Alumni Spotlight: Susanna Jones ’77

Susanna Jones ’77 is currently Head of School of the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, Connecticut. After attending Phillips Academy, Ms. Jones earned an A.B. from Princeton University as well as an M.A. and a Masters in Philosophy from Columbia University. She is also on the Phillips Academy Board of Trustees. Next fall, she will become Headmistress at The Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, a girls’ secondary day school. How did your experience at Andover help prepare you to be a Head of School? The open mindedness that is the hallmark of Andover has served me well throughout my life. Andover taught me to respect everyone as an individual and for his or her talents, regardless of their background. I have found this skill to be essential, not only in my job as Head of School, but also as a person. I was fortunate to have several legendary teachers and coaches at PA, [who] helped mold me into the person I am today. Andover also taught me to become an analytical and cogent writer and thinker. What is it like to be a Phillips Academy Trustee after having attended Andover? It is a fascinating experience being on the Board, though probably more for me than others because I get to work with [Ethel] Walker’s Board of Trustees and it is interesting to see another school’s issues and how they handle them. I am pleased that I am able to give my services back to Andover after it gave me so much. It is very interesting to be able to see how PA has evolved over the past thirty years, but also how much of the school has stayed the same. Sometimes, I feel as though I am actually learning more from being on the Board of Trustees rather than contributing. It is wonderful to see that Andover has stayed committed to its core values of excellence: Non Sibi and “Youth From Every Quarter.” It has also been an honor working with the other dedicated alumnae, both alumni and charter. It has been a pleasure getting to know Mrs. Chase as well. What were your most memorable moments or achievements while you were at PA? Certainly my friends and teachers were generally the most memorable aspects of my experience. [One of] my more memorable personal experiences was being a Washington Intern in the spring of 1976. [I also enjoyed] being on the Phillipian Board. I was an intern during a presidential election year, so it was exciting to see the campaigns and to learn the workings of Congress. I loved the camaraderie of the Phillipian staff. The sense of accomplishment of putting out a paper every week and the fun and creativity of writing for Features defined my Senior year. What has your experience been like as Head of School at Ethel Walker? My experience as [Ethel] Walker’s Head of School has been tremendously rewarding. I have learned about everything from horses, to forest management, to land preservation. I have become interested in institutional identity, communications issues and also developed a greater understanding of school financial issues as well as admissions. My position has allowed me to deepen my thinking of leadership, especially during times of institutional change. However, the most valuable lessons I have learned have come from the girls themselves. Like Andover, Ethel Walker is socio-economically, ethnically and racially diverse, but Walker hosts a student body of many different academic abilities. I’ve learned to see many strengths in these girls, regardless of their academic achievements. As [the future] Head of School at Holton-Arms, I know that the school’s tradition of strong academic, arts and athletic programs will allow me to continue to learn from my students. How does it compare to what you learned while attending Andover? My experience at Walker has been similar to my Andover experience in several ways. Most importantly, Walker and Andover are both places that respect and value the differences among each person in their respective communities. While Ethel Walker is much smaller than PA, the experience of being away from home and living in a dorm is similar, particularly from the perspective of the intense friendships you develop. Ethel Walker’s Upper School is boarding and day, so I have been able to relate my experiences as a boarding student. In different ways, my times at PA and Walker have both been full of learning.