In June 2020, Dr. Wendy Hill will retire after six years as Head of The Agnes Irwin School. A nationwide search for Agnes Irwin’s 14th Head of School is now underway.
In her letter to the Agnes Irwin community on April 17, Dr. Hill shared the following: “This decision is bittersweet. I will sorely miss the lively and engaging interactions with my beloved students through the exuberant corridors of our school ... At the same time, I am buoyed by the prospect of a renewed focus on my own personal discoveries and new adventures — an exciting proposition after devoting more than three decades to the field of education.”
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I would like to thank Wendy for her dedication to our school and the diligent work she has facilitated to prepare Agnes Irwin for our next 150 years," wrote Board Chair Ginny Williams. "We are grateful that Wendy has given us ample notice of her plans to retire at the culmination of her sixth year with us so that we may conduct a thoughtful and thorough search for our next Head of School."
Pat Coyne – Trustee, Parent (’14, ’17, ’19)
Anne Ford – Trustee, Parent (’30)
Elena Bertrand – Math Department Chair, Upper School Math Teacher
Sandy Crockett ’77 – Trustee
Taliba Foster ’88 – Trustee, Parent (’23)
Janet Bartholdson Fry ’06 – Middle School History Teacher
Andrew Kress – Trustee, Parent (’22, ’25)
Tien-Yueh Kubach – Trustee, Parent (’27, ’29)
Sean McCarthy – Incoming Trustee, Parent (’18, ’20, ’23, ’26)
Megan McHugh – Associate Director of Lower School Admission and Outreach
Susan Hirtle McEvoy ’00 – Incoming Trustee, Parent (’31)
Rory McNeil – Trustee, Parent (’19)
Erica Shippen ’99 – Literacy Specialist and Coordinator of Lower School Student Support Services
Merritt Weber – Trustee, Parent (’19)
Ginny Sharp Williams ’88 – Board Chair, Parent (’20)
John A. Fry – Trustee and President of Drexel University
Priscilla Sands ’65 – Parent of alumna, Head of the Marlborough School in Los Angeles, CA
Susan Burch – Trustee, Co-Head of the Previous Search Committee, Current and Past Parent
Anne Fritchman Hamilton ’74 – Trustee Emerita, Past Parent
Anita L. McMullin ’81 – Trustee, Co-Head of the Previous Search Committee
Ann Laupheimer Sonnenfeld ’77, Esquire – Trustee Emerita, Former Chair of the Board, Past Parent
- A Letter From Dr. Wendy Hill, Head of School: April 17, 2019
- A Letter From Ginny Williams, Chair of the Board of Trustees: April 17, 2019
- A Message From The Search Committee: May 13, 2019
- An Update and Participation Request from the Search Committee: May 29, 2019
A Message From The Head of School
April 17, 2019
Dear Agnes Irwin Community,
Every June, we recognize the graduating class of accomplished young women and send them forth onto the next step of their individual journeys. In anticipation of next year’s Commencement at the conclusion of Agnes Irwin’s Sesquicentennial Celebration, I have been reflecting on the next step of my own personal journey, and write to share with you that I have decided to retire as Head of The Agnes Irwin School in June 2020.
This decision is bittersweet. I will sorely miss the lively and engaging interactions with my beloved students throughout the exuberant corridors of our school — as well as the quieter “aha” moments, such as when a student suddenly grasps a complex topic or comes up with a creative, new idea. The joy and love of learning is palpable here; I will leave next year flush with wonderful memories of our girls, from prekindergartener to graduate, and I will always hold these remembrances close to my heart. At the same time, I am buoyed by the prospect of a renewed focus on my own personal discoveries and new adventures — an exciting proposition after devoting more than three decades to the field of education.
The timing of this transition is a natural one: our 150th anniversary will come to a close in June 2020 and we will be entering into the final implementation year of our bold Strategic Plan, Leading Girls’ Education. A new Head of School at that juncture will continue the great work already in progress, and have the opportunity to present her own vision as we commence the next 150 years for The Agnes Irwin School.
These past five years have been extraordinary, both professionally and personally, and I am proud of all that we have accomplished together. I am grateful for the opportunity to lead this preeminent institution and work alongside the outstanding faculty, administrators, and staff whose singular focus is the education and well-being of our students. I relish the relationships I have developed with our accomplished alumnae, who engage lovingly with their alma mater; the Board of Trustees, whose counsel has been invaluable; our donor community, whose support has enabled our vision to become a reality; and our parents, who have entrusted their daughters to Agnes Irwin for the best all-girls’ education in the Philadelphia region.
Most importantly, I am grateful for my time and shared experiences with our students. Five years ago, my decision to pivot from my career as a teacher-scholar and academic leader in higher education was motivated by a single aspiration: to meaningfully contribute to the development of primary and secondary education programs that enhance the aspirations and achievement of girls — enabling them to succeed in whatever paths they blaze for themselves. The stirring mission of AIS — to empower girls to learn, to lead, and to live a legacy — drew me to this community, and this clarion call will continue to resonate deeply with me as I explore new paths.
