I recently had the opportunity to visit with Brad Bates, Dublin School‘s new headmaster. In his answers to our questions, he shares the thoughts and experiences that drew him to the school. He talks about his first months at the school and his vision for its future. His answers paint a picture of the qualities that make Dublin a vibrant, connected community.
Brian Fisher (BF): What special qualities or feelings drew you to Dublin?
Brad Bates (BB): On my first visit to Dublin School I attended one of the school’s daily “morning meetings.” One hundred and thirty students sat in the Recital Hall with fifty adults lining the edges of the room while students and teachers took turns standing up in front of the group celebrating community. They made announcements, sang songs, reported on team victories and play performances, and generally inspired one another at 8:00 in the morning! These kids were not self conscious or hesitant, these were individuals who had clearly found their voices at Dublin. This one brief experience captured for me the very essence of this great school and convinced me that this was a place where I hoped to dedicate my efforts.
BF: If memory serves, your father attended Dublin did your knowledge or thoughts and feeling for the school lead you to Dublin?…how did you come to Dublin?
BB: My father attended Dublin and graduated in 1953. His mother died when he was young and Dublin was the major formative experience in his life. My brother, sister, and I were raised in the Dublin tradition and were taught to pay careful attention to our studies, experience art and music, get outside and ski as often as possible, serve the community, and do everything we do in life with “truth and courage.” When I heard that Dublin was searching for a new Head of School, I felt this would be a perfect match for my background and a great challenge as well. My wife Lisa and I decided that this was the place we wanted to raise our own children.
BF: How have your first few months gone? What’s been the most comforting and reassuring part of the school and what’s been the biggest surprise?
BB: Our first few months at Dublin have been a powerful experience. We have always known that Dublin is one of the best kept secrets in the educational world, but we have been continually surprised by the small and large transformations that take place in our students when challenged to take risks in such a supportive environment. No one can hide here, we need everyone to participate in our classes, performances, dormitories, and athletic contests.
Last week my wife and I invited the seniors to our house to eat some milk and cookies and watch a ball game. The students were too busy to watch the game and ended up around our piano taking turns singing and playing. In such a media-infused culture, I found this simple and wonderful scene to be both comforting and reassuring.
BF: How have you been received by Dublin’s many constituents?
BB: We have been welcomed by Dublin School’s many constituents in the classic Dublin way; we have been warmly and generously embraced by everyone we have met. The culture and ethos of this place have a way of bringing out the very best in everyone who is fortunate enough to be a part of the community. We have a terrific “team” feeling here as we move forward.
BF: What do you see as Dublin’s strengths and how will they move and shape Dublin into the future?
BB: Dublin School has always been about people. We have a beautiful campus, a unique New England village feel to our buildings, but our focus is always on the individual as part of a human community. Our diversity of backgrounds and interests combined with our clear mission to develop curiosity, engage in meaningful work, and live lives of truth and courage creates a structured learning environment where ideas are celebrated and nurtured and values are modeled and taught. I am confident that our graduates will shine in an uncertain world with their disciplined work ethic and creative approach to problem solving.
BF: What areas are you focusing on from the beginning?
BB: From the beginning, our team has been focused on creating a rigorous academic experience in a structured and supportive learning environment, building community by increasing family style meals and school forums, reconnecting with the opportunities offered by our beautiful 300 acre campus and the surrounding mountains and lakes, ramping up our athletic program, and providing the very best facilities for our terrific visual and performing arts programs.
BF: Looking to the future will you be exploring long range planning such a campus master plan and capital campaign?
BB: We are just completing an intensive master planning process that has been highly successful in marshalling the many talents of our great Board of Trustees and the many other constituents in our school community. We were fortunate to find an architect whose vision allows Dublin to become more Dublin than it is today. We have plans to add a number of buildings over the next ten years, beginning with an observatory and a visual arts building, but the focus of our planning committee has always been to increase community spaces where individuals can interact with one another and with our bucolic campus.
BF: Do have any thoughts or designs on changes and innovations will make Dublin stronger?
BB: As a history teacher at my previous boarding school I was fortunate enough to work with an inspiring group of teachers and we all worked together to create an innovative approach to teaching history. At Dublin I see an opportunity to develop an overall method or approach to learning, tying together our academics, athletics, the arts, the residential curriculum, our use of our beautiful campus, that I see as a way to further distinguish the school and collaborate with other schools seeking to innovate and design schools that will truly change lives and prepare students for the unique demands of stewardship and citizenship in a global economy.
BF: Make your case; why Dublin?
BB: Speaking of changing lives, in his book Colleges That Change Lives, Loren Pope argues that “a familial sense of communal enterprise” is an essential element of great schools today. This sense is infused in all we do at Dublin and is the very reason that the lives of students, teachers, and even heads of schools are transformed in powerful ways here. We all thrive at Dublin because each individual’s unique talents are needed daily, and all of us participate in the school play, on our athletic teams, in our community dinners and forums, in community service, in our weekend “work gangs,” and in our annual camping trips. Dublin is intentionally small and has found a niche among students and families who want to feel that they count in the life of the school. We could not be more excited as we begin this next chapter in the history of Dublin School.