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2017-18 Annual Report | Letter from the Head of School

Outside my office window sits a handful of students at one of the tables dotting Whitney’s Sycamore Patio. This space is one of the most popular gathering areas on campus, and for 10 of my 11 years here that space has left me feeling it could be so much more. It's a popular outdoor gathering space, used so often that the grass disappeared quickly, and mud follows rain — so while much loved, it was a space not really working for our campus. A couple of auctions ago, the Special Appeal focused on re-creating the space. While we were very successful in raising the dollars needed for the transformation, we ran into multiple issues with our original vision for the Patio when it came to zoning. There were delays and some wondered, would the Patio ever happen?

I'm pleased to share, the Patio is improved, in progress and impressive. It is emerging as a naturally inviting place to gather. There's a fire pit, lots of seats for eating, studying and scenic spaces for conversations between friends. Over the past two seasons, we have changed the landscape by removing some non-native tree species and replacing with more habitat-friendly trees and shrubs. To come — lighting, more plantings, and a stone wall that will delineate the entrance to the patio and enhance the surrounding space to the Administrative Offices. Our community now enjoys a space that meets our needs, and I am so grateful to all the caring individuals who supported this project from its inception, especially Ken Klimpel and Whitney Parker-Klimpel P'06 ’09 ’14 who have contributed much love, patience, and dedication toward making this project a reality.

It is a reality I witness this chilly November morning as some of our boarders are enjoying brunch, reveling in the camaraderie of friends and loving this space. And, shivering just a bit. Solebury loves the outside. In all but the harshest of weather our students (and faculty and staff) choose outdoors. Who can blame them? We inhabit an idyllic patch of eastern Pennsylvania countryside. Surrounded by trees, wildlife, rolling hills under blue sky. I’m never confused about how fortunate I am to work at at this place and on this campus.

Our students and parents are not confused either. A few weeks ago at a reception for new parents I spoke at length with the mother of a new ninth grade girl. She sought me and Rebecca out and, with tears in her eyes, spoke about a young woman who is now happy. Happy to get up in the morning. Happy to go to school. Happy to be at school. Wanting to stay on campus long after the school day has ended. A young women who now feels included, safe, energized. A young woman who is academically challenged and has found the courage to take risks. To stretch herself.

And make no mistake...magic abounds on this campus, a magnet that draws our students. This year Rebecca and I are the homestay parents for a senior from Barcelona, Spain. She came two years ago for a one month exchange...and fell in love with all things Solebury School. She came back last year for another one month exchange and when she returned home, began speaking with her parents about her dream of spending her senior year at Solebury and graduating with a Solebury diploma. Through her eyes, and the eyes of her many friends that now spend time at our home, I’m seeing additional facets of this remarkable community. The stories shared over dinner of their classroom experiences, their joy at being on this campus with friends, the trips our boarders and day students enjoy on the weekends, the bond formed between our students and their advisors. Magic indeed...happening daily.

I am certainly not confused about your role in creating and sustaining this magic. For more than 90 years we have been relying on the support of so many to realize the dream our founders had — to do education better, to bring joy to the learning process, to prepare young men and women, not just for college, but for the totality of their life’s journey. With your help and support we achieve this goal...year by year, every year. As I write these words my thoughts drift to two significant changes to our campus recently — both made possible by your generosity.

A final installment to our community’s beloved Barn Theater was a very generous matching gift at this year’s Auction Special Appeal given by Sally and Bob Huxley, parents of Haley Huxley '16. This was a much anticipated upgrade by our Theater Tech Director Peter Martino, who masterfully executed a lightning-quick roll out of the installation in mid-June. The funds were used to install a completely new lighting grid, all LED lights, all controlled from computers in the Tech Booth. This state-of-the-art system is not only a vast improvement, but it prepares our tech theater students for the systems that will await them in college.

On our recent fall Parent’s Day, I was preparing to leave my office and walk to the gym when — poof — the power went off throughout all of the area. In about 60 seconds, our power returned. Not because PECO had fixed the downed line, but because the campus is now fully backed up by a new generator. Perhaps less noticeable than the new lighting grid but equally significant. We routinely lose power in this area and, when we lose power on campus, we lose water. No drinking water or water for showers...and no toilets. That’s a problem. The generator was funded in part by you...many of you, who annually contribute so we can continue to invest in the academic program, the facilities, our infrastructure, our faculty — all to support offering our students the best experience possible.

And so, on this chilly November morning, with the sounds of students laughing outside my window, from all of us who live, work, and play on the corner of Phillips Mill and School Lane — I offer you my deep and abiding appreciation for you, our partners in continuous improvement as we care for Solebury School.

Tom Wilschutz
Head of School

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