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 over 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 $48.5 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, K Term, Global Scholars, and the interdisciplinary approach that distinguishes classrooms at KUA, our Integrated Learning Program (ILP), have been implemented.
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 re-purposed 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, opened its doors in January 2014. In 2013, “The Barn,” a full sized 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, newly renovated dormitories and faculty housing, and new hardscaping and landscaping. Most recently, the 1813 House, a centrally located home on Main Street, received an extension which houses a 17 bed dorm, and an additional faculty residence. The project will help us attain our objective of 50/50 gender balance, as outlined in Ascent
, the school's strategic plan.
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 as Vice President. 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 a 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, and was recently elected to the prestigious Headmasters Association.
Mike is married to Gayle Schafer who serves in KUA’s Admissions and Communications Offices assisting with the schools marketing efforts. They live on campus in Munro House. The Schafers have three children, Hannah (KUA’12, Colby College class of 2016), Joanna (KUA ’15, Bates College Class of 2019, and Jonathan, (Kimball Union Class of 2019).