Jim Ventre and John Palfrey
July 17, 2019

Passing the gavel

Jim Ventre ’79 and John Palfrey P’21, ’23 share letters with the Andover community

On July 1, the Eliphalet Pearson gavel passed from John Palfrey P’21, ’23 to Jim Ventre ’79. That moment signaled the beginning of a new role for Ventre as Interim Head of School and the end of an era for Palfrey, who will become President of the MacArthur Foundation. Messages from the two Andover leaders follow.

A Message from Jim Ventre ’79

Interim Head of School

I am humbled to accept this role for the year and buoyed by the trust conveyed by Peter Currie ’74, P’03 and the Board of Trustees. We will indeed move “from strength to strength,” starting with enormous gratitude to John Palfrey for all that he has done for Andover. Throughout his tenure, John worked energetically to advance Phillips Academy’s strategic direction. The MacArthur Foundation is very fortunate to have his leadership, and he will surely have a tremendous impact on a global scale. We thank John for his visionary leadership and enduring legacy of strength he has achieved for our community. We will all miss John!

During this time of transition we must rely on one another for stability, trust, and collaboration. We are fortunate to have the depth of diversity, character, and talent in our students, faculty, and staff. Together we will nurture an inclusive, welcoming community where the civil exchange of ideas is encouraged. Embracing Andover’s values, we will remain purposeful yet humble, relying on these values to guide us today and toward the future. Let us inspire each other and celebrate with a powerful focus on the people of our community.

With the support of the Board of Trustees, the dedication of the highly talented Senior Administrative Council team, and the incredible professionalism of the Head of School's Office, we will work together to listen attentively, build trust through transparency, treat others with respect, and practice good judgment. Indeed, I have great confidence in our direction for the future.

In our established purpose to offer a world-class education, let us generate a feeling of belonging for everyone in our community. Let us inspire innovation, support the meaningful work of educating our students, and preserve Andover as a vibrant community where we love to work, live, and learn.

Let us engage in our shared commitment to prepare students who appreciate the privilege of their Andover experience, and who rise in service to others. As we strive to develop leaders who are prepared to take on the most significant challenges of the 21st century, let our desire to serve guide us.

Let us approach the year ahead with open minds and a willingness to acknowledge our vulnerabilities. We will find our way together, and I look forward to working with everyone. I am honored to have been asked to step into this position, and I will give it my all!

Please come by, say hello, and reconnect.

With all my appreciation and loyalty,

Jim Ventre ’79

A Message from John Palfrey P’21,’23

15th Head of School

After a truly wonderful seven years on Andover Hill, it is time for our family to say good-bye. We are extremely grateful to everyone who makes the Phillips Academy community such an extraordinary place to learn, work, live, and play.

I have loved my time as Andover’s 15th Head of School. I have cherished interacting with outstanding students, an equally outstanding faculty and staff, and deeply supportive parents and alumni. I am proud that we have admitted need-blind classes of youth from every quarter each year, built upon a 241-year-old foundation of excellence in a wide array of endeavors, and improved the physical campus together.

I am especially grateful to the Trustees of Phillips Academy for their unstinting support. Each Trustee volunteers and gives generously of their time and treasure, making Andover accessible to the most extraordinary students from around the world. Peter Currie ’74, P’03 has been the most effective board chair I could imagine working with; I know that Amy Falls ’82, P’19, ’21 will lead in new and equally impactful ways as Peter’s successor in July 2020.

Over the past few months, many have asked about the work of the MacArthur Foundation. I am grateful for the opportunity to expand the work of non sibi as the next leader of one of the iconic United States philanthropies. The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and institutions in more than 40 countries. With the ability to make grants of several hundred million dollars per year, the MacArthur Foundation supports those who make the world a more peaceful, verdant, and just place.

There comes a time when each of us leaves Andover, whether because one graduates, retires, or is called to another type of work. As I have said many times to our students, each one of us must determine how we can have the greatest impact through our lives. The platform and reach of the MacArthur Foundation struck me as the best way that I could take the lessons and experience of the past seven years to the world beyond Andover Hill. While I am sad to be leaving, I am excited by the prospect of the good that we can all do together.

Andover is blessed to have in Jim Ventre ’79 just the right person to lead for the 2019-2020 school year. Jim has served for decades in teaching, administrative, and house counseling roles, and has proven his effectiveness as a leader time and again. He is known to every PA family, student, and adult on campus. He deeply values his relationships across generations of alumni. I’m excited for Jim and for the entire Andover community.

And though we leave in our official capacity, our family is not saying good-bye to Andover completely. Our son Jack will return as a member of the Class of 2021, and Emeline will join the Class of 2023 this fall. We look forward to seeing many of you on campus—only this time, Catherine and I will be in the role of proud and delighted parents.

See you around! And thank you again for your many kindnesses and support for Andover’s worthy and urgent mission.


John Palfrey P’21, ’23

Categories: Leadership

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