The King is Dead … Long Live the King!

[I never ran track. I never took one of his classes, and yet I felt very close to this guy. Times were turbulent when I left high school (1966) and yet the one thing that students at Moses Brown School could agree was the Doc Odell was the coolest member of the faculty. He spoke Spanish, French, and Russian, but he also spoke Student. The best time I spent with him was at my 50th reunion. I was 68; he was 87, but he gave me all the behind-the-scenes scuttlebutt that had mystified me when I left school at 18. Doc, your secrets are safe with me. Silverback Hall of Fame for this guy! SB SM]

Honoring the Legacy of King B. "Doc" Odell, Jr.

Honoring the Legacy of King B. “Doc” Odell, Jr.

King B. “Doc” Odell, Jr, a highly respected and revered member of the Moses Brown School community, passed away on September 26, 2023. Doc was a teacher, advisor, mentor, coach, colleague, friend and confidant to thousands of students, faculty, staff and parents alike. Doc’s influence on the school and its students was immeasurable, and while his loss will be deeply felt by the entire community, his long and influential tenure has left a lasting legacy.

Doc was best known for his high standards and relentless expectations as a teacher of French, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Latin, and as track coach extraordinaire. He came to Moses Brown in 1953, initially teaching geography in the middle school. He served as the chair of the world language department for four decades, lived in the dorms for 20 years and was head of the boarding department for 16 years. With all of these accomplishments and contributions, Doc was most proud of having been Interim Upper School Head in 1995-1996.  

Doc was the faculty advisor to various clubs and organizations, including the French Club, Debate Club, Broadcasting Club, Flying Club, House Council, Radio Club, Spanish Club, Italian Club, Young Republicans Club, and the yearbook, The Mosaic. For over 30 years, Doc also led much-sought-after student trips to England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Morocco and his favorite – Italy.  More recently Doc was the Moses Brown School Archivist and in 2022, the room he thought should be named the Moses Brown Room, became the Dr. King B. Odell, Jr. Archives and Reading Room.

Doc’s dedication to teaching and his expertise in languages were recognized by the Rhode Island Foreign Language Association, which named him Teacher of the Year in 2000. In 1990, the American Association of Teachers of French honored him with the Excellence in Teaching French Award, highlighting his exceptional contributions to the field of education.

In addition to his role as a teacher, Doc began his coaching career at Moses Brown as middle school tennis coach, then quickly became a highly successful track and field coach, leading the Moses Brown teams to numerous victories and championships. He served as the head winter track coach from 1964 to 1997 and the head varsity coach of cross-country and spring track from 1964 to 2004. Under his leadership, the teams achieved three Rhode Island Interscholastic League Winter Championships, 22 New England Prep School Track Association Winter Championships, eight New England Cross-Country Championships, 14 spring New England Track Championships, three victories at the Peddie School Relays, and a second-place finish at the Prep School Mile Relay of America at the Penn Relays. For six years, Doc served as head of the New England Prep School Track Association, creating divisions which remain to this day. It comes as no surprise that in 2000, Doc was inducted into the MBAA Hall of Fame.

Doc’s commitment to excellence in both teaching and coaching was self-evident and students rose to his high expectations, (often to avoid his acerbic wit). In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the school, the Moses Brown Community named the outdoor track the Doc Odell Track in 2005. This honor was a testament to his dedication and ability to motivate athletes, whether in the mile, the 100-yard dash, or the hurdles. In recognition of his exceptional contributions Doc was honored with the Frank Lanning Award by Words Unlimited, the statewide organization of sports writers, sportscasters, and sports publicists, at its 60th annual Sports Banquet in February 2006.

Doc’s educational achievements were not limited to his time at Moses Brown. After graduating from Aldrich High School in Warwick, RI, he earned an A.B. from Suffolk University, an A.M. from Brown University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Missouri. As a Fulbright scholar, he conducted research and taught at the Universities of Grenoble, Perugia, and Valencia, building on his expertise in languages and education.

During his 33 years in the U.S. Air Force and R.I. Air National Guard, Doc had assignments in both Intelligence and Personnel while rising to Lieutenant Colonel.

Doc’s entrepreneurial spirit was kindled as a paperboy in the Lakewood section of Warwick and as he spent summers on Block Island, he became a prominent businessman there. He began as the manager of the Narragansett Hotel in New Harbor which he managed for decades.  He was the long-time owner of King’s Spa, a building that then became The Water Street Inn, the Empire Theater, and the Sky King Snack Bar at the Block Island Airport. As the 20 or so Moses Brown students he employed each summer could report, he also owned the Western Union franchise for the island for many years.  Doc was also President of Star Resorts, with interests in ski operations on Okemo Mountain in Vermont.  

Doc’s passion for teaching and coaching, dedication to his students and the Moses Brown Community by shaping the lives of others has left a lasting legacy for future generations.

For community members who are so inclined to share a sentiment or memory with Doc’s family or our community, we encourage you to do so here.

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