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Distinguished Service Award
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SAIS Distinguished Service Award

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.


Jill Muti
Ashley Hall - Charleston, SC

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. Muti previously served as assistant head at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, NC, where she also served as chair of the fine arts department. She 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.

Jill 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 Spiller
Woodward Academy - Atlanta, GA

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.


Watch 2018 award presentation videos here.

Sandra Adams
Summit School - Winston-Salem, NC (1990-2008)

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 Shirley
Heathwood Hall Episcopal School - Columbia, SC (1978-2000)

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 Walker
McCallie School - Chattanooga, TN (1999-2014) and SAIS President (2015-2019)

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 Whiteside
Altamont School - Birmingham, AL (2007-2017)

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 Taylor
Jackson Academy - Jackson, MS (2007-2017)

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 Lishman
Magnolia 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 Fox
Charlotte 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 Woodbery 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 Chambers
Athens 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 Jernberg
Jackson 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. Jablon
Maclay 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 Regan
Episcopal 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 first 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.


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