Keynote Address

By Dr. Thomas John Locke
Head of School, Episcopal Academy

If you have ever read the position description for the head of a prestigious independent school, you know that we are searching far and wide for superheroes. And while that seems foolish and unrealistic to find someone who can do it all, we search for someone who has everything simply because we need it.

We need someone who feels our school’s spirit deep in her heart, cheering at a basketball game like the fate of the world depends on us winning.

We need someone to know us, to know when we are down, to lead our family… someone who will give us a word of encouragement or a high five at just the right time. And perhaps, we need an inspiring story from time to time to remind us why we were all called to this profession.

We need someone with a calm head in a crisis, and we also need someone with a bold vision to help us realize we have not yet reached our potential. And she also needs to provide us with the inspiration and the path to take us there.

And let’s be honest, we need someone who can just get massive amounts of work done.

When I think of these superhero lists, I cannot think of too many people who indeed “have it all.” But I am honored to share with you that I think you have found one of those rare leaders in your new Head of School, Dr. Cathy Hall.

As her friend, I am just so proud of her. As an educator, I am giddy with excitement to see what she will accomplish here, and as your colleague from Philadelphia, I am thrilled for you because you have someone truly special alongside whom you will work for many, many years to come.

Great schools at their core are learning organizations. An obvious statement perhaps, but if we as educators are going to ensure that our students are learning at the highest levels, then we as a school must be committed to learning. This begins with the Head of School. And of all the reasons I respect my friend and colleague, Dr. Cathy Hall, it is her unending desire to learn, that is her most impressive trait of excellence.

I have seen this with Cathy at every level. You are all no doubt familiar with her resume and her various degrees from elite institutions. Some of you may even know the mentoring work she has done with aspiring leaders.

But I have also had the pleasure of seeing her in smaller moments at workshops and leadership conferences, pushing herself to question her own assumptions, challenging herself to think of her work in ways that will move a school forward more efficiently, effectively, and with more inspiration.

As you all work hard to make sure you are keeping current and doing the best you can as a school, you should know you have a Head of School who will always set the example that we are never done learning.

Great Heads of School also need to be competent. Let’s face it. We need our leaders to know the work. We need them to work tirelessly, to lose sleep over making our schools better places, to ensure all departments in the school are performing optimally.

Cathy has deep experience with every single aspect of schooling. We at the Episcopal Academy always knew that when we needed something done, we could always just go to Cathy. She would figure it out. She would get it done, and she would do it well.

But most of all we need leaders with compassion. When the challenges in our schools get too perplexing, an effective leader can always lead with her heart.

When we found out Cathy was coming to Nobles, we knew what we would miss most would not be her work but her compassion and her warm personality.

We miss her sense of humor, her desire to help others, and her love of schools. Cathy reminded us all how lucky we are to come to work each day. She reminded us to be joyful, to not take ourselves too seriously, and to always do the right thing.

Your new Head of School is a loyal and dedicated professional, an intelligent and creative thinker, and an absolute work horse.

As you continue to find ways to welcome her into your school community, be sure to introduce yourselves, give her a smile, share your stories with her, and trust that she will always be working tirelessly to make the Nobles community the best it can be.

It has been sad to see her leave Episcopal Academy. We all know that Nobles is getting a sharp, cutting-edge leader with a huge heart.

Cathy, speaking on behalf of all your friends and colleagues from Philadelphia and from around this country, I wish you all the best. You will thrive here at Nobles, and you will continue to strengthen this school’s well-deserved reputation for excellence. 



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Keynote Address