Alexander Hamilton "Ham" Bishop III, a respected headmaster who led five independent schools during his lengthy career in education, died of kidney failure complications Saturday at ManorCare Health Services Dulaney. He was 85 and lived in North Baltimore.
Educational colleagues said he was often sought out as a school administrator. In 1994, he was the first head of the Odyssey School, founded by parents of dyslexic children.
"He gave the new school instant credibility," said Marty Sweeney, Odyssey's head. "In the infancy of the school, it made all the difference."
Born in Philadelphia and raised in Sudbrook Park, he was a 1944 graduate of St. Paul's School for Boys, where he played basketball and lacrosse. He was later named to its 1940s Decade All-Star Lacrosse Team, according to a family biography.
He joined the Army Air Forces during World War II. After his discharge, he earned a history degree from the Johns Hopkins University, where he was a member of the Delta Phi fraternity. He played defense on the varsity lacrosse team for four undefeated seasons. Sportswriters gave him an honorable mention on the 1948 All-American Lacrosse Team. At his graduation, he was named to the William C. Schmeisser Johns Hopkins All-Time Team.
Mr. Bishop later earned a master's degree in education from Hopkins.
In 1948, he married Ann "Bunny" Miles, whom he met on the steps of Old St. Paul's Episcopal Church in downtown Baltimore.
Mr. Bishop taught at Gilman School from 1950 to 1957 and was head of its lower school from 1957 to 1960. That year he was named headmaster of the Belfield School, a Charlottesville, Va., independent school. He held the post for 13 years and successfully merged it with St. Anne's Episcopal School, a girls high school, also in Charlottesville. He was headmaster of St. Anne's-Belfield from 1974 to 1979. Family members said he introduced lacrosse to the Virginia independent school system, and later the public school system also adopted the sport.
"Dad was known as a headmaster with an unusual ability to connect with his students and inspire them to dedicate themselves to their education," said his son, Timothy Livingston Bishop of Owings Mills. "He developed the students' sense of personal honor through the use of the honor code in his schools. He also emphasized strong values such as persistence, endurance, honesty and faith. He was a religious man and imparted the value of that faith to others."
His son said Mr. Bishop enjoyed the challenge of working with students who had trouble with academics.
"Helping overcome their obstacles and watching them succeed was a great joy to him," his son said.
He was headmaster of the McLean School of Maryland, a school in Potomac for children with learning disabilities, from 1979 to 1992. He then considered retirement but was tapped to be headmaster of Boys' Latin School in Baltimore in 1992.
"Ham came in at a tough time for us," said Boys' Latin's assistant headmaster, Dyson Ehrhardt. "He was very much our version of Mr. Chips. He attended all school functions, and I can see him and Bunny dancing away the night at the senior prom they chaperoned."
In 1994, Mr. Bishop was once again asked to serve a school and became the founding head of the Odyssey School, then located in Roland Park. Each morning he stood outside and watched as his students arrived.
In a 1996 Baltimore Sun article, he said he could assess students' progress by the way they greeted him.
"When the students were new to Odyssey — usually coming from schools where they had not been successful or happy — they would hardly look at him, he recalls. By the end of the year, though, they would shake his hand and stop to chat. That, he says, was even more rewarding than their academic progress," according to the article.
Mr. Bishop enjoyed reading about the Civil War and was an avid tennis player. He vacationed in Cape May, N.J., and played with the Mount Washington Lacrosse Club for many years.
Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at St. David's Episcopal Church, 4700 Roland Ave.
In addition to his wife of 63 years and his son, survivors include another son, Alexander Hamilton Bishop IV of Baltimore; two daughters, Katherine Lee Bishop and Pamela Bishop Fanaras, both of Monkton; and three grandchildren.