As the 2021 school year comes to a close, so does Dr. John Nagl’s tenure as Head of School. His surprising resignation part way through last summer left many Haverford students asking the question, “Who will be our next headmaster?”
Dr. Nagl’s love for Haverford and its community was felt and appreciated by all.
Ever since the day of Dr. Nagl’s resignation, Haverford’s administrative body has been searching for a new leader. Little information has been thus far communicated to the student body about this search and its possible candidates. There has been no perceived effort on the side of the administration to ask and understand what students want in their next head of school.
Therefore, for better or for worse, I will do my best to speak for the student body and what it wants and needs in its next Headmaster. The three most necessary characteristics: bipartisanship, unconditional love for the school, and empathy.
In a time of polarization unseen since the 1960s and federal party platforms inching farther and farther to the extreme every day, Haverford needs a head of school who will make an effort to facilitate healthy discussion. A good example of this would be not taking a side on hot political issues such as the impeachment of a president or large social movements skewed to one particular ideology. Some may feel that it is the head of school’s responsibility to further certain agendas that they deem to be moral, but any furthering of an agenda that clearly skews to one side of the political aisle ostracizes a group of students and families. Though this is easier said than done, a few ways a head could facilitate discussion in a bipartisan manner is by not making outward statements of one’s own view, by bringing in speakers of all political ideologies, and by taking action against teachers who make a clear and dangerous effort to teach their opinion rather than make their best effort at offering both sides of the argument.
Second, the next head needs to have an unconditional love for Haverford, its students, and its community. This does not mean an inability to criticize Haverford because, as James Baldwin said best, “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”
The next head should want to right the wrongs in Haverford, all the while wanting the best for every boy that has walked through the school’s halls, every teacher that has taught a lesson in Wilson Hall, every parent that has sacrificed for their son to receive a great education, and every staff member who dedicates time to running the parts of the school students rarely see. This type of unwavering love is the only kind that will facilitate the creation of a true brotherhood.
He [the new head of school] should understand that we, as a community but also as individual students, make mistakes and that no one wants more than the student body to correct these mistakes.
Lastly, the next head has to be empathetic. He should not only be able to understand but want to understand each boy that he comes in contact with. He should understand that we, as a community but also as individual students, make mistakes and that no one wants more than the student body to correct these mistakes. Most importantly, he needs to understand that each boy is different, with his own life, problems, feelings, and beliefs, and that the only way he can truly lead them through their lower, middle school, and upper school years is by doing his best to understand each facet of as many boys’ lives as he can.
What we, as a student body, stand for is what our leadership should represent to the wider community—we should thoughtfully consider and discuss that image to the outside world.