Scholar-Athlete Tradition

The tradition of the scholar-athlete has long been embedded in the fabric of Dwight School. From the earliest days in our history, students with “D”s emboldened on their chest made newspaper headlines with record-breaking victories over local rivals. These same students were destined to go on to elite colleges, illustrating how excelling in the classroom and on the playing field went hand-in-hand.

The scholar-athlete tradition is also deeply rooted in the Spahn family, beginning with Dr. M.C. Spahn, who served as Headmaster of Franklin School for 25 years. Dr. Spahn took the helm of Franklin, which later joined forces with Dwight, following a career as a professional basketball player. After playing as an All-American at CCNY, he turned pro and became the fifth all-time leading scorer in the history of the American Basketball League. Upon retiring from the game, he went on to earn a PhD in Education. While officially headmaster, everyone called Dr. Spahn “Coach,” reflecting his role as mentor.

Dr. Spahn’s son, Dwight School Chancellor Stephen Spahn, was encouraged from a young age to succeed equally in academic and athletic pursuits. He followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming an All-American basketball player at Dartmouth College, where he established several scoring records. Along with accolades came the belief that the passionate pursuit of excellence requires more than talent, but also hard work, dedication, persistence — and the support of great coaches.

Extending the Spahn tradition of scholar-athletes are Chancellor Spahn’s sons and Dwight graduates. Vice Chancellor Blake Spahn ’89 was Captain of the Columbia College men’s tennis Ivy League championship team. Kirk, who serves as Chairman of The Dwight Schools, was a member of Dartmouth College men’s tennis team. They both played for Dwight, where they were encouraged to pursue their athletic spark of genius.

Over the course of nearly 50 years since Chancellor Spahn took the helm of Dwight, there have been generations of scholar-athletes. Some have broken records, claimed championship titles in their sport of choice, and competed proudly in the Olympic Games; all, with support of mentors, coaches, and teachers have been encouraged to exceed beyond their own expectations both on and off the court. That tradition continues today. Whether competing individually or as a member of a team, students are encouraged to do their personal best, be collegial, show good sportsmanship, and demonstrate the core values of a Dwight athlete.