As I shared with the community during my convocation speech in 2014, “I am certainly not Miss Agnes Irwin. I do not know how far from or close to her, or Sophy, or Mary Seppala, or Adele Sands, or Anne Lenox, or Penney Moss, I am or will ever be.” I do hope, by some measures, that I made Agnes Proud, as I have given all that I had, and all that I am, to the institution she pioneered nearly 150 years ago.
Until June 2020, there is much to do, and to commemorate. I will continue to lead The Agnes Irwin School with the same resolve and vigor as I brought with me in July of 2014, and I look forward to all that is to come for this special community I cherish so much as we embark on our historic Sesquicentennial Celebration together.
With deep gratitude,
Wendy L. Hill, Ph.D.
Head of School
April 17, 2019
Dear Agnes Irwin Families, Alumnae, and Friends,
With gratitude and deep appreciation, I have accepted Head of School Dr. Wendy Hill’s decision to retire in June 2020 at the conclusion of our Sesquicentennial Celebration. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I would like to thank Wendy for her commitment, leadership, and enduring stewardship of The Agnes Irwin School.
When Wendy arrived in 2014, we had just completed our $40 million Dare to Do More campaign, which supported the construction of our Student Life Center, new athletic facilities, contemporary classroom spaces, and state-of-the- art Innovation Center. While it may have seemed that the hard work was behind us, Wendy was forward-thinking, recognizing the need for a bold Strategic Plan to chart the course for the school’s future. In partnership with the Board of Trustees and the Strategic Planning Committee, Wendy synthesized the aspirations of more than 1,300 members of our community into Leading Girls’ Education, our Strategic Plan for 2016-2021, now in its third year of implementation.
Strong academics have been at the heart of Wendy’s tenure. As the first chair of neuroscience at Lafayette College, Wendy brought her teacher-scholar leadership style to AIS in service to the educational experience of the PreK through Grade 12 girls in her care. Knowing that immersive and engaging learning experiences provide the foundation for girls’ future successes, Wendy oversaw the school’s reimagining of our curriculum with a focus on project-based, student- centered learning in order to best prepare our graduates for college and beyond. She formed the iTeam, dedicated to integrating innovative technologies and methodologies into every classroom and cross-disciplinary project, and which helped secure a prestigious Edward E. Ford Foundation Grant. She bolstered the efforts of our Center for the Advancement of Girls to create girl-centered programs and partnerships that extend classroom learning into real-world experiences for our students. And in order to make these visions a reality, Wendy facilitated the development of a Campus Master Plan, and the purchase of 672 Conestoga Road, to allow for additional classroom spaces.
With all of these accomplishments, Wendy still finds the time to be back in the classroom with our girls. Students in all divisions love learning from Dr. Hill during her special guest lectures and labs. Whether she’s teaching an SSP on the neuroscience and legal ramifications of the opioid crisis, leading a sheep brain dissection, sharing her field experiences studying birds in the wild with middle schoolers, or, like last week, talking to the kindergarteners about the life cycle of chicks, Wendy is the quintessential educator.
We are grateful that Wendy has given us ample notice of her plans to retire at the culmination of her sixth year with us so that we may conduct a thoughtful and thorough search for our next Head of School. As a first step, I am pleased to announce that members of the Board of Trustees, Pat Coyne P’14, ’17, ’19, and Anne Ford P’30, have agreed to chair the Search Committee. As always, we will solicit input from all constituencies and are committed to keeping the AIS community informed throughout the process.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I would like to thank Wendy for her dedication to our school and the diligent work she has facilitated to prepare Agnes Irwin for our next 150 years. Throughout the next year we will have many opportunities to honor the accomplishments of Dr. Hill and thank her in person. I would personally like to share my sincere gratitude for the countless hours and deep commitment she has given to the girls and our school since her arrival. We have been fortunate to have Wendy leading Agnes Irwin, and the Board of Trustees and I have had the privilege of working alongside her.
Fortunately, Wendy will be Head as we embark on our historic celebration of 150 years of outstanding all-girls’ education at The Agnes Irwin School. It is a time for us to reflect on the accomplished AIS women who have come before us, with an eye towards the future, and the girls who have yet to walk through our doors.
Ginny Sharp Williams ’88, P’20
Chair, Board of Trustees
May 13, 2019
Dear Agnes Irwin Community,
By now you have heard that Dr. Wendy Hill will conclude her tenure as the 13th Head of The Agnes Irwin School at the end of the 2019-2020 school year. We are honored to be leading the effort to select our next Head of School on behalf of the Board of Trustees. As parents and trustees who care deeply about Agnes Irwin, we are committed to ensuring its bright future.
Throughout the past several weeks, we have been working closely with Board Chair Ginny Sharp Williams '88 to appoint a committee to lead our search process. The Search Committee has the responsibility – with significant input from all constituencies within our community – to identify a successor Head of School to be presented to the full Board of Trustees for approval. We are extremely grateful to this committee, which includes current parents in all three divisions, alumnae from four different decades, along with faculty and staff members who were recommended by division heads.
