By Alice Meloy ’68
Schutz School was founded in 1924 by the United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPNA) missionaries who lived in Egypt. The growing number of missionary families in Egypt and a concern for the welfare of missionary families led the Board of Foreign Missions of the UPNA to agree to the request of the missionaries to establish a boarding school for their sons and daughters. Although there were missionaries throughout the Nile Valley, these early missionaries selected Alexandria as a location for the boarding school primarily because of the existence of a suitable Mission-owned property to house the school in Ramleh, five miles east of downtown Alexandria, a suburb of summer villas and hotels. The 2.5 acre property at 51 rue Schutz was the site of a former hotel or sanitarium, purchased by the Mission in 1898 as housing for missionaries on vacation during the hot summer months. The hotel and some early buildings were razed in 1923 and a new structure, the current Roy Hall, was built. Each of its four floors held two apartments where mission families took up residence for their summer vacations.
As the numbers of missionary families grew, the mission purchased a piece of sandy land in Sidi Bishr, a couple of miles to the east of its Schutz property along the railroad tracks to Abukir, a compound that had been a British-run POW camp during the First World War. The several mat and grass houses became additional summer housing for missionary families from Egypt and the Sudan.
Once the Foreign Board had granted approval for the establishment of a school for missionary kids (MKs), the Egypt Mission recruited two young American women who had recently graduated from the United Presbyterian Church-affiliated college of Muskingum, to teach, and the designated chairman of the Schutz School Committee canvassed families in Egypt and the Sudan to determine how many families would be sending their children to the new school in the Fall of 1924. In September, twelve students showed up for school, most of them moving to the Schutz compound from Sidi Bishr where they had spent the summer with their families. Because the students came from families who knew each other well, the atmosphere at the boarding school was much like that of a large family.
Over the next fifteen years, enrollment at the school for missionaries’ children at Schutz grew steadily, reaching a total of 38 students in 1940. The Schutz School committee had admitted several students over this period of time who were not UPNA missionary kids: diplomatic families, American University of Cairo faculty families, and children from other missionary organizations. As enrollment grew, some members of missionary families stationed in Alexandria and members of the non-American ex-pat community in Alexandria worked as part-time teachers at the school, assisting the two or three full-time teachers hired in the U.S. who were responsible for students in grades 2 through 11. The great majority of the students boarded at the school, traveling home only on holidays or, in the case of the students from the Sudan and Ethiopia Missions, only during the summer months unless their parents came to Alexandria for the summer.
In the summer of 1940, as the fighting from World War Two threatened the coastline, and the children vacationing at Sidi Bishr and Schutz picked up pieces of shrapnel from bombing raids, the Mission decided to move the school to its property in Assiut, a city in Upper Egypt. The school for missionaries’ children, still called “Schutz” by its students, relocated to the grounds of Assiut College, a preparatory school for boys. It operated there, with considerably reduced enrollments, for two years, until the German advances across the Western Desert caused the evacuation of nearly all UPNA missionaries from the country in April of 1942.
There was no Schutz School in operation from 1942 through 1946, but after the war ended, missionary families began to return to Egypt and the Sudan, and soon they felt a need to resurrect the school for their children. At the time, nearly all MKs in Egypt lived in Assiut, so the school was reopened on the campus of Assiut College in September 1946 with one full-time teacher who was assisted by other missionaries. The school committee admitted a few students from other missions and from some non-mission families who had no other local option for education.
By the early 1950s, it became clear that the influx of new missionary families to the South Sudan as well as to Egyptian locations, was driving the enrollment at the school to soon exceed the facilities available to contain it. There was considerable discussion about the option of opening up schools in each of the UPNA Mission countries of Northeast Africa, but in 1954 the majority of missionary families agreed to the formation of an Inter-Mission School to be reconstituted at the Schutz compound in Alexandria. In September 1956, the school re-opened in its original location.
The growing American business and diplomatic presence in Egypt after WWII brought several American families to Alexandria, and the School Committee decided to extend admission to these non-MKs. As the 1956 school year began, 40 students registered. But in October 1956, the Suez Canal Crisis prompted the evacuation of the students and teachers to various locations for more than five months. The school reopened in April for a concentrated school year that ended in July.
There followed a ten-year period in which Schutz School grew rapidly. Admission of increasing numbers of non-MKs from the international community of Alexandria expanded enrollment to 138 by 1966. Although the school was still run by the United Presbyterian Mission for its own children, now including MKs from the United Presbyterian mission in the Cameroon, there were few limitations on enrollment of any students who did not come under the jurisdiction of the Egyptian Department of Education, so the student body included children from WHO, Phillips Petroleum, Fullbright professorships, and students whose families were Alexandrian residents but who held passports from other countries. In addition, boarding students came from oil company families in Saudi Arabia and Libya. The faculty had grown to 27 and included several local residents who taught French, Arabic, science, mathematics and other classes on a part-time basis.
The Six-Day War in June of 1967 saw another unanticipated closure of Schutz School, this time for an entire school year, as the Egypt Mission and nearly all other Americans left the country as a result of strained diplomatic relations between Egypt and the United States. Students who had expected to attend school during the 1967-68 school year scattered to other schools in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the United States.
The fact that the school re-opened in the Fall of 1968 was largely due to the efforts of Principal George Meloy who persuaded the United Presbyterian church administration in the U.S. that despite the decreasing enrollment of MKs, the international community of Alexandria had need for the school to continue. At the same time, Tarkio College in Missouri was looking for an overseas campus for its educational programs, and agreed to operate the school with support from the UP Church. For the next nearly ten years, Schutz School existed as an adjunct to Tarkio College, no longer a school primarily for missionary children but a school for American and other international students from their homes throughout Egypt and the Middle East.
In 1978, the association with Tarkio College was dissolved by mutual agreement, and Schutz School became an independent international school, its American curriculum accredited by U.S. accrediting associations. It is worthy of note that due to the continued presence and influence of several members of the faculty and administration from the 1960s through the 1990s, the atmosphere and traditions of the school retained much of the spirit of the school that served missionary children in earlier years. The boarding department, which had diminished significantly in the 1980s, was shut down in 1990, and the school became exclusively a day school for children living in Alexandria.
by Alice Meloy ’68