Posted by: Staff | 01.28.2008

The Mysteries of Beaver: The Courtyard of Dead Teachers


After seven years at this school, I have noticed dozens of random, curious, sketchy and frankly plain-old-creepy things about our school’s campus, be it a blocked-off room, a weird comment scratched into a table, or an unexplained storage cabinet that almost nobody has ever been in. My new weekly column is dedicated to finding, investigating and solving the mysterious secrets that Beaver holds within its walls. While it has taken me seven years to discover this much, you, lucky reader, will have a head start. And remember, if you have discovered any more mysteries or oddities at Beaver, send me an email and I’ll make sure to look into it. So, without further ado, I now present the first Beaver Mystery.

The Courtyard of Dead Teachers
It is likely that many students have noticed the dog statue located next to the weeping willow in the courtyard at Beaver, which commemorates Shelley Tyre, the Head of the Middle School from 1977 to 1987. The statue is apparently modeled after Corey, Tyre’s Bernese Mountain Dog, who used to sit in her office during the day. In 1987, Tyre moved to Thayer Academy, where she was also the Head of the Middle School until she died tragically while scuba diving in the British Virgin Islands in 1999. According to witnesses, her husband, David Swain, surfaced without his wife after being underwater for about thirty minutes. Not long after, someone discovered Tyre’s body eighty feet below. The question was: why did Swain abandon her, and how did she drown? Both Swain and Tyre were expert scuba divers, so not only is it surprising that she drowned, but it is also unclear why he never even attempted to revive her. Most experienced scuba divers would be familiar with CPR in case of emergency, but Swain didn’t even bother to bring her ashore.

A few years later, Tyre’s parents brought the case to court. Evidence showed that Swain had cut off Tyre’s air supply, and Swain was found liable and fined $3.5 million in February 2006. On one website, someone (presumably a former student of Tyre at Thayer) commented, “[Swain] is a f-ing weirdo, shelly was my middle school principal… he made a speech to the school a few days after her death w/ a grin on his face, giving thumbs up- ‘wasn’t shelly a neat character?’ not a drop of sadness in his voice… just creepy… we were all suspicious even then.”

Tyre’s influence at our school remains, even beyond the dog statue in the courtyard. Every year, a handful of Middle Schoolers are awarded the “Shelley Tyre Good Stuff Award” in her memory.

While Tyre’s story is likely the most dramatic, and while the dog is the most prominent memorial in the courtyard, she is not the only teacher being remembered there. There are a number of plaques throughout the area, prompting Mr. Gow to call it “the Courtyard of Dead Teachers.” Mary L. Clendenin and Constance Churchyard both taught English at Beaver from the mid 1920s until the late ’40s. Vivienne White is honored for her service as School Secretary from 1930-1966, and Emily Walle Harris, founder of Beaver’s music program, is appreciated for her 23 years of teaching music. Although these teachers’ histories may not be quite as captivating as Tyre’s is, and while they don’t have a cute dog in memory of them, they are nonetheless appreciated for their dedication to our mysterious school.

Interview with Mr. Gow

Image of statue by Maddy Kiefer
Image of Tyre from:

Correction March 11, 2008: corrected a little legal wording; Swain was found liable, not guilty.



  1. Fascinating article. I’m really looking forward to this column!

  2. Very bizarre, I can’t wait till next monday’s mystery.
    I am quite intrigued!

  3. sweet article

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