Hackley Courtyard Dedicated in Memory of Former Headmaster Walter C. Johnson

On  June 4, 2022, the courtyard adjacent to Allen Memorial Hall and the Science Building was dedicated and named in memory of former Headmaster Walter C. Johnson. 

Made possible by a gift from the Caputo family—Trustee Tom '65 and Janet P '93, and Kate Caputo Squyres '93 and Isaac Squyres—the courtyard celebrates all that Walter accomplished during his tenure on the Hilltop including overseeing the redesign of Hackley‘s buildings and grounds beginning with the purchase of 172 adjacent acres of land from the Laurence S. Rockefeller Fund. His leadership continued through construction of the new lower school, middle school, and science buildings; creation of five new athletic fields, a new track, and new cross-country trails; and renovation of Goodhue and Raymond Halls. He strengthened Hackley‘s overall financial stability and expanded faculty compensation and financial aid resources. 

An inspiring teacher of English and Moral Philosophy and a wise advisor to students, he was the visionary force who sustained and deepened the School's commitment to its core values of community, inclusion, respect and kindness, consistent with the idea he often quoted, from Emerson, that "Character is higher than intellect."  That quote appears on the plaque commemorating the naming of this space. 

Janet Caputo noted, “Walter was a man of such grace, honorable, possessed of an extraordinary intellect, a lovely sense of humor and a kindness that exceeded all expectations.  Those of us who were fortunate to know him during his years at Hackley understand the magnitude of the gift he left behind.  In making this gift, Tom and I hope that generations of students, parents, and faculty who will never “know” Walter as we did will come to appreciate his exceptional legacy.” 

The late Hackley Trustee Philip Havens '49 once commented, "Walter personified that essentially Hackley element of our mission statement: unreserved effort. He gave us his talent, his boundless energy and his imagination. Somehow, like a sculptor, he saw what was possible. He saw how to create it. And he saw how to harness the energy and talent of the many who love Hackley to join together, chisels in hand, in this grand and beautiful project."

Finally, though Walter accomplished so much that was otherwise measurable, he held himself to a higher standard noting the following in his final essay to the Hackley community, “Educating the Moral Heart” in spring 2016:

As Head, the greatest challenges are not building buildings, or raising money, or strengthening market position. The great challenges come when there’s a death in our community, when a child is bullied, when parent or teacher misbehavior puts children at risk, when episodes of racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia disturb our nation and our school, when the anger and pain of alumni about faculty misconduct decades ago focuses on us as the symbol of our community. In such times, love must join with power to support our communities.

The moral exercise of power entails not simply good intentions, but consideration of persons as well as effects. An irate parent is irrational because she loves her son. Even if we have to dismiss a student, we want to help him learn from his mistakes rather than be crippled by them.

The successful Head is one for whom power is an instrument of love. That can’t be measured by buildings built or money raised. We know as Lord Acton wrote that “Power tends to corrupt”; it does so if we begin to see people only instrumentally, as a means rather than as ends in themselves. The danger of power is when utilitarian calculations harden our hearts. In the name of the good, we lose the good. As a wise woman wrote:

"What matters is the individual. If we wait till we get numbers, then we will be lost in the numbers and we will never be able to show that love and respect for the person."