Farewell to a legend: Dave Drake leaves Upper School

Dave Drake is, to say the least, a Westminster legend. Famous for wearing his blue University of Kentucky hat, biking in the Turner weight room, and decorating his classroom wall with pictures of students at prom and graduation, Drake is recognized across campus and across generations seeing as he has been a part of the Westminster community for half a century.

“Mr. Drake was one of my mom’s favorite teachers,” said senior Morgan Rimmer. “We were both so excited when I saw my junior year schedule and found out that I had him. I had heard so many great things about him growing up.”

Drake initially did not plan to be a teacher after graduating from high school in 1961.

“I graduated from [Westminster], my mother and father taught [at Westminster], and I was sure I was not going to teach here,” said Drake. “I went to Emory Law School, graduated, and was waiting for the results of the bar exam, which I did pass by the way. I was looking for something to do until I decided what I really wanted to do. I was offered a job [at Westminster] and thought that I could [teach] for a while.”

The community spirit and his relationships with the students and faculty influenced Drake to teach for 48 years.

“Mr. Drake is like the grandfather of Westminster,” said senior Amanda Brothers. “He’s one of the last teachers here who has taught people’s’ parents and grandparents.”

Similarly, the “wall of fame” housed in the back of his room showcases the hundreds of students he has shaped over the years.

“One of the best memories that I’ve had was when Hannah Storm, who is now on ESPN, did a little program with me,” said Drake. “She admitted that because of my class she read historical fiction. My goal is to have people come out of here with an appreciation of the course.”

At the same time, many students have also left a lasting impact on Drake.

“One morning, I made my bed with my keys in the bed, so I was really late to first period Euro,” said Brothers. “Mr. Drake was cracking up so much when I told him what had happened that people on the third floor of Askew said they’ve never heard him laugh so hard before.”

Over the course of his teaching tenure, Drake has witnessed great change at Westminster, from new headmasters to new buildings, and most notably, in 1986, when Westminster transitioned from two separate schools for boys and girls to become one single coeducational school. Despite all of these changes, Drake has remained a consistently well-respected teacher.

“Mr. Drake has this no-nonsense attitude. He is so witty and has these hilarious comebacks,” said Rimmer. “In [AP European History], he had such an amazing way of explaining things. We talked about history like it was a story and that was really helpful in learning the material.”

Although he only teaches AP European history now, Drake began his career teaching a social studies course that combined politics, economics, and urban problems for ninth and tenth graders. He then taught regular and AP U.S. history, politics, and economics classes. Finally, Drake moved on to teach European history.

“I can honestly say that I have taught every [history] course in the high school, except psychology, which we don’t offer anymore” said Drake.

Drake has also taught a few elective classes, including an Anglo-Irish history course, a civil rights course, and a Shakespeare and history course with the English department. These classes have been some of his most memorable.

“AP European History is of course my favorite,” said Drake. “But, the Shakespeare and AngloIrish courses were special to me because I got to develop them from the ground up. It’s a lot a work but it’s a lot of fun.”

Drake taught a version of the Shakespeare and history course with former English teacher Eddie DuPriest and then another version during JanTerm last year with English teacher Frank Finsthwait. Although Finsthwait has also taught at Westminster for exactly 48 years, JanTerm served as the first and only time Drake and Finsthwait collaborated together academically.

“It was fun to teach with [Mr. Drake] as we went at the material with different perspectives,” said Finsthwait. “All the students had selected the course and were interested in the material. The class was highly engaged and knowledgeable and in a way, [Mr. Drake and I] were just along for the ride.”

Outside of the classroom, Drake has been highly involved in coaching athletics. He was an assistant coach for football, baseball, and basketball and was the head coach for girl’s basketball for 15 years. As his Kentucky hat attests , Drake is an avid fan of basketball.

“One of my favorite memories of Mr. Drake,” said Finsthwait, “was watching his two-handed set shot from the top of the key in the faculty-student basketball game.”

Despite his passion for his students and for the school, retirement had been on Drake’s mind for a few years.

“I wanted to leave before I felt like I would have to force myself to go to work everyday,” said Drake. “Right now, I still love teaching.”

After this year, Drake will be taking every day as it comes.

“I have no big plans or small plans, much to my wife’s chagrin,” said Drake, “and I’m very much ok with that.”