On Saturday, Oct. 19, during Fall Family and Alumnae/i Weekend, over 200 members of The White Mountain School community gathered at the foot of Hood’s Hill for the formal installation of John Drew as the 20th head of school, a position he has served in since July 1, 2019.
The installation ceremony featured remarks from several community members and guests. The Rev. Hillary Collins-Gilpatrick, White Mountain’s chaplain, delivered the invocation and was followed by Deborah Lowham P’18 ’20, chair of the Board of Trustees. Sandy Stott, a 17-year colleague of John’s from Concord Academy, introduced his longtime friend at the ceremony.
“John brings many gifts to his work, and central among them is his ability to observe closely and see clearly that which is before him. Surely, there are strands of this ability rooted in his training and teaching as a scientist, but there’s more to it. At heart, keen observation is born of affection and respect. A person who watches closely cares about your welfare,” said Sandy. “Sensitivity, clarity, and empathy. These other qualities led to John often being sought out as an advisor at the school where we were, and a touchstone for people from all sorts of backgrounds. His strong analytical mind can cut through the static, but he’s also a creative thinker who can imagine solutions that honor both the system and the individual.”
Throughout his comments, John thanked the community for their support over the first few months of his headship and briefly outlined his vision for White Mountain and its place in contemporary education.
“This event is not about me or the position of head of school. It is marking a transition of stewardship that started more than 130 years ago. For all that time, enough people have cared enough about this school to continue its mission, and I’m glad to be part of that,” said John. “My strong belief is that White Mountain possesses all of the ingredients to offer relevance to students and to secondary education that can meet the needs of young people, both at this moment and moving forward. A strong faculty and staff who are willing to try new things are uncommon. The identification of the essential skills and habits that White Mountain aspires to instill in students anticipated an important reframing of education that’s going on right now, and that we can help lead.”
After John’s comments, several representatives from White Mountain’s 2019 Student Council offered remarks and presented John with a gift to welcome him to the school. Finally, the Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld, bishop of the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire and president of White Mountain’s Board of Trustees, led a closing prayer.
After the installation ceremony, Bishop Hirschfeld offered some further thoughts on John and what they might accomplish together throughout his tenure at White Mountain.
“In overseeing a number of other communities, I have noticed that a community takes on the heart of its leader within a year or so. I already see John’s humility, curiosity, and sense of joy and wonder in place here,” said Bishop Hirschfeld. “As John mentioned in his address, our social fabric, both domestically and abroad, has been torn, and our Earth has been riven. I think that part of what it means to be an Episcopal school today is to do our best to engage God’s mission of healing and reconciliation among all people. How best to do this is a big question that I’m excited to continue exploring with John.”
A career-long environmental science teacher and track coach, John came to White Mountain after a 21-year career at Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts. At Concord, John served in several capacities, including as assistant head, a science teacher, a coach for cross country and girls’ varsity basketball, and a house faculty member. Prior to working at Concord Academy, John served as a health educator and coach of cross country and track and field at Penn State Behrend. Before that, he taught and coached at the Potomac School in McLean, Virginia, where he directed the summer academic program and served as a founding advisor for the school’s first multicultural affinity group. He began his teaching career in 1985 at the Field School in Washington, D.C., where he worked with the science department to offer one of D.C.’s first high school HIV/AIDS education programs.
John holds a master’s degree from Smith College and a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College. He lives on campus in Dickey House with his wife Gianna, who is a family nurse practitioner. They have two children, Sophie, 22, and Nate, 19.
To learn more about John’s vision for White Mountain, please see the Winter 2019 issue of Echoes, the alumnae/i magazine.
Founded in 1886 and set in the beautiful White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, The White Mountain School is a coeducational college-preparatory boarding and day school for 135 students grades 9-12/PG. Our mission is to be a school of inquiry and engagement. Grounded in an Episcopal heritage, White Mountain prepares and inspires students to lead lives of curiosity, courage, and compassion.