David Schenck, 93: Founded school to help children with dyslexia

David Schenck dedicated his life to improving the lives of children with dyslexia. Schenck and his wife, the late Dorothy Hall, founded the Atlanta-based Schenck School in 1959.

Described by his colleagues as a mix between Albert Einstein and Willy Wonka, Schenck was: “A brilliant man, very smart, astute and fun-loving; children gravitated to him,” said Gena Calloway, head of the school.

Schenck served two years in the U.S. Army during World War II before receiving a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Michigan. Calloway said that at the time Schenck had no idea he was dyslexic until he decided he wanted to teach.

In 1952, Schenck applied for teaching positions at The Rectory School in Connecticut. The school was connected to Waya-Awi, a Maine-based summer camp for dyslexic children. There, Schenck was introduced to the Orton-Gillingham language-based, multisensory approach to reading, spelling and writing.

“He had a great deal of empathy for these kids,” said his friend Bob Hill.

In 1958, Schenck obtained a master’s degree in education from Emory University and was a reading specialist at Georgia Military Academy, now called Woodward Academy. He realized tutoring struggling students for 30 minutes a day was not going to, in his own words, “keep them from failing.”

“What he did was, take a teaching approach that was usually done one-on-one and developed a way for it to be taught in a classroom,” said family friend Vicki Ahnrud.

David Tuttle Schenck died Dec. 23 of a progressive pulmonary disease. He was 93. A memorial service will be held early in 2015, and details will be posted on the school’s website once they are finalized. Cremation Society of Ga. is in charge of arrangements.

In 1959, Schenck and his wife opened The Reading School with seven students in the basement of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church. The school was renamed The Schenck School in 1965. The school moved several times before finding its current home on Mount Paran Road.

“He set out to change the education landscape, creating a full-time learning environment where our students are able to reach their full academic potential,” said Calloway.

Today, the school has an annual enrollment of 250 students in grades kindergarten through six.

“I’ve seen the impact in my family of what a school can do,” said Hill, whose son and grandchildren have gone to the Schenck School.

“Having schools like this is what makes Atlanta the kind of city we want it to be,” Hill added. “It enriches the character of the city.”

David is survived by his four children, David H. Schenck of Atlanta; Janet S. Schipper of Virginia; Margaret S. Shamback of Virginia and William H. Schenck of Atlanta; and 11 grandchildren.