Mike Walker Appointed New Head of School

The Harding Academy Board of Trustees is excited to announce that it has unanimously appointed Dr. Michael Walker to serve as the eighth Head of School of Harding Academy, following the unanimous recommendation of the Search Committee.  Mike’s tenure will begin on July 1, 2023.  

Mike is an accomplished educational leader with a wealth of experience in independent schools.  His experience, knowledge, and deep commitment to education are well suited to Harding Academy’s mission, core values, and vision.  Harding Academy has been the fortunate beneficiary of transformative leadership under Dave Skeen, and Mike possesses the inspiration, intellect, and dynamism necessary to build on this legacy of extraordinary achievement.  Mike is a passionate promoter of curiosity, deeply understands the need to protect the traditions and culture of a school community, and has a long-standing interest in academic and child development research.  Combined with Mike’s personal commitment to student-centered education, Harding Academy will continue to thrive and excel as a premier PreK-8 independent school.

Mike’s early career in education began as a teacher and coach at The American School Foundation in Mexico City.  He then taught and coached at Hammond School in Columbia, South Carolina, before serving as its Head of Middle School.  In 1993, he moved to Nashville, where he was the Head of the Middle School at University School of Nashville.  There, he was involved in the design, construction, and programming for its new middle school.  After 5 years at USN, Mike moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he served as the Principal of the Junior School (K-8) at Punahou School for 17 years, overseeing an enrollment of 2,000 students.  At Punahou, Mike provided instructional leadership in neuro-education, global education and technology and introduced programs in entrepreneurship and design thinking.  He also oversaw the programmatic and facility design for multiple programs, managed personnel and a $15 million budget, and was involved in significant and successful fundraising efforts.  From Punahou, Mike moved to San Francisco Day School (421 students, K-8), where he served as its Head of School for 7 years.  At San Francisco Day, Mike initiated strategic planning, facilities construction, and a capital campaign; increased annual giving and major gifts; introduced a faculty evaluation and professional growth structure; helped design an inquiry-based curriculum with expanding programmatic offerings; and advanced the school’s commitment to and work in diversity, equity, and inclusion.  Most recently, Mike has served as the Head of School for Compositive Primary, a new, workplace-based school serving the University of Colorado School of Medicine community. 

Mike, who has learned and worked in a wide variety of education settings, embodies Harding Academy’s mission to “educate and inspire young people to become thoughtful, creative, lifelong learners and self-disciplined, responsible, caring citizens.”  He has vast experience with, and a strong appreciation for, the benefits offered by the PreK-8 educational model and believes in the education of the whole child for success in both academics and life.  Mike is a compelling communicator and empathetic listener with a genuine love of schools.  He is excited to join the Harding community and will lead Harding into its next 50 years with a strong respect for the need to maintain and nurture the connections to its past.  

Mike was born in Australia and raised in Mexico City.  He holds a B.A. in English and Social Sciences from the Honors College at Western Michigan University, graduating Magna Cum Laude.  In addition, he received a Masters of Education at the University of South Carolina and a Doctorate in Education at the University of Hawaii.  Mike is married to his high school sweetheart, Wendy Walker, who is a teacher, school counselor and artist.  Mike and Wendy are the parents of two adult sons who reside in Hawaii and Colorado. 

The appointment of Mike as Harding Academy’s new Head of School is the culmination of a broad-based national search that began in the early fall.  Throughout this rigorous and comprehensive process, the Search Committee benefitted from the participation, support and goodwill of the entire Harding Academy community.  We are particularly grateful to our colleagues on the Search Committee, who collaborated closely and put in many hours in support of our efforts to seek the best candidate for Harding Academy. 

With the selection of Mike Walker, the Harding Academy community can be confident in a seamless transition of leadership.  Harding Academy is poised for an exciting and enriching future, and we ask you to join us in welcoming Mike and Wendy to campus in July 2023!

Search Committee

Merrie Clark Alexander (trustee, former parent)
Braden Bell (faculty, former parent)
Jessica Martin Darden ’96 (trustee, alum, current parent)
Melissa Frist (trustee, former parent)
Ben Heavrin (trustee, current parent)
Jeff Moats ’94 (Search Committee Co-Chair, trustee, alum, current parent)
Whit Moloney (trustee, current parent)
Katy Stumpf (faculty)
Meredith Mallard Thompson ‘94 (Search Committee Co-Chair, trustee, alum, current parent)


We welcome you to contact the Search Committee at headsearch@hardingacademy.us if you have any questions, comments or concerns.  

You may also contact our consultants at Carney Sandoe directly with feedback concerning the search:  

Marguerite Lloyd (mlloyd@carneysandoe.com).
Inspiring The Mind  •  Nurturing The Spirit