Heads of School

William Mann Irvine | 1893-1928

William Mann Irvine, Ph.D., was appointed to lead Mercersburg in 1893 at the age of 28. Previously an instructor at Franklin & Marshall College, Dr. Irvine earned a Ph.D. in political science from Princeton University in 1892.

Within months of his appointment, Dr. Irvine renamed the school Mercersburg Academy and reorganized it as a college preparatory school based on the Exeter model. He launched the new school in the fall of 1893 with 40 boys, four instructors, and four acres of leased ground. 

During Dr. Irvine’s tenure, Mercersburg rapidly grew in size and stature, gaining regional and national recognition as a top college preparatory boarding school with strong ties to Princeton University. Among his achievements was the construction of three dormitories, a dining hall, gymnasium, infirmary, administration building, and the Chapel. A new Main Hall and annex were built after a fire gutted Old Main in 1927.

Boyd Edwards | 1928-1941

Boyd Edwards, D.D., was elected headmaster in 1928 on the death of Dr. Irvine. Dr. Edwards, who held a doctor of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary, successfully guided the school through the Great Depression, while further raising academic standards and improving the Academy’s buildings and grounds.

Charles Tippetts ’12 | 1941-1961

Charles S. Tippetts ’12, Ph.D., resigned from a deanship at the University of Pittsburgh to become headmaster in 1941. A graduate of Harvard and Princeton universities, Dr. Tippetts presided over the difficult war years and the completion of a new development program begun in 1949. During this time, Irvine Hall was completed and the James Buchanan cabin, birthplace of the 15th president of the United States, was moved onto the campus.

William Fowle | 1961-1972

William C. Fowle came to Mercersburg in 1961 from The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. As headmaster, Mr. Fowle greatly enhanced the Academy’s facilities, strengthened its endowment, and smoothly introduced coeducation and racial integration. Among other projects, his tenure saw the completion of Tippetts Hall and the construction of Boone Hall and Ford Hall.

Walter Burgin ’53 | 1972-1997

In 1972, Walter H. Burgin Jr. ’53 left his teaching post at Phillips Exeter Academy to take over as headmaster at Mercersburg. Mr. Burgin had previously served as chair and a member of the Academy’s mathematics department. During his 25-year tenure, Mr. Burgin fully integrated female students into all areas of school life and led a comprehensive reshaping of the Academy’s academic facilities, including the construction of Lenfest Hall, the school’s 45,000-volume library. Mr. Burgin developed a tradition of strong partnership in the decision-making process between headmaster and faculty, and greatly strengthened the Academy’s financial and physical assets.

Douglas Hale | 1997-2016

Douglas Hale came to Mercersburg in 1997 from Baylor School, where he served variously as teacher, assistant headmaster, and headmaster since 1973. Mr. Hale’s tenure was characterized by remarkable growth in faculty, admission, academic programs, technology, the endowment, and the overall physical plant. 

During Mr. Hale’s tenure, Mercersburg renovated all seven of its residence halls and connected the entire campus to a wireless network. The academic program grew to include more than 40 AP and honors courses, while athletics expanded to 26 varsity sports. The arts department added dance, instrumental and vocal music, and visual arts programs. The Burgin Center for the Arts and the Simon Student Center were constructed, Nolde Gymnasium was fully renovated, and construction began on the Hale Field House (named in his honor). Mr. Hale also presided over dramatic growth of the school’s endowment and the enormously successful Daring to Lead Campaign, which raised $300 million.

Katherine Titus | 2016-2021

Katie came to Mercersburg in July 2016 after serving as associate head for school life at St. George’s School in Middletown, Rhode Island. She had served St. George’s in a variety of leadership roles since 2005, including dean of students and assistant head for student life before assuming the duties of associate head. As associate head, Katie oversaw the day-to-day running of the school in conjunction with the head of school and was an active member of the math faculty. Prior to St. George’s, she was the director of college counseling at Pingree School in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, where she also taught math, served as an adviser, and coached.

Katie earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics with a minor in secondary education from Middlebury College, where she was a standout on the women’s basketball team, scoring more than 1,000 points in her four-year career and serving as a two-year team captain. She received a master’s degree in educational leadership from Columbia University in 2011.