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An Episcopal, co-educational 100% boarding school in Middletown, Delaware for grades 9 – 12

Celebrating the Installation of Our Fifth Head of School Joy McGrath ’92
Liz Torrey

At 11:00 AM on Friday, October 1, the school community gathered for the official installation of Head of School Joy McGrath—only the fifth such installation in the school's 90-year history. The service, led on the Front Lawn on a picture-perfect fall day by Bishop Kevin Brown, featured remarks by Ben Polak, professor of economics and former provost at Yale University, and by McGrath herself. 

Students, faculty, staff, trustees, and friends and family of McGrath and her husband Ty Jones ’92 attended the service, while the wider community was invited to join us on livestream. “Joy, the trustees of St. Andrew’s School have affirmed their trust and confidence in you by selecting you as the fifth head of school,” said chair of the board of trustees Scott Sipprelle ’81 P’08 during the ceremony. “As head of school, you are called upon to act as a steward of all we hold dear at St. Andrew’s, and to respect, uphold, and defend the mission of this school.”

In his remarks, Dr. Polak canvassed the ways in which McGrath’s strengths are ideal for the work of leading a school, and underscored in particular the importance of both imagination and faith to the positive growth of any individual—or institution. 

“Much of learning is a wonderful journey… like looking for treasures in a dark attic,” Polak said. “Teaching is providing a flashlight, sometimes pointing it in the right direction, sometimes letting the student hold it for themselves. The best part of being ignorant—perhaps the only good part of being ignorant—is that, for the ignorant, there is more out there in that dark attic to discover for the first time. The first time you complete an electrical circuit and a light goes on. The first time you read Middlemarch… and a light goes on. Learning allows each generation to rediscover what is [in the attic]. But it also gives us the courage to imagine what lies outside the known. It gives the opportunity… to discover treasures that were not already in the attic; to push back the boundary of human possibility.”

You can read Polak’s remarks in full here.

In her remarks, McGrath unpacked a favorite poem of the school’s previous head of school, Tad Roach: “To be of use,” by Marge Piercy—a paean to teamwork and the small, daily, individual acts that make up a larger effort, and an apt metaphor for the successful operation of a boarding school. 

“Our work at St. Andrew’s is a response to this calling [of the school’s mission], and in each day, we live out that calling as a common matter,” McGrath said in her remarks. “We rise; we learn, solve and debate; we train, compete, and practice; we study and then rest; we rise the next day and begin again. Through these daily habits we make meaning, the most human labor of all. We are participants in a joyful purpose that transcends our individual effort and connects us to a world in need of our service. In this calling, and in this working, we together make our lives at St. Andrew’s with each new day. This is a meaningful and remarkable honor that we share. Each day that I serve this school, I will know it is a privilege to do this work, and an honor to be of use.”

You can read Joy’s remarks in full here.

Watch the entire installation service here.

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