Meet Our Head of School
Bill Christ has thoughtfully and skillfully guided Hathaway Brown School to its present stature as one of the most respected schools for girls
in the country.
- Robert Hallett, executive director of the E.E. Ford Foundation
November 3, 2010 Education Innovation Summit opening address
One of the most innovative schools in this country that is educating girls in a way that we all should be learning from is run by Bill Christ.
- Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, renowned psychologist and scholar on girls' and women's development
November 3, 2011 Learning for Life Speakers' Series presentation
Since 1876, Hathaway Brown School has given thousands of students the education and motivation to become engineers, physicians, attorneys, politicians, artists, entrepreneurs, philosophers, actors, writers, and humanitarians.
But nobody has gotten more out of an HB education than Bill Christ. Just ask him.
HB's 13th Head of School, H. William Christ arrived on the school's Shaker Heights campus in 1987 as an energized and energizing leader - a man determined that the venerable institution would be a vanguard of education in the United States. Twenty-eight years later, his passion has not wavered.
During his tenure, the student body and the number of full-time faculty has nearly doubled. But that hasn't stopped him from forming personal relationships with all the members of the school community. Always ready to offer words of encouragement and appreciation, Mr. Christ is genuinely interested in getting to know the alumnae, students, parents, teachers, and friends of HB - who they are, what they're doing, what makes them tick.
In fact, a highlight of the school year is the senior celebration poem he delivers at the annual IDEO holiday assembly, in which he acknowledges all the members of the 12th grade class by name and offers humorous and poignant observations about each young woman. The class of 2011 - with its 87 students - was especially moved by this touching tribute. "It is clear that Mr. Christ puts an immense amount of work into his traditional rhymes, and we seniors are very thankful for the amount of creativity he has dedicated to the tradition," they wrote in The Review, the HB student newspaper.
To fulfill its potential as a world-class institution, Mr. Christ realized very early on that he would have to do more than add to HB's rolls. Through the years, he has surrounded himself with some of the brightest minds in a variety of fields, culling from them important wisdom and best practices. His bold, deliberate approach has been instrumental to the school's steady advancement, even during times of broader economic turmoil.
From 1998-2008, Mr. Christ oversaw the Vision for Leadership in the 21st Century campaign, which raised $62.8 million - more than six times the amount that had been contributed to the school's highest grossing campaign to that point. Those monies were used to establish 46 new endowment funds; to add more than 50,000 square feet of learning and recreation spaces on campus; to construct a state-of-the-art technology center; and to launch the Institute for 21st Century Education, a brilliant constellation of programming that complements HB's exceptional core curriculum and shatters the mold of outdated traditional knowledge-delivery systems.
The Institute, according Bob Hallett, former executive director of the Edward E. Ford Foundation, sets HB apart as one of "the most potent schools for young women in the country today." Mr. Christ's visionary leadership and his dedication to the betterment of education across the spectrum helped HB secure a grant from the E.E. Ford Foundation to host an Education Innovation Summit in 2010. The event drew more than 600 educators from 100 public, private, and parochial schools from 30 U.S. states and Canada to learn from some of the most influential thinkers of our day and to find ways to improve the educational environment not only in their own schools, but in schools across the country.
People were drawn to HB in such force largely because of Mr. Christ's unparalleled reputation, according to summit presenter Lucinda Lavelli, dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Florida. He always has his "finger on the pulse of what is needed now," she says.
A true educator's educator, perhaps what's most impressive about Mr. Christ is his willingness to share what he's learned with the world at large. In the last three years, he personally has welcomed delegations from more than 30 schools - faculty and administrators who have traveled from around the globe to learn about HB's revolutionary programs and practices.
Cards of thanks and notes of praise regularly are delivered to Mr. Christ's office. In a matter of a few short weeks, an alumna from the class of 1988 emailed to say that she has followed his HB career with great admiration and that she often remarks to the administrators at her children's school that they should look to him as "an example of a successful leader who turned a really good school into a really great school;" a pair of graduate students who spent a day shadowing him sent a handwritten note thanking him for his time and undivided attention, describing him as "a phenomenal man who is leading a phenomenal school;" and Pat Bassett, the president of the National Association of Independent Schools wrote that he is "so impressed by [Mr. Christ's] leadership and its key role in HB's cutting-edge commitment to innovation," and congratulated him for "taking such a prominent leadership role for 21st century schools."
Likewise, Zoe Harvan's 2013 commencement address offered a grateful and nostalgic look at what the school has meant to her, specifically the culture that Christ has worked diligently to create.
He's been called charming, charismatic, intelligent, insightful, inspirational, and hard-working. But Mr. Christ also is humble. He defuses his well-earned compliments by giving credit where he says it's due.
"HB has made me who I am," he often observes. "It's my privilege to be here."
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