Head of girls' school retiring Rogers to leave Oldfields after 21 years as headmaster

September 20, 1996|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

After 21 years as headmaster at Oldfields, a private girls' school in Glencoe, Hawley Rogers will retire next summer, ending nearly three decades at the 200-acre school that has become his home.

A national search for his successor has begun.

Rogers, 58, was assistant headmaster and director of studies for seven years before being appointed to the top position in 1976.

During his tenure, the boarding school has doubled its enrollment, to 190 students, added day students and built and renovated more than a half-dozen buildings on its secluded, rolling campus.

"The school has changed dramatically physically, but philosophically it has not," Rogers said. "We have a great deal of LTC emphasis on the individual. We seek diversity in all of its aspects."

His wife, Wendy, head of the school's art department, also is retiring. "It definitely was the most difficult decision we've ever made. This has become our home. This has been our lives," he said.

Rogers is the fifth headmaster of the 130-year-old school, which counts among its "girls" the late Wallis Warfield Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor; and daughters of the rich and famous, including Chaia King, daughter of talk show host Larry King.

He is the second longtime head of a local girls' school to announce retirement at the end of this school year. Sister Helen Marie Duffy said in July that she would step down after 17 years as headmistress of Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson.

Rogers' 21-year tenure puts him among the 10 percent of all heads of independent schools who have that much experience, even including those who have served at several schools, said Peter Pelham, associate director of the Washington-based Association of Boarding Schools.

Rogers' style has worn well at Oldfields, often described as a family school. "What I admire about him is the girls still come first," said Jane Schaefer, an Oldfields graduate and former chairwoman of the board of trustees.

"Hawley has done a wonderful job. He has certainly taken it from being terribly in debt, when it shouldn't have even opened to putting it on its way to the future. The school is very solid."

Mary K. McPherson, a former teacher and Oldfields historian, agrees. "He has been a great headmaster. He's a very affable person, tremendously interested in the students, a very successful planner and fund-raiser," said the former English teacher and author of "Oldfields School, 1867-1989, a Feeling of Family."

When Rogers became headmaster, the school had about 90 students, all boarders, he said. The decision to admit 20 percent of the enrollment as day students was made in 1977 for financial and community reasons.

Today, the school has three ap- plicants for every opening in grades eight to 12, despite its lofty tuition of $13,600 for day students and $22,800 for boarders.

Rogers and his wife live in an old stone house on the Oldfields campus where they raised their three children and were surrogate parents to hundreds of girls.

They will retire to their waterfront home on Maryland's "Western Shore," he said. His wife will "do some painting. I have no idea what I'm going to do."

A committee of current and past members of the board of trustees is searching for a new headmaster and has hired a consultant for the initial stages. "We expect to announce a new headmaster by late January," said school spokeswoman Lisa A. Wood.

Finding a successor won't be easy, said Schaefer, a Stonington, Conn., resident. "He's going to be an extremely hard person to replace."

! Pub Date: 9/20/96

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