School History

Our founder, F. Alden Shaw was born to Charles Joseph Shaw and Elizabeth Gahring Shaw in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota on December 20, 1885. Mr. Shaw graduated from the prestigious Boston Latin School in 1905 and Harvard College in 1909. He moved to Paris, France and enrolled in the School for Advanced Studies (Ecole des Hautes), and began raising funds and recruiting students to begin his dream of founding a private school for boys. He soon realized that circumstances in Paris made founding a school an unreasonably daunting task; he decided to return to the United States. On the ship back to America, Mr. Shaw recalls an acquaintance raving about the wondrous opportunities in the blossoming American city of Detroit, Michigan and decided to build a school there.
In the spring of 1914, F. Alden Shaw, under the name the Detroit Preparatory School, submitted the following advertisement to the local paper:
"Mr. F. Alden Shaw, A.B. (Harvard 1909), announces that September next, he will open a small school for boys. Having had experience as a teacher in Boston, and as a private tutor in the families of Mr. George Lee of Boston, and Mr. Edwin D. Morgan of New York, he comes to Detroit, where there would seem to be a larger field for him. Referring by permission to Reverend Eugene Rodman Shippin, Mr. D. Stearns of Fredrick Stearns and Company and to Mr. Charles Moore, Security Trust Company, Detroit, Michigan. (For appointments address F. A. Shaw, Care Y.M.C.A., Detroit, Michigan.)"
The legacy of Mr. Shaw is so intrinsically woven into the culture of Detroit Country Day School that, in many ways, the school is still a manifestation of his vision of what a school should be. His emphasis on academic rigor and preparedness for higher education is still eminent in the school today, as is his belief in the benefits cultivating athletics and the arts, as well as traditions of character-building, mutual respect among students and faculty, and embracing social and personal responsibility. As Detroit Country Day School moves toward the future, we do so with confidence in our conviction that these principles are part of the fabric of the school and will continue to guide our path to the future.


Mr. F. Alden Shaw, Founder

Mr. F. Alden Shaw started the school in 1914 and remained the Headmaster until 1961. He continued teaching at the school until his death in 1993.

Mr. Shaw guided the school through two world wars, and several campus moves until settling in the current location at Lahser and 13 Mile Rd which was considered Birmingham in 1957. Through his tenure his focus was always to develop the whole child and took to heart his motto for the school: mens sana in corpore sano - a sound mind in a sound body.

Dr. Rodney Snelling

Dr. Snelling was the Headmaster of the school from 1961 - 1966. During his time there he doubled enrollment, fundraised to bring a football and track field to the Birmingham campus. He also helped initiate the campaign to add a Learning Center.

Dr. Richard A. Schlegel

Dr. Schlegel became the third Headmaster of the school in 1967 and remained at the helm until 1986. During his tenor he expanded the music and fine arts programs, added the Shaw gymnasium, initiated a preschool and foreign exchange program, and also oversaw the purchase of the Village and Maple Road Campuses.

Mr. Gerald T. Hansen

After many years of being a member of the math faculty and department head, Mr. Hansen became our fourth Headmaster in 1986. During his tenor a Middle School was built and became our Hillview Campus. Also the addition of the Seligman Performing Arts Center, the Barbara Plamondon Earle Early Learning Center (the Hamlet), Village Campus expansion, and the Global Campus Campaign which updated the high school with new administrative offices and a science wing. Mr. Hansen remained Headmaster until 2007.

Mr. Glen P. Shilling

Our current Headmaster had been a long-time history faculty member and school administrator before becoming the Headmaster in 2007. Under Mr. Shilling's leadership the Cooper Gymnasium, the Gerald T. Hansen Athletic Complex, and the Glen P. Shilling Field House were completed.  Other big additions to the school include the Nicole and Stephen Eisenberg Studio Theatre, a new Middle School wing, and the current construction of a new Lower School at our Maple Road Campus. Mr. Shilling has announced his retirement in the year 2020 and the school is in the process of looking for their sixth Head of School. 

New Head of School in 2020!

We are pleased to welcome our first "Head of School." Rich Dempsey, from the Pomfret School in Pomfret, Connecticut, will become our newest lead administrator and the first to hold the more modern title of Head of School.  From his 23 years plus experience, we anticipate Mr. Dempsey to continue his thought leadership in the development of innovative educational models designed to prepare students for their futures. To learn more about Mr. Dempsey read the email sent to the community on June 6, 2019.

Portrait picture of new head of school