From the Head of School

(Hackley Review Summer 2020) Several months ago, we chose to focus on character in this issue of Hackley Review. In light of the current global state and the new reality we are all facing, that decision seems almost prescient. We are living through what we can only hope is a once in a lifetime moment, one that requires resolve, integrity, cooperation, ingenuity, and the need to act in the collective best interest. Simply put, it requires character.

Since mid-March, people have been driven apart physically. We have been forced into our homes, adapting how we work, socialize, and learn. Video conferences and masks are ubiquitous, replacing impromptu conversations and handshakes. Everywhere we turn, the familiar has been replaced and we are now living lives that have been - and will continue to be - fundamentally changed.

And yet, examples abound of people coming together to lift up one another, revealing the best of the human spirit. From health care professionals traveling from out-of-state to help areas in need to high school students - including Hackley students! - creating and donating masks, we have seen countless individuals stepping up in difficult circumstances to support others. These stories that fill our hearts with hope are examples of character in action: individuals with the strength and determination to act, not when personally convenient but when circumstances require.

Hackley has long emphasized and embraced the development of character as part of our education. Character features prominently in our mission: “Hackley challenges students to grow in character, scholarship, and accomplishment...” Further, Headmaster Walter C. Johnson popularized Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quotation within the Hackley community, reminding us that “...character is higher than intellect,” cementing this wisdom as part of our core values for generations to come.

The continuity of these values and the emphasis on character is shared widely throughout the school, but perhaps nowhere more than on Hackley’s Board of Trustees. It is bittersweet news to announce that John C. Canoni 86’ will conclude his term as Board President on June 30, 2020. John has led the Board through a period of transition and change in the school, always with a steady hand and unyielding commitment to the school’s mission and values. Through his service to others, he embodies the type of character that Hackley strives to develop in our students. We are fortunate that H. Rodgin Cohen P ’08, a trustee since 2002, will lead the Board as President. Rodge’s knowledge of the school community and his deep commitment to our values ensures that character will always remain central to a Hackley education.

In addition to sharing news of this transition, this edition of Hackley Review highlights the ways in which these guiding principles have long been part of the school’s culture and how they are woven throughout the experience of today’s students.

This edition opens with a representative group of students, parents, teachers, and staff sharing their personal thoughts on character on the Hilltop. An essay by Chris McColl, Director of Admissions, connects these modern day portraits to the school’s founding days, referencing Headmaster Theodore Chickering Williams’ quotation about campus being “a place where it should be easy to be good.” These two pieces provide excellent bookends to the study of character development at Hackley, from the school’s founding through present day.

Importantly, character is not something simply developed at Hackley during one’s time as a student. Rather, it is a quality that informs the life and experience of our alumni, connecting them to the school’s history and culture. I have been in many conversations with alumni who share stories of an influential faculty member who taught them a lesson of great permanence. These teachable moments frequently centered on personal, rather than intellectual development, and have shaped the individual’s sense of self and their relationships with others.

Suzy Akin, Director of Communications, looks at character development across the school’s history, drawing from some truly inspirational and legendary Hackley teachers. Her piece complements an interview with Ingrid Fetell Lee ‘97, author of Joyful, who shares insights on the relationship between “character, scholarship, and accomplishment” and their foundation in joy. Finally, Cyndy Jean, Director of the Middle School, shares her experience with our distance learning approach in an essay that was recently shared in Hackley Perspectives. Cyndy’s essay highlights resilience and points to the ways this aspect of character has been made even more visible.

Regardless of whether we are in-person or distance learning, we continue to develop student character. Hackley’s mission, culture, and history set us on this path, and the current moment demands nothing less.

P.S. I would be remiss if I did not use some of my allotted space to say goodbye to Suzy Akin, Director of Communications. Suzy is finishing her 24th year at Hackley and has been throughout those years the driving force behind our communications efforts, including Hackley Review. The strength of this publication and the sophistication of our efforts are due in no small measure to her hard work and creativity. Thank you, Suzy and best wishes for your adventures in Boston!