July 17, 2020
Dear Parents, Faculty, Old Boys and Friends,
As St. Bernard’s embarks on the quest for a new head of school, we wanted to take this opportunity to introduce the members of the Search Committee and share with you how the process will work. The goal is to conduct an open and transparent search, one in which each of you can play a part.
The Search Committee begins the process with what one of Mr. Mark Hauser’s budding classicists might call a tabula rasa
, a blank slate that we will need your help to complete. Once a search firm is retained in the next few weeks, it will begin canvassing parents, faculty, and Old Boys about their thoughts on the qualities for an ideal head of school. This input will help to create the blueprint for the search. We encourage you to think creatively and expansively.
As the search progresses, we plan on being as transparent as possible. We will share our approach, our goals and our key developments through regular updates on the school website
and through e-mails. Obviously, we will not be able to share the names of candidates.
At the outset it is important to mention that everyone on the committee treasures St. Bernard’s unique DNA and understands the intellectual grounding the boys derive from a traditional education. We share a commitment to making sure that the school remains true to its past as it moves forward into the future. If the events of 2020—be it a shift to remote learning caused by the COVID–19 pandemic or our nation grappling with continued systemic injustice—have taught us anything, it is that a leader of a boys’ school must be able to pick a point on the horizon, resist the crosswinds of academic fads, yet be open-minded enough to take decisive action when the world is changing in historic ways and the boys require new skills and resources to deal with these changes.
To ensure that all voices are heard, the Search Committee’s members have been selected from all of our major constituencies: faculty, parents, past parents and Old Boys. Andy Hagon and Oliver Bowcock, the heads of the Junior and Upper School, respectively, will be representing the faculty along with Chris Brady, a favorite teacher in the Middle School. Together, these gentlemen embody 59 years of classroom experience at 4 East 98th Street. They understand that when it comes to boys, character, integrity, and kindness are as important as intellectual accomplishment. They know the importance of teaching boys to prize learning before grades, to take pleasure in helping others, and to do their very best with what they have.
The committee will also benefit from the academic and administrative wisdom and experience of Bob Miness, the former Head of the Upper School and Secondary School Placement, as well as Kitty Gordan, who is a former parent, the current chair of the school’s Academic Committee and previously the 25 year Associate Head of School at Nightingale-Bamford, where she was a member of the faculty for 44 years.
The committee will include parents from all three divisions: Junior School, Middle School, and Upper School. They are Andrea DuBois, the mother of a first and seventh grader and the co-chair of the Parents Association’s Community Gathering Committee, Jennifer Rich, the parent of a third grader and the co-chair of the annual benefit three years running, Eugenie Goodman, the mother of a fifth grader and a member of the Nominating Committee of the Parents Association, and Erin Drouin, the outgoing President of the Parents Association and the mother of a sixth grader. Rounding out this constituency will be another sixth grade parent, Andrew Solomon, a National Book Award-winning author, and an activist in LGBT rights, mental health, and the arts. Their insights will be invaluable as they see the strengths of the school on a daily basis.
In addition to the co-chairs of the committee, the interests of our Old Boys will be looked after by Antonio Weiss ’80, a past parent and former trustee, and John Brodie ’79, who is a former co-president of the Old Boys Council and a former trustee.
Search Committee co-chair AJ Houston ’03 is a founding member of the Old Boys Diversity Council and serves on the Athletic, Diversity, and Investment Committees of the Board of Trustees. After St. Bernard’s, he graduated from the Taft School and Dartmouth College where he played varsity football and majored in Classical Studies with a focus on Latin. He works in Global Equity Trading at the Royal Bank of Canada and to this day credits John Demeny’s Mental Aerobics class with giving him numerous fun facts at his fingertips. Or as he says, “I still can remember the names of the lions outside of the 42nd Street New York Public Library: Patience and Fortitude.”
Fellow co-chair Tom Kempner is also an Old Boy, a former parent and a current St. Bernard’s grandparent. Tom’s experience with the school began in 1959 in Mrs. Ashton’s first grade classroom, which was just to the left of what we today call the Small Gym. By his own admission, he was “disorganized and unfocused,” and he credits his strong personal relationships with a few faculty members for teaching him intellectual curiosity and a love of learning. Tom and his two sons believe that St. Bernard’s was the finest education they received in their entire academic careers. Tom is committed to seeing that his grandson, currently a rising first grader, will concur with this sentiment.
Tom would come to serve as a trustee for 19 years, and be the Chairman of the Board from 2001 to 2007 during which time he worked closely with Stuart Johnson, and watched firsthand as Stuart improved the school with each passing year and became an icon in the process. Outside of St. Bernard’s, Tom has presided over a number of important searches including those for the President of the Harvard Management Company and that for the President of the Central Park Conservancy, on whose board he serves as Chairman.
We look forward to hearing from you and meeting with many of you—even if only via Zoom. The next great head of St. Bernard’s may be someone of whom you are already aware, so please don’t hesitate to share your ideas.
AJ Houston ’03
Thomas L. Kempner ’67
Co-chairs of the Search CommitteeFull List of Search Committee MembersSearch for Head of School Webpage