The Armidale School's headmaster of the past 21 years, Murray Guest, has died in a fiery car crash east of Armidale.
The 125-year-old New England region boarding school, which only recently expanded under Mr Guest's guidance to take in female boarders, released a statement to parents and the wider school community confirming the "gravest and most devastating news".
Police said the car Mr Guest, 60, was driving left the Waterfall Way near Wollomombi about 20 kilometres east of Armidale, crashing into a tree and bursting into flames.
The popular principal was the sole occupant in the car and died at the scene about 10.30am (Tuesday).
Deputy headmaster, Alan Jones, said the news was devastating for the school community, particularly staff and its 620 students.
"But in particular our prayers and thoughts are with his family, his wife, Joanne, and his children, Annelise and Harry," he said.
"The TAS community is united in our grief and devastated by this news.
"We are aware of the emotional impact this news may have on all of you.
"We are providing initial support to our students through our welfare team.
"I assure you that while this news is heartbreaking and incomprehensible, our board and staff will continue to guide the school during this very sad time."
Students were informed at an all-school assembly before being counselled in their pastoral care groups.
TAS board chairman, Sebastian Hempel, paid tribute to Mr Guest describing him as "an outstanding leader, educator and friend".
"Murray was appointed as the school's 13th headmaster in 1998 and set it on the course on a new direction with vision, energy and purpose," he said.
"Strategically his most defining legacy was the introduction of full co-education in 2016, but more enduring will be the impact he has made on generations of boys and girls who received their education under him.
Mr Hempel, himself a former TAS student, said while many would be wishing to pay their respects to Mr Guest's memory, the school's primary thoughts were with his family.
"We would ask that the privacy of the school community be respected at this time."
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