Ironically, this reputation for affluence is one of Hockaday’s biggest problems. While it has attracted the daughters of the wealthy, Hockaday has never been a rich school. Miss Hockaday lived from tuition to tuition, charging the groceries and other services until the checks came in. Her teachers were paid minimal wages, especially when you consider the hours they were expected to work overtime chaperoning and supervising. She always had someone like Miss Kribs to see that every square inch of carbon paper was used before a new sheet might be issued. Forty-watt bulbs or less were de rigueur in the hallways of her school, and even Exie Tunson will tell you, "I only worked for a rich lady once. The rest of the time I worked for working people like Miss Hockaday. She sure knew how to cut corners."
"I’m not sure how much longer we can afford the gentility," says current chairman of the board Rust Reid. Indeed, Hockaday today is like a very refined lady who has heretofore considered it indiscreet to air financial problems, but who has in reality been patching her undergarments for years. Now, even Hockaday’s outer garments need patching.
The problem is, Hockaday has no funds for the maintenance of the swanky buildings that cost $4 million to build in 1960, but now would cost $12 million to replace. Sure, Hockaday has some generous patrons, but there are few philanthropists who want a bronze plaque on the air conditioning repair bill, especially when there are more exciting plans for a gym and a new library on the drawing board.
When Glenn Ballard, the present headmaster, came to Hockaday in 1972, the school had only $130,000 in endowment, which was really designated for faculty retirement benefits. In the past three years, thanks largely to the efforts of Ballard and past chairman of the board Ashley Priddy, the school has been able to raise $3.5 million in donations and pledges. That sounds like a hefty sum until you hear that schools like Andover and Exeter have endowments of $70 million. According to Hockaday’s development director, the school needs an endowment of between $10 million and $15 million. Without such an endowment, the school is at the mercy of its donors. For example, Hockaday’s library space has been woefully inadequate practically since the building on Welch Road was erected; a recent professional study also showed that the gym facility is now inadequate for Hockaday’s comprehensive and growing physical education program. Although the library need has been around longer, in sports-conscious Dallas money to build squash courts, running tracks, and locker rooms is apparently easier to come by these days than money for study carrels.
A little checking reveals that Hockaday is in reality no poorer than most regional private schools. St. Mark’s has about the same current endowment, and its operating costs are only slightly less than Hockaday’s. However, a great portion of Hockaday’s budget must be allotted for its boarding department. Hockaday must serve three meals a day and keep its air conditioning running continuously. St. Mark’s has only day students. Hockaday also suffers because it is a girls’ school, and its graduates are not necessarily breadwinners. Many women complain that school donations invariably go to their husbands’ alma maters. And even those women who do control ample pursestrings are likely to say, "Oh, Hockaday doesn’t need any money. I’d rather put my money where it’s really needed." Parents who are paying Hockaday’s present tuition, which went up 7 percent for 1978-79, are unlikely sources for more revenue. Current tuition at Hockaday ranges from $1,075 for the preschool (4-year-olds) to $3,205 for a senior day student. Resident students are paying close to $6,000. However, parents of Hockaday students do tend to contribute generously to the Annual Giving campaign, since it is a tax-deductible way of ensuring that the school won’t need to raise tuition further. The campaign raised $325,000 in 1977, more than any other girls’ school in the country, but Hockaday has to use it to bridge the gap between tuition and actual operating expenses.
What motivates people to give to a school like Hockaday? Male institutions can always point to the professional success of their graduates as proof of the school’s value. The success of women, beyond college acceptance, may be harder to measure. Some people may give to a school for nostalgic reasons. Even though they were expensive to install, Hockaday could not leave those Memorial Rooms out of its modern structure. There had to be something to tie the alumnae to the new campus.
Although Miss Hockaday was always a forward-looking educator, she could not have conceived of the pressures that would come to bear on her school. The school’s constituency has broadened so that there could never be a consensus among parents about what the school should be. The granddaughters of her original graduates are now enrolled in the school. And the second generation of oil money is there. And there seems to be an inordinate number of professional bourgeoisie. One-third of the second-grade class have doctors for fathers. Integration, busing, and experimentation in the public schools have brought still another set of parents to Hockaday. These parents are not necessarily seeking social prestige, or Miss Hockaday’s ideals; they simply want a safe, decent school in which to park their daughters until the public schools settle down. These are, for the most part, public-educated parents who may have little interest in sending their daughters east to college. In fact, they may be a little distrustful of Hockaday’s college counseling. Enrolling her 5-year-old daughter in the preschool, one mother actually asked, "Now you’re not going to make her marry a Yankee and move away from Dallas, are you?"
In addition to these day students, the school also has a large number of boarding students from South America, as well as an obligatory sprinkling of black students and Mexican-Americans. A look at the ZIP codes in the student directory reveals that Hockaday’s day student body converges from all directions. Seventy-eight students come from Highland Park, eight from Oak Cliff, six from the old neighborhood near Greenville, and 249 from the sprawling North Dallas neighborhoods surrounding the school. Still others commute from Garland, Mesquite, Farmers Branch, etc. About all you could safely say these families have in common is the ability to pay the tuition, and quite a few are receiving partial scholarship aid.
While Miss Hockaday and her early faculty members (Miss Trent, Miss Morgan, Miss McDermott) were certainly distinct personalities, they had a common bond of spinsterhood and total dedication to the school. Today the faculty and staff at Hockaday are as diverse as the families of the children they serve.
Mrs. Lively, the executive housekeeper, is a lovely Russian lady. She takes me on a tour of the Memorial Rooms and with her charming accent recalls. "How lovely it was! Miss Morgan would ring the bell, and the girls would go quietly into the dining room. The tables were set with the linen doilies and nice silverware. The girls, they were so polite. They let their teachers go first. Now," she says with a sigh, "they are not so polite. It is all so fast, you know, whoosh-whoosh, in and out. Ah, this cafeteria. Miss Hockaday would not like it. The boarders have a seated dinner only once a week. In the old days, it was every night. And there were beautiful flowers and always singing in the Great Hall. Oh, Miss Hockaday loved flowers. I could always find something blooming on the old campus to make a nice centerpiece. Here, if I don’t see that the bulbs are planted, no one else will. They don't care so much anymore. There is not time or money for the lovely things anymore."
In stark contrast to Mrs. Lively is Peter Cobb, the new head of the Upper School. Cobb is 30ish, frizzy haired, athletically inclined, and certainly handsome enough to provoke a few crushes among his adolescent students. Cobb has a Master’s of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he admits he was something of a radical during the '60s. Coming to Hockaday from the Master’s School at Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., Cobb says only half-facetiously, "Well, one of the problems we have here is that the girls are too polite." He quickly qualifies his statement by assuring me that he is by no means out to destroy the graciousness of southern womanhood. As a matter of fact, after his years on the east coast, he’s rather taken by it. But he feels the school has a tremendous responsibility to prepare girls for careers that may demand aggressiveness, initiative, and a willingness to take risks. I couldn’t help smiling at the irony of Hockaday’s teaching girls to take risks when so many of their parents sent them there to be safe.