Interim Head of School

From the Interim Head of School, Karlyn McNall
Karlyn McNall

Despite the extreme weather, as I drove up the long drive beside Bateman’s Pond and experienced the Olmsted Brothers’ “reveal” of the main circle, I was struck by the beauty of the Middlesex campus.  It was March of 1994 and I was late for my job interview – torrential rain had made for slow going and, absent navigation technology or a cell phone, I was on my way to making a tardy first impression.

My first visit was grounded by a walk around the Middlesex Circle, soggy footwear, umbrellas and all – it is an experience (hopefully absent the poor weather) that all guests to Middlesex enjoy.

The Circle is an enduring metaphor for Middlesex and our mission and program.  It is at the center of our campus with vital buildings at the cardinal directions.  This literal reflection of the Middlesex community brings everyone to a center that fosters the development of ethical people, promotes a sense of belonging and values the contributions of every member of the community.

Visitors enter from the south and directly face Ware Hall located at the northern coordinate.  Ware Hall is the center for our student activities.  The beautiful dining hall on the second-floor fills with all members of the community to share food and company throughout the day.  Our students come from more than a dozen countries and more than twenty states and the opportunity to share meals with people from any variety of backgrounds is central to Middlesex’s mission.  Plaques from generations of students line the walls, serving as an enduring connection to classes of students from decades past.  The main floor of the building holds space for casual student connections – ping pong during free time, grill food at off hours and meeting spaces for clubs are all incorporated into this anchor building.  Middlesex encourages students to first investigate, and later lead, all manner of clubs and activities – each student is needed in order for the program to thrive.

At the western coordinate stands the School’s Chapel.  In 1901, Frederick Winsor founded Middlesex as a non-denominational school, but one that values purposeful community.  The memorial Chapel integrates this important sense of community into our program as each week we gather first to practice Mindfulness and then to enjoy the framing thoughts of a faculty member and a senior.  This community time promotes the leadership of our older students while continuing to frame important ethical conversations that are at the core of our work together.

Due east sits Eliot Hall, bordered by the Clay Centennial Science Center and the Bass Arts Pavilion, buildings at the center of our academic corridor.  The heart of our work, Middlesex’s superlative academic program invites students to participate in small classes with expert teachers whose enthusiasm for their subject matter is only exceeded by their love for sharing their discipline with teenagers.  Small groups of students meet with teachers around seminar tables, an arrangement that relies on the diverse ideas brought by each member of the class.  Experiments, art installations, competitions, debates, analyses, connections across disciplines, rehearsals, collaborations . . . they are all part of exercising the life of the mind.

It is impossible to capture the energy of the collective learning that occurs each day throughout the academic spaces of the school and that extends to the extracurricular lives of students and faculty members, although I encourage you to visit the academic links on the website to sample the variety of opportunities that a curious and energetic student can find at Middlesex.  With exceptional resources and updated facilities, Middlesex students explore a full range of intellectual opportunities and have top-of-the-line support to pursue their known areas of excellence.

The athletics program embraces all members of the community, whether they intend to be collegiate competitors or are more recreational in their athletic endeavors.  Students are required to participate with a team – the point is to connect with teammates and to enjoy and benefit from the challenge of competition and teamwork.  Athletes enjoy invested coaches (who are often their teachers) and excellent facilities to support and promote their efforts.  A member of the Independent School League, Middlesex benefits from excellent competition and an environment that promotes the sportsmanship and character that translate to important qualities in all aspects of life.

Within the green space of the Circle, we will often find students meeting one-on-one with their faculty advisors, or a small group playing frisbee, or friends enjoying lunch, or seniors gathering younger students for an impromptu meeting, or students studying during a free block. Middlesex thrives on community and the variety of programs and opportunities for students and adults to connect with each other through formal and informal structures speaks to the centrality of this philosophy.  Ours is an extraordinary community that is better for each person who contributes to our collective work.

Nearly 30 years after my first visit to Middlesex, I am still here.  I have stayed in large part because Middlesex is the sort of community where every person is important.  I have benefited tremendously from my years connecting with and learning from students and colleagues.  And, as important, I have come to know that Middlesex is better for my contributions.  This understanding is invaluable, especially to a young person as they make their transition from child to adult.  Being known and needed is uniquely empowering and at the core of Middlesex’s mission.  Our Circle is complete because of each person’s contributions to it.

I hope to see you on the Circle.

Karlyn M. McNall
Interim Head of School