Head of School, Mark Eastham, Makes a Personal Announcement
Dear Members of the Stuart Hall School Community,
I am writing to formally announce my intention to step down as Head of Stuart Hall School at the conclusion of the 2018-2019 school year. There are no words to adequately express my appreciation for the opportunity of serving in this role for the past 14 years, but I believe the time is right for new leadership.
Working together as a community, we have accomplished a great deal over this time. Some highlights are:
- Merger with Hunter McGuire School to create a comprehensive day-boarding independent school
- Decision to make boarding program coeducational
- Tripling of boarding enrollment
- Establishment of the Stuart Hall School Foundation, with endowment assets now nearing $5 million
- Addition of pre-kindergarten program
- Addition of after-school program
- Creation of a transportation system to support day enrollment
- Physical plant improvements funded by capital gifts from generous donors, including renovations to the Staunton campus auditorium and library, all public spaces on the Verona campus, all dormitory bathrooms in Old Main, and renovations to Cochran and Robertson dormitories to create space for male boarders
- Grounds improvements, including construction of the Davis-Pitt Commons, addition of a multipurpose court on Fillmore Field, and construction of a permeable parking area at the playing fields
- Birth of Staunton is our Campus strategic vision, with the goal of producing students who are invaluable to the future through a program centered around authentic learning experiences in the Staunton community
- Purchase of 107 W. Beverley, a 26,000-square-foot downtown building that will become the hub for these authentic learning experiences
- Kickoff of the School’s first fundraising campaign in more than 25 years, raising the following since July 1, 2012:
- $6.6 million in capital gifts and pledges
- $7 million in bequest expectancies
- $3.3 million for endowment
- $2.9 million for annual fund
- Significant improvement in the School’s financial position and sustainability
- Development of STEM Emphasis Program
- Addition of a school Chaplain
- Addition of an Educational Technologist
- Full VAIS reaccreditation in 2007 (5-year), 2012 (10-year) and 2017 (5-year)
Stuart Hall is confidently poised for the next stage of growth, and while it is in a position of strength, the time is right to enact a change in leadership to address the issues that are on the radar for the next five years, including the full realization of the Staunton is our Campus authentic learning model and the design and daily use of 107 W. Beverley.
I firmly believe in the concept of “the right leader at the right time,” and I believe that I have been that leader for Stuart Hall for 14 years. I also believe that our School will benefit now from new leadership with energy and specific skills to accomplish the next chapter of important work to come. The tasks I have been able to accomplish during my tenure at Stuart Hall comprise my greatest professional accomplishments, but being the head of a PK-12 day school with an internationally recognized boarding program is an all-encompassing privilege and responsibility, and I am tired. I believe the time is right for a new Head who is filled with energy for the great potential that lies ahead.
I also recognize as I approach the last decade of my professional career that I need to seek greater personal balance. I do not know what the future will hold for me, but I am excited to see what new opportunities present themselves. I will always remain available to support this fine school, and I will do whatever is needed to ensure a smooth transition of leadership. I am also excited about my 15th and final year, coinciding with the School’s 175th anniversary, and our plans for continued growth over the course of this year. Stuart Hall holds a very special place in the world of independent schools, and I believe the School’s best days are yet to come.
I am indebted to the Church Schools system and to the Stuart Hall Board of Governors for having faith in me, and I am grateful to the entire STU Community for the meaningful work we have done together. When I arrived in 2004 with my young family, I could not have imagined the wonderful life we would have together in Staunton. Kathy, Katherine, Caroline, and I will always remember fondly our years as a part of this wonderful community. Given that Katherine and Caroline are now alumni and Kathy and I are honorary alumni, you can be assured that you have not seen the last of us! God bless each of you, and God bless Stuart Hall School.
Mark H. Eastham
From Board of Governors Chair, Dennis W. Cross
Dear Stuart Hall Community Members,
As we enter the academic year celebrating the school’s 175th anniversary, we are inspired by the school’s mission: to prepare students of all faiths for success in universities worldwide and for engaged lives of intellectual curiosity, creativity, and contribution. We also purposefully take full advantage of the school’s historic place in Staunton to offer engaging learning experiences so that Stuart Hall students are prepared and confident to live successful and meaningful lives in a future we cannot fully imagine. Stuart Hall has never been stronger in its ability to fulfill its mission and to make differences throughout the world. I know the difference Stuart Hall makes as the father of a son and a daughter who are happy alumni.
As we now know, we begin this year with tremendous momentum and with the knowledge that Mark Eastham intends to step down as Stuart Hall’s Head of School at the conclusion of the academic year. Mark informed me of his decision several weeks ago. It was not news I wanted to hear, but my immediate feelings were deep gratitude, appreciation for significant accomplishments in the past 14 years, a desire not to be selfish but to allow Mark new personal and professional opportunities he surely deserves, and high confidence in Stuart Hall’s future and the years ahead. I have had the privilege of knowing Mark during most of his tenure at Stuart Hall as a parent, a member of the Board of Governors, and the Chair of the Board of Governors. I have seen the school face its challenges, take advantage of both emerging and unexpected opportunities, and develop a confident vision of a distinctive and transforming education it can offer at the pre-K through 12 levels in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
Stuart Hall would not be the school it is today without Mark’s tireless work and unquestioned dedication to students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and the community. I will not recite specific accomplishments of which Mark is rightfully proud. I will say that I have valued his knowledge, professionalism, dedication, and optimism while he has daily confronted the inevitable challenges that accompany the responsibility of educating more than 300 students each year and allowing them to grow as distinctive individuals. Mark has always exuded conviction, energy, mindfulness, and a balance of paying attention to the biggest issues and the smallest details. Mark’s first and foremost focus is what is best for the students of Stuart Hall School. We will always be thankful for his outstanding leadership and stewardship of Stuart Hall.
The Board of Governors, in partnership with Church Schools in the Diocese of Virginia, is already at work to identify the next stellar Head of School who can build upon Mark’s numerous successes. We take very seriously our responsibility to hire and work with a top-quality and committed new Head of School who has the experiences, energetic spirit, and personal and professional skills to lead Stuart Hall strongly forward. We embark on the search with confidence because Stuart Hall is strong. The school has a vision embedded in Staunton and touching the world. The school knows its mission and values. The school knows it can become even better as it fulfills the potential of “Staunton is Our Campus.” The new Head of School will benefit from a strong and productive administrative team, exceptional and innovative teachers and staff, a challenging academic program, outstanding students, engaged parents, loyal graduates, a growing endowment, and an increasing philanthropic program. I am confident the right candidate will realize the excitement of fulfilling a vision and Stuart Hall’s potential. It says a lot about Stuart Hall and about Mark Eastham that the new Head of School can be assured Mark will partner with the Board of Governors to effect a smooth and successful transition.
We will have opportunities before June 2019 to thank Mark and Kathy and to celebrate their accomplishments and their legacy at Stuart Hall. At this time, on behalf of the entire Stuart Hall community and the several thousand students who have studied during the leadership, selfless service, and constant campus presence of Mark and Kathy, I offer them our deepest appreciation and admiration. On behalf of the Board of Governors, I thank the faculty, staff, parents, students, and alumni for your continued support and trust.
Dennis W. Cross
Chair, Board of Governors