On Monday, September 20, Concord Academy welcomed one of the four Head of School finalists, Henry Fairfax, and his wife, Ivy, to campus. Throughout his two days here, Fairfax met and talked with students, faculty, and parents to get to know the community better. Besides sitting in classes and observing a typical school day, he also met affinity and social justice group heads and parents.
Fairfax was raised in Pennsylvania, where he attended The Haverford School, played college basketball at Drexel University, and earned a Masters of Education from the University of Pennsylvania. He taught English for several years before transitioning into admissions at both the high school and college level, even working at his high school alma mater. Most recently in 2018, Fairfax founded the Revolution School in Philadelphia.
While visiting CA, Fairfax repeatedly praised the school’s mission statement, which he believes makes CA “100 years young.” “I think the thing that excites me most about the CA mission statement is that it has a spirit of vulnerability,” he shared. “CA has this growth mindset embedded into the words that allow for you to constantly improve and never settle.”
Fairfax also expressed his interest in CA’s love of learning, discussing his own intellectual curiosity. “I like geeking out so I’d be the head geek here as well. I spend time as a university mentor at Penn learning best practice in education, so I think CA could be a great fit.”
When asked what he would teach if given the opportunity to lead a class at CA, he was quick to find an answer: “I would be interested in teaching a leadership course. I think right now we are at an inflection point in the world where we don’t have the leadership we need and I would love to create a space where I can offer some of the lessons in leadership I have learned walking in my journey. I would hopefully inspire some folks to want to walk in that direction as well.”
Fairfax considers empathy as one of the most important qualities in a leader. “Leading with empathy requires listening with understanding,” he explained. “This gives you an appreciation for where others are coming from, which are the building blocks for a good relationship.” One example he gave was planning the 2020-21 school year—a parent himself, Fairfax understood that parents were nervous about sending their children back to school: “I thought, how can I, in this moment, show a level of empathy and so I ended up starting the meeting saying, ‘well there’s a one hundred percent chance that I’m going to be at least fifty percent unpopular no matter what I say next.’ I was being empathetic and vulnerable, but also showing flexibility.”
In addition to his passions for education, diversity, equity, and inclusion, Fairfax is deeply interested in art, music, and journaling. He played basketball in high school and college, and hopes to continue his involvement with the sport at CA. “I had a dream that I would be a head of school and an assistant coach or something. […] This could be an opportunity to engage with students and know where they are and what their experience is like. I want to build some of those really important relationships because they can be transformational in the long-term.”