Head of School Search Committee
- Pat Coyne – Search Committee Co-Chair, Trustee, Parent of Emily ('19), Caroline ('17), and Sara ('14)
- Anne Ford – Search Committee Co-Chair, Trustee, Parent of Evelyn ('30)
- Elena Bertrand – Mathematics Department Chair and Upper School Math Teacher
- Sandy Crockett '77 – Trustee
- Taliba Foster '88 – Trustee, Parent of Nahla ('23)
- Janet Bartholdson Fry '06 – Middle School History Teacher
- Andrew Kress – Trustee, Parent of Annabelle ('22) and Lola ('25)
- Tien-Yueh Kubach – Trustee, Parent of Emiko ('27) and Kiyoko ('29)
- Sean McCarthy – Incoming Trustee, Parent of Elizabeth ('18), Kaitlyn ('20), Sarah ('23), and Emily ('26)
- Megan McHugh – Associate Director of Lower School Admission and Outreach
- Susan Hirtle McEvoy '00 – Incoming Trustee, Parent of Eva ('31)
- Rory McNeil – Trustee, Parent of Libby ('19)
- Erica Shippen '99 – Literacy Specialist and Coordinator of Lower School Student Support Services
- Merritt Weber – Trustee, Parent of Peyton ('19)
- Ginny Sharp Williams '88 – Board Chair, Parent of Cheney ('20)
We are also grateful to have two members of our community with significant relevant academic and administrative experience who have agreed to serve as Emeritus Advisors to the Search Committee throughout our process:
- Mr. John A. Fry – Trustee and President of Drexel University
- Dr. Priscilla Sands '65 – Parent of alumna, Head of the Marlborough School in Los Angeles, CA
This dedicated group is fully committed to finding an outstanding leader who possesses the right combination of experience, interpersonal skills, energy, intellect, and vision to serve as the 14th Head of The Agnes Irwin School. We are delighted that they have graciously agreed to offer their time and insights.
To help guide the search process, the school has retained Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates, a national executive search firm with a distinguished history of successful independent school searches, including Agnes Irwin's most recent searches for Assistant Head of School and Lower School Director. Shelly Storbeck, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Ethan Dubow, Principal, and Lisa Solinsky, Associate, will lead the search team. Shelly, Ethan and Lisa have a combined 40 years of experience dedicated to education searches and all have previously worked in faculty or staff positions at independent schools.
The search process will be inclusive and robust. There will be multiple opportunities for parents, faculty, staff, alumnae, and students to provide input on the priorities for our school and ideal qualities for the next head of school. In the upcoming week, Storbeck/Pimentel, along with members of the Search Committee, will hold a series of meetings with the above-mentioned constituencies. These focus group sessions will engage the Agnes Irwin community to share ideas about the future direction and leadership of the school. Further information and details will be provided in the near future. The Search Committee will then develop a position description, which we will share with you and will ultimately be used to recruit outstanding candidates.
We will be regularly communicating updates throughout the search process and have a dedicated webpage at agnesirwin.org/HOSsearch where you can access up-to-date information. Our goal is to be as open and transparent as possible. However, we have been advised by Storbeck/Pimentel and others that we may need to honor requests to work confidentially with candidates to ensure that we recruit and interview the most talented leaders. While some details must remain confidential, we intend to keep the community apprised of our progress.
On behalf of the Search Committee, we thank you for your interest, support, and enthusiasm for this important endeavor for Agnes Irwin. We urge you to participate as much as you can, as we hope to make this process inclusive for our community.
Anne Ford and Pat Coyne
May 29, 2019
Thank you to all who participated last week in the focus group sessions with our search consultants from Storbeck/Pimentel. Shelly Storbeck, Lisa Solinsky, and Ethan Dubow were on campus for two days and met with a wide variety of parents, alumnae, students, faculty, and staff. They gathered valuable insights into what makes our Agnes Irwin community special and what qualities we are seeking in our next Head of School.
We want to ensure that we capture feedback from all members of our community who wish to participate. To that end, please [click the link emailed to you] to participate in a brief online survey. The survey asks the exact same questions that were posed in the focus group sessions. It should take no longer than 10-15 minutes to complete and will remain open until Monday, July 1. All responses to the survey are both confidential and anonymous and will go directly to Storbeck/Pimentel. The information from this online survey, along with feedback from the focus groups, will help us craft a position statement and inform the interview process for our next Head of School.
We have also formed an Advisory Committee to help guide our process. The members of this Committee have a strong legacy of involvement with and understanding of our Agnes Irwin community. We are delighted that they have agreed to lend their insights.
The Advisory Committee includes:
- Susan Burch – Trustee, Co-Head of the Previous Search Committee, Current and Past Parent
- Anne Fritchman Hamilton '74 – Trustee Emerita, Past Parent
- Anita L. McMullin '81 – Trustee, Co-Head of the Previous Search Committee
- Ann Laupheimer Sonnenfeld '77, Esquire – Trustee Emerita, Former Chair of the Board, Past Parent
The Search Committee is deeply grateful for your participation in our process. We will continue to update you on the Head of School Search webpage and through emails about important milestones in our search. Thank you for your continuing interest in and enthusiasm for this significant work.
Anne Ford and Pat Coyne
Search Committee Co-Chairs