St. Mark’s School announced on July 31 that Dr. Ivory D. Hills will be the next head of school, beginning on July 1, 2024. The School’s Board of Trustees unanimously supported the Head of School Search Committee’s recommendation to appoint Dr. Hills.
“Ivory is a brilliant thinker and a gifted leader,” said Michael B. Moore ’80, president of the St. Mark’s Board of Trustees and co-chair of the Head of School Search Committee. “He has a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing independent schools today, and he is passionate about the St. Mark’s School mission. We are confident that he will be an outstanding head of school.”
Since 2011, Dr. Hills has been at Deerfield Academy, where he has served the school in a variety of roles, most recently dean of faculty and assistant head of school for strategy and planning. He holds a B.S. in chemistry from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from MIT, and began his career at Deerfield as a science teacher before taking on positions as director of sustainability, director of the KIPP STEP Summer Program, academic dean, and assistant head of school for academic affairs and strategy. Before his tenure at Deerfield, Dr. Hills was a senior research chemist at Merck Research Laboratories. When Dr. Hills joins the St. Mark’s community in Southborough, he will be accompanied by his wife, Christina, and their daughter, Sophie.
“It is an honor to serve all of you as the next head of St. Mark’s School,” Dr. Hills wrote in a letter to the St. Mark’s community. “Education has always been important to me, and I am elated that I will soon work with all of you to help students grow into their full potential. As the world becomes more interconnected and complex, astounding opportunities await all of us. Helping guide St. Mark’s is a true privilege.”
Amidst an exceedingly competitive nationwide search, during which the search committee encountered more than 100 talented and highly qualified educational leaders, Dr. Hills emerged as the standout candidate. The committee, chaired by St. Mark’s trustees Mr. Moore and Elizabeth R. Santini ’95, praised Dr. Hill’s commitment to a clear and thoughtful decision-making process, his innate creativity and inquisitiveness, and his contemplative and strategic approach to leadership.
“I know I speak for everyone at Deerfield when I say that working with Ivory has been a joy and a gift,” said Deerfield Head of School John P.N. Austin. “His contributions to Deerfield have been enormous, his leadership inspiring, and his relentless focus on the experience and growth of students across every dimension of school life intentional and enduring. We will miss him terribly, but we are excited for Ivory and his family—and for St. Mark’s.”
“With Ivory at the helm, we are confident that St. Mark’s will continue to flourish on the strong foundation it stands upon,” Mr. Moore and Ms. Santini wrote in a letter to the St. Mark’s community on July 31. “Together, we will embark on an exciting journey, starting next July, to shape a future filled with promise, excellence, and boundless possibilities."
Get to Know Ivory D. Hills, St. Mark’s School’s Next Head of School
What appealed to you about the head of school position at St. Mark’s?
I’m excited to lead a community focused on learning and growth. As an intentionally sized community, St. Mark’s supports the creation of strong relationships and allows everyone, students and adults alike, to understand on a daily basis the benefits of cooperation over self-interest. In an increasingly complex world, it is a team ethos and our connections that will render our communities more resilient. I’m looking forward to supporting this shared endeavor any way I can.
How has your background in science helped you in your work as an educator and as a leader?
Science is one of the many disciplines offering structure for seeking truth and understanding the world. There are many others ranging from religion to the humanities to pure math. My deep dive into science has allowed me to understand when it is a uniquely effective tool and when it falls short. This background definitely influences how I approach working in teams, problem-solving, and decision-making. Finally, I would offer that true practitioners of science are necessarily humble, since we routinely are reminded of how little we know!
Why do you feel independent schools are important?
At its foundation, the enterprise of education is one that helps render all of humanity more resilient by preparing all of us for an unknown future. At St. Mark’s, our students have the opportunity to learn broadly and deeply in the academic, athletic, and artistic realms, while developing their own unique identities and forging strong supportive relationships. What could be more important than that?
When you think ahead to your start date at St. Mark’s in July 2024, what excites you the most?
I am most excited about trying to meet every community member. Each person has a distinctive story and reason for being a part of St. Mark’s. It is the interconnectedness of these stories that establishes our community. I suspect that each individual, with high confidence and conviction, can offer unique and perhaps seemingly contradictory definitions of what it means to be a part of St. Mark’s community. Only when these perspectives are combined do we actually approach something that resembles a ‘truth’. That is remarkably interesting!
What is one thing you would like members of the St. Mark’s community to know about you?
In my own mind, I’m one of the funniest people I know. Recent conversations with my daughter confirm that this belief is not unanimous.
Photo: Adam Richins