Women Leaders at SAS: A history of flexibility, dedication, resilience, and vision

March 8 is designated International Women’s Day by the United Nations.

Here at Shanghai American School, women have played a crucial role in guiding our school since 1912.

Students in our increasingly popular grade 9 Innovation Institute at SAS Pudong will soon begin using our school’s rich history as one way to learn about the development of twentieth-century China and technological change in their Asian History, design, English, and science classes.

As Pudong Inno students ask, “What gets remembered?” we’d like to remember historic women leaders at SAS. We also encourage you to take a moment this week to thank our current women leaders.

Whether these women were titled principal, superintendent, or our most recent title head of school, they’ve made key decisions to help create the SAS we’ve come to know and love.


Amy Rhodes, Interim Principal 1920

Amy Rhodes was the first woman to lead SAS. She arrived at Shanghai American School as a Latin teacher in 1915 and stepped up as interim principal in 1920. Rhodes' flexibility kept the school going when then-head of school Ernest Dreher left due to illness. Another SAS leader at the time wrote, “The innate capacity of Miss Rhodes couple[d] with her fine preparation and long experience make her a decided asset for the school.” 

While Rhodes’ tenure was short, she left a positive impression, and the 1921 Columbian was dedicated to her. 


Carolyn R. Morris, SAS Head of School  1940-1941

Ms. Morris was a living example of flexibility and resilience.

She led SAS as acting head of school – then known as principal – during 1940-1941. She kept SAS, then located on Avenue Petain (now Hengshan Lu), operating during a challenging time. The school year began with 508 students. By October, 270 students remained. Morris led the school while facing staffing shortages, threats of student kidnappings, and the U.S. State Department advised Americans to evacuate China due to Japan’s impending invasion.

Morris arrived in Shanghai in 1928 and is remembered as well-loved teacher and administrator. When asked what she taught at SAS, she once quipped, “whatever course no one else wanted to teach.” Once school closed in mid-April 1941, Morris set sail for America with her family.


Linnea Lauer, SAS Head of School, 1980-1982

Ms. Linnea Lauer helped re-establish SAS in September 1980 after it had been closed for nearly 30 years. The school opened soon after the U.S. Consulate was re-established in Shanghai during January 1980. SAS operated out of a spare apartment in the stylish Art Deco-designed Gascogne apartment building on Huahai Lu. It later moved to a converted stable on the grounds of the U.S. Consulate, also on Huaihai near Wulumuqi Lu.

Ms. Lauer brought dedication and vision to SAS. We welcomed Ms. Lauer and her family as guests of honor for SAS Founders’ Day in 2018.


Kathy Schroeder, SAS Head of School, 1982-1983

When Lauer left Shanghai, Ms. Kathy Schroeder stepped up to lead SAS. Not much is known about her time here other than her flexibility in keeping the fledgling eagles learning.


Marla Leung, SAS Head of School, 1986-1988

SAS had 21 students when Marla Leung became school leader in 1986. When she left a little over two years later, there were 65.

Ms. Leung helped SAS earn its initial accreditation with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This is what allows the school to award officially recognized American high school diplomas. Leung recalls, “It was a Herculean task as nothing was prepared. Everything needed to be created, written and documented. The WASC visitation team came in March 1987. Miraculously, we passed with flying colors.”

Leung’s dedication and vision helped grow the school and brought SAS official recognition.


Julie Ann Dakin, SAS Head of School, 1988-1989

Ms. Dakin’s work and vision prepared SAS to establish an SAS campus outside of the grounds of the US Consulate. It was a crucial move that helped SAS expand its facilities.


Margery Salmon, SAS Head of School, 1991-1992

When Michael Williams (SAS Head of School, 1989-1991) departed in 1991, Margery Salmon stepped up to lead. She was an elementary teacher from Washington State in the USA. She arrived as part of a partnership with the Puyallup School District in Washington. She led a rapidly growing SAS for a year before returning to the US due to health concerns.


Between 1980 and 1992, SAS had eight leaders. Seven were women. Over the years, women leaders have led SAS with flexibility, dedication, resilience, and vision.

Today, we say thank you!

Flexibility, dedication, resilience, and vision. Every Day at SAS.

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