Loomis Headmaster to Retire After 2007-08 Year

Russell H. Weigel, headmaster of the Loomis Chaffee School, will retire at the end of the 2007-2008 school year. Weigel announced his resignation on Monday, February 26, after 12 years as Headmaster. According to the press release, Weigel said, “Serving as head of school at Loomis has been the most rewarding experience of my professional life. I have been privileged to lead an extraordinary academic community.” Allie Bankart ’09 of Loomis Chaffee said, “The students are sad to see that he is leaving. I know that the school will greatly miss him.” The sixth head of Loomis Chaffee School, Weigel was elected to the position by the school’s Board of Trustees on January 20, 1996. During Weigel’s time as headmaster, Loomis Chaffee made many academic advances. Of the 720 students enrolled, 14 seniors were named National Merit Semifinalists this year, an unprecedented feat in both the school and all other private schools in Connecticut. The school’s curriculum also expanded to increase the number of advanced placement courses, and the school currently has 73 Advanced Placement Scholars. 85% of the class of 2006 was admitted to colleges named most competitive or highly competitive by the Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges. Athletics also excelled during Weigel’s tenure. In the 19 offered competitive sports, Loomis athletes consistently receive all-league, all-division and all-New England honors. Specifically, the girl’s varsity soccer team has been undefeated since the 2004 season, winning the New England Championship title for three consecutive years. Courtney Blackwell ’06 of Loomis Chaffee said, “Dr. Weigel also proved a dedicated Pelican [the mascot] as he supported students in all of their extra-curricular activities, from the sports field to the stage.” Weigel also played a large part in the most successful fundraising campaign in the school’s history. The campaign, titled “Our Best Selves: the Campaign for Loomis Chaffee,” ended on December 31, 2006. The school raised more than $114 million, bringing the endowment to $155 million. The endowment more than tripled in size from what it was in 1996, when Weigel first took the post of headmaster. Under Weigel’s leadership, Loomis Chaffee also expanded its physical plant and improved facilities. New additions to the campus include a girls’ dormitory, a new admissions building, six classrooms, a track and a synthetic turf field. A renovation of the athletic center was also completed, offering a new squash pavilion, fitness center, double gymnasium, and all-school convocation center. While Weigel made progress within the programs of Loomis Chaffee, he also made efforts to maintain relationships with students. Blackwell ’06 of Loomis Chaffee said, “Dr. Weigel is a very approachable headmaster who knows his students by name and face. He has a passion for making Loomis a caring and welcoming community where students and faculty can interact both on the professional academic level as well as a personal one.” Bankart ’09 of Loomis Chaffee said, “Dr. Weigel really tries to connect with the students, especially around the school instead of just sitting tucked away in his office.” According to Bankart, Weigel began a tradition of hosting a Halloween party at his house on campus. The whole boarding community was welcome to come and trick-or-treat and enjoy interacting with Weigel and his wife, Jane. Bankart added, “Like all the teachers we have at Loomis, Dr. Weigel enjoys just being with the students. I have also occasionally seen him behind the counter of the food stations, serving us lunch or dinner!” According to the press release, Christopher K. Norton, chairman of the Loomis Chaffee Board of Trustees said, “Russ Weigel will leave a rich legacy of decency, sound judgment and devotion to the ideals of our founders. Because of his goodness, we will look back on the Weigel years with a profound sense of achievement and enrichment.” Weigel, 65, earned a B.A. in psychology at Bowdoin College, an M.A. in clinical psychology at George Washington University, and a Ph.D in social psychology at the University of Colorado. He then served as a school psychologist in Fairfax County, Virginia before volunteering in the Peace Corps in Micronesia for two years. Weigel then became a professor at Amherst College, teaching social psychology, personality theory and research methods. During the 23 years he taught at Amherst, he also served as chairman of the Department of Psychology and as dean of freshman. In 1990, Heigel was listed in the New and Improved College Book as a student’s selection for “Best Professor.” The author of 37 scholarly research articles and book chapters, Weigel is the recipient of the Gordon Allport Prize. The American Psychological Association awards this prize annually for the best article on inter-group relations. The school will begin searching for headmaster candidates this spring, and Weigel’s successor is expected to be named by next January.