To the Harvard-Westlake Community:
Next year, Harvard-Westlake will be saying goodbye to our President, Thomas C. Hudnut. Tom’s leadership, vision, drive and strong character have propelled our school to heights unimagined when he arrived on the campus of Harvard School in 1987. That is, unimagined to everyone except Tom.
In his retirement announcement to the school community last month, Tom characterized his 25 years at Harvard-Westlake as “wondrous.” I characterize those years as nothing short of remarkable. During Tom’s tenure, he made a great institution even greater with a long list of groundbreaking accomplishments – all designed to deliver on the ambitious mission of our school. Highlights include:
- Leading the effort to combine Harvard and Westlake, creating a dynamic co-educational school which far exceeds the sum of its parts.
- Building a team of distinguished faculty members that is among the finest in the country.
- Improving the school’s athletics, visual arts and performing arts programs to be competitive on a national scale.
- Enhancing an already strong academic core, making it far more rigorous, more relevant and more comprehensive.
- Spearheading development of world-class educational facilities, including the Munger Science Center, Feldman-Horn Center for the Visual Arts and the 220,000-square-foot Middle School Campus, as well as state-of-the-art athletic facilities for baseball, tennis, swimming, track, soccer and football.
- Creating a sophisticated fundraising program that fuels the academic, arts and athletic programs.
- Diversifying the backgrounds and heritage of our faculty and student body, and connecting alumni to the school as never before.
- Increasing access to the school by extending financial aid to nearly 20 percent of students.
This is just a partial list of Tom’s accomplishments, which appear practically endless. But in the end, Tom’s most lasting legacy will be the thousands of Harvard-Westlake graduates who live with integrity and purpose as contributing members of society. They, and we, owe him our profound gratitude.
Tom chose to break the news of his retirement in the student newspaper, The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle. I’d like to share an excerpt from their editorial thanking Tom for his quarter-century of service:
||We are on the brink of what will certainly be a new era. To maintain the unparalleled foundation that Hudnut has laid, we must continue to evolve. A successor for Hudnut has yet to be named, but truthfully every individual of the Harvard-Westlake community is Hudnut’s successor. We are the keepers of his legacy. Hudnut’s innate humanity and intense love of learning must be kept alive and thriving through the passionate endeavors of every member of our community. Only by doing so can we give Hudnut his much-deserved thank you.
The Board of Trustees began preparing for succession many years ago, and has followed a careful and conscientious process. To ensure a smooth transition, Tom will continue to lead Harvard-Westlake for the 2012-13 school year and has indicated his willingness to aid our new president in certain future external activities. As such, we will all have the time to appropriately celebrate and thank Tom for his indelible impact on the Harvard-Westlake community he has worked so hard to build.
Christine U. Hazy
Chair, Board of Trustees
Introducing the Next Leader
To the Harvard-Westlake Community:
It couldn’t please me more to introduce my successor as President of Harvard-Westlake – Richard B. Commons. Rick is an extremely accomplished educator, with nearly 25 years of teaching and leadership experience at some of the nation’s premier independent schools.
Currently, Rick is the Headmaster of Groton School in Massachusetts. Established in 1884, Groton is routinely ranked as one of the top college preparatory schools in the country. Like Harvard-Westlake, the school attracts highly talented and driven students, and great teachers who challenge students to extend themselves and excel in all aspects of school life.
Rick isn’t so much joining the Harvard-Westlake community as he is returning home. I hired him as a faculty member in 1992, and for five years he served our school with distinction, as an English teacher, college counselor, assistant dean and soccer coach.
After leaving Harvard-Westlake and prior to joining Groton, Rick was Dean of Students and Assistant Headmaster at McDonogh School, a K-12 day and boarding school near Baltimore, Maryland. He started his career at Woodberry Forest School, a boarding school in Central Virginia.
At Groton, which he has led since 2003, Rick is widely credited with balancing long-standing traditions with vital innovations such as increasing student accessibility to the school. Today, approximately 45 percent of Groton students receive some form of financial aid, and about one-third of the students come from diverse racial backgrounds. Under Rick’s leadership, Groton has significantly strengthened its athletics and arts programs, and retained its tremendous academic reputation. The school has also maintained the close-knit culture of high standards and public service it has prized since its founding.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Rick received his Bachelor of Arts with Distinction from the University of Virginia, a Master of Arts in Teaching from Stanford University, and a Master of Arts from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College.
Leading Harvard-Westlake in a changing world is a consuming but deeply rewarding endeavor. I believe Rick is uniquely qualified to hold this position for the next generation. I should also note that he’s not the only member of his family to re-join the Harvard-Westlake community. His wife, the former Lindsay McNiel, is an alumna, Class of 1996. They have two children, Matthew, 5, and Clara, nearly 2.
I know you will join me in welcoming Rick and his family to the Harvard-Westlake community next year.
Thomas C. Hudnut