Indian Springs School

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Indian Springs School
Indian Springs School shield.jpg
Established 1952
School type Private
District N/A
Grades 8-12
Head of School Scott Schamberger
Enrollment 325 (2022)
Colors maroon & gray
Mascot none
Location 190 Woodward Drive
Indian Springs Village

Indian Springs School is an 8th-12th grade boarding and day school at 190 Woodward Drive, at the base of Oak Mountain in Indian Springs Village, Shelby County. As of 2017 the school has 307 students. Scott Schamberger is Head of School.


Indian Springs School was founded in 1952 by Birmingham businessman Harvey G. Woodward, who left the funds and instructions for creating the school in his will at his death in 1930.

Woodward wanted to make the school available to both Alabama's elite and rural poor (though he stipulated that only white male gentiles should be admitted). These restrictions have all been challenged and abolished. He also instructed that the school should champion a holistic approach to learning (the school's motto is "Discere Vivendo'," or "Learning Through Living"). During its first years, students tended to the 350-acre working farm on the property when not in class. Though the farmwork was soon eliminated from the curriculum, the concept of integrated learning remains central to the school's mission.

The first buildings were designed by Warren, Knight & Davis. The school opened with ten staff members and 60 students. The first director of the school was Louis E. Armstrong. He made several changes to Woodward's original plans for the school, most notably reversing Woodward's request that the school not be preparatory. History teacher MacDonald Fleming, still teaching in 2007, was part of the original faculty.

By 1960 the school had 130 students, all aged 9 to 12. Tuition at the time was $2,000 per year for boarding students. That fall, physics teacher Richard Jones won approval to construct a tilting demonstration classroom which he called a "Truth House". In 1963 basketball, volleyball and track coach Ray Woodard reintroduced the sport of soccer to Alabama with his first team, which had to travel out-of-state to find opponents.

By the 1970s, the school had grown to include equal numbers of day students and boarders. An 8th grade was added, and the school became coeducational in 1975.

Indian Springs School was the first boarding school in the United States to be recognized by the Malone Family Foundation, which provided a $2-million grant to underwrite tuition and other expenses for gifted students whose families could not otherwise afford an independent school.

In 2012 the school's board of governors approved a major overhaul of the campus, designed by Lake/Flato of San Antonio, Texas in association with Birmingham's ArchitectureWorks. The first phase of work involved constructing new art studios and classrooms. The Leo Kayser Jr Academic Center, housing advising offices, a technology center, library and research services, was named in recognition of a $2 million gift from the estate of alumnus and former board member Leo Kayser Jr.

The title of "Director" was changed to "Head of School" with the hiring of Sharon Howell to succeed Gareth Vaughan in 2016.

In January 2017, Indian Springs School had 307 students from 13 states and eight countries, 72% of whom were day students and 28% of whom were boarding. There were 155 boys and 152 girls.

Indian Springs School was a major inspiration for the novel Looking For Alaska by alumnus John Green.

In June 2019 the chair of Indian Springs' Board of Governors, Alan Engel, sent a letter addressed to the "Indian Springs School Community" to report on the findings of an investigation by the Portsmouth, New Hampshire law firm Jackson Lewis into reports of "educator sexual misconduct" occurring at the school over several decades. The investigation found evidence that at least five former faculty members— including Marvin Balch, Tim Thomas and Lee Watkins— had participated on ongoing sexual misconduct with students. None of those named in the letter were still associated with the school.

Indian Springs student Jordyn Hudson developed a diversity and inclusion initiative which was adopted into the school's constitution in 2021. The initiative provides for an annual student orientation program covering race, bi-monthly diversity symposia, and the establishment of cultural societies and affinity spaces to support students. Her efforts were recognized with a 2021 Princeton Prize in Race Relations.

In 2022 the school completed a new 12,000 square-foot Kayser-Samford Community Commons on the site of its former dining hall.

Heads of School

Notable faculty

Notable alumni


  • "Will of Harvey G. Woodward again before Supreme Court" (June 17, 1947) Birmingham Post-Herald - via Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections
  • Stillman, Jack (October 18, 1960) "'Truth House' To Be Built" Florence Times
  • Buzzard, Clyde E. (1999) Harvey G. Woodward will; A Man’s Will, Harvey G. Woodward & Indian Springs School. unpublished manuscript
  • Jones, Pam (Summer 2005) "Where There's a Will: The Story of Indian Springs School." Alabama Heritage Magazine, Number 77, pp. 26-33
  • Taylor, Kelli Hewett (March 17, 2007) "Indian Springs school director, MacKay, resigns." The Birmingham News
  • Badham, Tom (October 2010) "The School For Eggheads The Origins of Indian Springs School." Jefferson County Historical Association Newsletter, p. 2
  • Kennedy, Veronica (August 5, 2012) "Indian Springs School to get campus renovation." The Birmingham News
  • Hardison, Jonathan (December 5, 2019) "New revelations about alleged sexual misconduct at Indian Springs School and Birmingham church."
  • Stewart, Kelly & Hudson Munoz (December 9, 2019) "We Went to the Real Culver Creek. It Was a Great School — With A Systemic Sexual Abuse Problem." Medium
  • Cook, Anthony (July 9, 2021) "Birmingham’s Jordyn Hudson awarded Princeton Prize in Race Relations." Alabama NewsCenter / The Birmingham Times

External links