Honoring Excellence

Middlesex School

Looking back on the formative years he spent as a student at Middlesex, Bill Speidel ’53 has long felt that the lessons of structure, discipline, and hard work he learned back then gave him the skills to be successful at Cornell and in his career in the hotel industry. Wanting to give back to the School – and to honor his wife Joan, now retired from her work as a dedicated, high school English teacher – Bill has thoughtfully established the Joan A. Speidel Chair in English to support a senior member of the Middlesex faculty.

On September 13, during the first all-School Assembly, English Department Head John Hirsch was enthusiastically applauded as he was formally appointed the first holder of the Speidel Chair by Head of School Kathy Giles. A graduate of Harvard with an A.B. in classics, John earned an Ed.M. at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and taught in public school systems in Boston and Virginia before joining the Middlesex faculty in 1990 to teach classics and English. In 1997, he received his M.F.A. in fiction writing from Bennington College. In addition to serving as the  department head, John is the architect and director of the Middlesex Writing Program, the coach of girls’ varsity squash, and a dorm assistant in Clay House.

 As Mrs. Giles rightly told the School on presenting John with the Speidel Chair, “Mr. Hirsch’s leadership and commitment are inspirational. He has an intense and marvelous vision of the kind of experience each of you should have in your English classroom, particularly with regard to the way you should become able to express yourself in writing; this vision is a gift to you for the rest of your lives, and it is a gift to the School as well. Perhaps Mr. Hirsch is the quintessential ‘triple threat’ – we are never in danger of complacency, and we are always prepared for vigorous and energizing engagement, whether the issue pertains to academics, athletics, or community life. We are very pleased to honor him with the Speidel Chair today.”

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