The St. Johnsbury Academy Board of Trustees has selected Dr. Sharon Howell to succeed Thomas Lovett as the school's Headmaster, effective July 1, 2020. The full Academy Board confirmed the Search Committee's recommendation of Dr. Howell in a unanimous vote on Saturday. Board President Jay Wright called her appointment "the beginning of an exciting new chapter in Academy history. Sharon will build on the strong legacy of Tom Lovett, Bernier Mayo, and the 22 other headmasters who have preceded her at the Academy. Her intelligence, character, and humanity are inspiring, and we look forward to her presence in our school community."
Dr. Howell was most recently Head of School at Indian Springs School in Birmingham, Alabama. During her time there, Dr. Howell oversaw significant physical, financial, academic, and student life improvements and enhancements. For the first time, Indian Springs instituted a waiting list for admissions and met annual fund and balanced budget goals. Additionally, Dr. Howell managed the creation of the school's new "makerspace" and the renovation of seven faculty homes on campus. During her tenure, the school increased its endowment by 15%, and raised more than 3 million dollars in planned and capital gifts.
Prior to Indian Springs School, Dr. Howell was Associate Head of School for Strategic Planning and Administration at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Gill, Massachusetts. While at NMH, she partnered with the Head of School to oversee 300 school staff and faculty, manage the annual operating budget, lead strategic planning and initiatives, and oversee crisis and risk management. She was closely involved with strategic decision-making, worked closely with members of the Board of Trustees on special projects, and served as a liaison from the Head of School's office to faculty, staff, parents, students, and alumni.
Dr. Howell began her career in education as the Allston Burr Resident Dean in Adams House and Lecturer in History and Literature on the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. During her time at Harvard, she also held positions as Senior Allston Burr Resident Dean, and Interim Housemaster in the residential house system. In these positions, she supervised the work of resident deans, was responsible for the safety, health, and general well-being of 475 undergraduates, and served as a housemaster.
Also during her time at Harvard, Dr. Howell and her husband founded and directed everyotherchild.org, an international educational non-profit that served to connect rural schools in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Namibia, Africa with donated communication technology so they could connect with the larger world and improve their schools and communities.
Upon learning of her appointment, Dr. Howell said, "I am just thrilled—and profoundly grateful for the opportunity to serve St. Johnsbury Academy as Headmaster. It has been a joy to begin meeting the community this past week. And while I am only just beginning to appreciate the many ways this school is important to the world, and indeed is so much more than simply a school, I already admire the leaders, stewards, and committed educators who have worked to make the Academy what it is today. It's humbling to be given the chance to continue building on what they have made, and to contribute to this next phase of the school's success."
Dr. Howell will begin her tenure as Headmaster in July 2020 at the end of current Headmaster Tom Lovett's 19-year tenure. Board President Jay Wright said, "Tom's contributions to our school are historic, and we will be celebrating his model leadership throughout the school year as we continue our important work of educating the children of St. Johnsbury, neighboring towns, and around the world."
Peter Hammer, an Academy trustee and former faculty member who co-chaired the search committee said, "Dr. Howell embraces our mission and tradition while seeking to lead the Academy into the future through academic excellence, collaboration, and innovation."
Nancy Goodrich, a long-time Academy trustee who also co-chaired the search committee, added, "Dr. Howell's life path is a testament to her belief in the power of education. She is eager to return to the life she knew growing up in a small New England town. Her genuine nature and integrity will make it easy for us to welcome her into our community."
Tom Lovett, Headmaster of St. Johnsbury Academy, was also pleased at Dr. Howell's appointment. He said,
When I first met Sharon this summer (she came for a campus tour), I immediately recognized her skills as an active listener, her determination to seek first to understand, and her gracious kindness. These impressions have only strengthened as I have gotten to know her, however briefly. I have found her to be bright and thoughtful, appreciative and grateful, and full of compassion and good humor. All of these traits will hold her in good stead as our next Headmaster.
On top of that, in her writing and in her speech to the school community in Chapel, she demonstrated a love of young people and a deep optimism about their potential and futures, regardless of where they come from or where their interests lie. She embraced our diversity in all of its complexity and spoke specifically about those aspects that she loved. She shares our commitment to help people develop a healthy curiosity and engagement with the world and to come to belong to something bigger than themselves.
An added benefit, her husband Tom is a man of many talents and a genuinely good person. The Academy community is fortunate to have Sharon Howell as its next leader, we are hopeful and excited as we welcome her to campus, and we look forward to warmly welcoming Tom and Sharon's children, Ethan and Maggie, as well.
Dr. Howell holds a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University, an M.A. in English from Villanova University, and a B.A. in English from Connecticut College. She will join the SJA community along with her husband Tom, an artist, entrepreneur, and former Teaching Fellow in Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard, and two children, Ethan and Maggie, both of whom will attend St. Johnsbury Academy beginning in the fall of 2020.