In 1965, Dyke Brown opened The Athenian School in the foothills of Mt. Diablo. Unusual for its time, when almost all boarding schools were single gender and not admitting students of color, Athenian was coeducational and successfully recruited students of color and international students. Brown knew that a community that drew upon the talents of many different kinds of students would best enrich the learning environment for everyone. Originally a boarding only school, Athenian added a Middle School in the late 1970s (day students) and the day student population in the Upper School surpassed the boarding student population in the 1990s.
Brown grew up in the Bay Area. After graduating Piedmont High School in 1931 he spent several months at the Salem School in Germany where he met Kurt Hahn, the school founder. Hahn was known for his visionary approach to education (he also founded Outward Bound and the United World College Movement).