Jonathan Hancock has been in school most of his life—by choice. “I love to teach and coach,” says Hancock, who is retiring this year after 32 years as headmaster of Canterbury School in Fort Wayne. His legacy is in the brick and mortar of the attractive, classic campuses he helped develop and in the diversity of accomplished students heading off to top notch colleges each spring.
Born and raised in England, Hancock attended boarding school in North London. At Oxford, he studied Greek, Latin and Ancient History then majored in English. After graduation, he crossed the ocean, securing a teaching position at Shattuck-St. Mary’s boarding school in Faribault, Minnesota. In his six years there, he started its soccer program, was dean of students and director of faculty, coached soccer and tennis and taught English and Latin.
At Shattuck-St. Mary’s he met Alice, a fellow staff member whom he married in 1980, and Jim King, who paved the way to Canterbury. “Jim had been hired by seven Fort Wayne families to be headmaster of a new school,” says Hancock. The fledgling Canterbury opened its doors in the Trinity Episcopal Church building in 1980.
In 1981, the Hancocks left Shattuck for Boston where Hancock earned a master’s degree in Educational Administration from Harvard. Subsequently, King left Canterbury and told Hancock of the new headmaster search. Thus began their Canterbury chapter, which lasted the next 34 years apart from a short stint at Cranbrook Academy in Michigan from 1988-1990. “I was mainly a bureaucrat there,” says Hancock. “I came back to Canterbury to be closer to the classroom.”
When the Hancocks arrived in Fort Wayne, Canterbury was in the restored Anthony Wayne Building on Covington Road. “The addition of a high school was a whole new challenge,” says Hancock. In 1985, Canterbury acquired a pony estate off of Smith Road, which eventually became the high school campus. The early childhood center, lower school and middle school now occupy the original school building.
“It was a huge undertaking including major fundraising, overseeing design of the buildings and recruiting students,” says Hancock. “We added a new class each year and by the time they graduated in 1987, we had 130 students. Now we have 372 in the high school.”
“Since 1987, we’ve been adding buildings and programs to make it the campus it is today,” says Hancock.
And it is stunning. With its classic brick architecture, landscaping and wooded rolling lot, it’s not hard to imagine it nestled in the English countryside.
While leading the vision for the exterior construction, Hancock was also building the Canterbury culture. “Our school motto is ‘Integrity In All Things’. And our goal is a student who is the ‘Artist, Athlete, Scholar’,” says Hancock. “We want our students to be all three. That’s our brand.”
And Hancock’s passion has been making Canterbury accessible to students who are a good match for the school from every walk of life. Each year, $2.5 million of scholarship money is awarded. Thirty-five percent of students receive need-based financial aid. “The Malone Scholarship awards meet the full demonstrated need of up to 12 students,” says Hancock. “These scholarships make Canterbury possible for many students who couldn’t otherwise attend.”
Hancock has also worked tirelessly to connect Canterbury with the larger community. Under his leadership, community service, fine arts performances and quality sports teams tell the Canterbury story, enhance the Fort Wayne community and attract each year’s batch of new students. Hancock serves on several community boards. He’s also quick to share credit. “We’ve always had a fantastic board of trustees and foundation who give generously of their time, treasure and talents.”
Hancock would prefer to be remembered as a school teacher. “I’m committed to educational experiences. I love being a teacher, being among teachers and encouraging teachers.”
And next? “I’m going to take the summer off. People tell me not to be too quick to decide.”
As Canterbury goes forward without Jonathan Hancock, he leaves a strong legacy of excellence in education and a clear vision ahead, adeptly passing the baton to his successor.
“I’m absolutely positive someone is going to be able to come in and do things I’m not able to do,” says Hancock. “That person will bring freshness, new thoughts and new ideas.”
The Canterbury School and the Fort Wayne community welcome new Headmaster William Ennist Jr. from Oakton, Virginia, effective July 1, 2016.
Year founded with 89 students in K-6th grade
Current enrollment students in K-12
Canterbury’s 2015 average SAT score (Indiana’s 2015 average SAT score was 1,474)
Canterbury’s 2015 average ACT (Indiana’s 2014 average ACT was 21.9)
Percentage of each graduating class that is accepted to and attends college
Amount the 2015 graduating class earned in merit scholarships
Phone: (260) 436-0746
Products & Services: Canterbury School is an independent, college preparatory day school for students age 2 through Grade 12. This school has been ranked the best private school in Indiana by NicheTM as of 2014.