Head of School
Kimball Union Academy
In 2003, Mike Schafer was appointed Kimball Union’s 18th Head of School since its founding in 1813.
Widely recognized for his vision, energy, and strong leadership, Mike has been instrumental in the adoption and execution of the Academy’s long-range strategic plan and campus master plan. Mike’s leadership has earned confidence, mutual trust, and investment throughout the Kimball Union and independent school community, helping to advance the vision for the Academy as it celebrates its bicentennial and approaches its third century.
In 2007, Kimball Union received an unrestricted $5 million gift, the Academy’s largest outright gift in its almost 200-year history, to be used “at the discretion of the Head of School.” Many significant gifts have followed, substantially increasing the school’s endowment to support financial aid, faculty innovation and professional growth, and provide new resources to consistently offer a balance of programs with low student-teacher ratios. Under Mike’s leadership, the Board of Trustees launched the $38 million IMPACT Capital Campaign – the most successful campaign in the school’s history – which as of August 31, 2013 had exceeded its goal, raising $45 million with more anticipated before the end of the campaign December 31, 2013.
An educational innovator, under Mike’s leadership new academic initiatives including an award-winning S.T.E.M. program, Kimball Union’s signature Writing Across the Curriculum initiative, and the interdisciplinary approach that distinguishes classrooms at KUA, our Integrated Learning Program (ILP), have been implemented.
Mike’s commitment to leadership is echoed in the school’s mission statement and in the important role developing leaders plays in KUA’s student life program. The recently introduced Leadership Institute for student leaders, held each year before the start of school, is just one example. The Compass Program, a grade-specific social program that explores living the KUA mission of academic mastery, responsibility, creativity, and leadership, as well as ethical dilemmas and social challenges in our changing world is another recent initiative introduced under Schafer’s guidance.
Programs in the Arts and Athletics have also been significantly strengthened and expanded during Mike’s tenure, with a continued focus on making it possible for KUA students to participate in both areas of co-curricular life.
Mike believes strongly in a student-centered approach and in creating an ideal environment for learning. To that end, a beautiful new Campus Center was completed in 2008, and a fully repurposed and renovated humanities center, Miller Bicentennial Hall, opened its doors in 2010. Phase 2 of the Miller project, a state-of-the-art library and learning center, will open its doors in January 2014. In 2013, “The Barn,” an indoor turf field, was completed, providing KUA students with an indoor facility during the winter months and a practice venue during the shoulder seasons. Other campus improvements have included Pope Field, a lighted, turf field that is the centerpiece to the Lower Fields complex, the Bicentennial Quadrangle, renovated dormitories and faculty housing, and new hardscaping and landscaping.
A committed boarding school person and veteran of independent schools, Mike began his teaching career in Massachusetts at Cushing Academy and Belmont Hill School where he was a “triple threat” teacher, coach, advisor, and dorm parent before taking on administrative duties in college advising, alumni and development, and athletic administration—all while teaching Spanish and coaching—at Middlesex School in Concord, MA. In 2000, Mike was appointed Assistant Head of School for Student Life, working in close collaboration with the Head of School to define and shape the Middlesex School community during its Centennial Campaign.
Mike represents Kimball Union on a number of national, regional, and local education and philanthropic organizations. He is a trustee at Berwick Academy in Maine and serves on the Independent School Association of Northern New England (ISANNE) Board of Directors. A varsity college athlete in three sports at Colby, Mike continues to play soccer, squash, paddle tennis, and golf, and enjoys the occasional tennis game.
Mike is a graduate of Colby College and holds an M.Ed. from Harvard. He completed the Tuck Executive Program Program (TEP) at Dartmouth College in 2011 and was awarded a fellowship to the Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership’s 2014 Heads of Schools program.
Mike is married to Gayle Schafer who serves as an Admission/Marketing liaison. They live on campus in Munro House. The Schafers have three children, Hannah (KUA’12, Colby College class of 2016), Joanna KUA class of 2015, and Jonathan who attends Cardigan Mountain School.