things with them socially is a real joy."