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January 28, 2015

Trustee leaders, present and past, drive Tang Institute funding beyond $20 million

Andover innovation hub seeks to transform teaching and learning
by Phillips Academy

A $5-million commitment from Peter Currie ’74, president of Phillips Academy’s Board of Trustees, will further propel the school’s new Tang Institute and support other strategic initiatives of the school. John Palfrey, head of school, announced that the majority of Currie’s gift will endow the institute’s leadership under the Currie Family Director.

Caroline Nolan, who joined Andover one year ago to design programming and infrastructure for Phillips Academy’s education innovation hub, will become the inaugural Currie Family Director. Nolan was previously associate director at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.

With his philanthropy, Currie joins Oscar Tang ’56, trustee emeritus and president of the board from 2004 to 2012, whose lead gift to endow the institute was announced at the October 17 launch. Their generosity, combined with additional support from fellow trustees, alumni and parents, brings total funding for the endeavor to more than $20 million.

“We are tremendously grateful for Peter’s gift and humbled by the fact that two generations of trustee leadership have eagerly stepped forward to establish a solid foundation for the faculty-inspired work of the Tang Institute,” said Palfrey.

Currie said that the vision expressed in the Academy’s strategic plan “Connecting Our Strengths: The Andover Endeavor” compelled him to support Andover at this crucial time. “The strategic plan asks us to foresee trends in education and the world at large, and it asks us to act with creativity and courage,” he said. “The Tang Institute is absolutely part of that vision—a center devoted to the art, science and assessment of teaching and learning.”

He added that the slate of ideas and prototypes presented at the launch event only elevated his confidence in the institute’s potential to transform secondary education.

Among those projects are a number of early successes: a partnership with Khan Academy and a blended learning pilot focused on online calculus materials; growing global experiential programs with partner schools in places such as India, China, Brazil and South Africa; student and faculty research into learning mindsets; and an astronomy web portal dedicated to the discovery of variable stars.

Virtually all initiatives are fueled by partnerships among Andover faculty, students, external educators and/or organizations. “Having exposure to team-based projects that is mediated by global connectivity and experimentation will serve young people extremely well,” said Currie. “The ability to test new ideas, iterate and adapt are highly sought qualities in today’s economy.”

Palfrey agrees and takes those concepts even further: “I see the Tang Institute as Andover’s contribution to what will be a highly distributed global conversation about the future of secondary education. I know that Peter and Oscar join me in believing that Andover can—and should—create something akin to a Bell Labs for secondary education. The establishment of the institute with such generous support marks great progress toward that vision.”

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