Richard G. Hardy
2009 – present
Richard Hardy enjoyed a distinguished career as an English teacher, upper school principal, and interim head of school at Milton Academy before becoming Concord Academy’s 10th head of school. He arrived at a pivotal time for the school, as it prepared to celebrate its 90th year in 2012 and began plans for a much-anticipated celebration of its centennial year in 2022. With his commitment to teaching, his goal of increasing educational access for students of all backgrounds, and his desire to open the school to more global learning experiences, Hardy began immediately to set the stage for future.
Raised in rural Pelham, New Hampshire, Hardy–who encourages everyone to call him Rick–grew up as a self-described “working class kid,” who had become an adept farm laborer and handyman by the age of 16. This early experience gave him a lifelong appreciation of the educational opportunities he was later offered and the desire to help other motivated students from all backgrounds enjoy the same benefits. After earning a B.A. in politics and government from the University of New Hampshire in 1978, Hardy received a master’s in creative writing from Brown University, where he also served as a teaching fellow. His teaching and administrative career at Milton Academy began in 1983 and lasted just under 26 years, during which he also served as a coach and a house parent. He and his wife Adele, a health professional, have two adult children, Aidan and Owen.
Hardy’s first challenge was to raise funds and oversee plans for the transformation of Arena Farms, the 13.6 acres of land a mile from campus purchased near the end of the Dresden years. The development of the land into state-of-the-art athletic fields and tennis courts was also a cultural challenge, since it would be the first time the school had expanded beyond its Main Street campus. The opening of the Moriarty Athletic Campus in 2012 was a testament to Hardy’s success at meeting all these challenges. The campus has become a popular gathering place for students, faculty, and friends of the school, and Hardy’s consistent presence at games and meets has helped the new campus become an integral part of the school community.
Beginning shortly after his arrival, Hardy began working with trustees, senior administrators, and faculty on a long-range plan to bring the school into the future. The result, approved in 2014, is the Centennial Plan: Create + Innovate. The ambitious campaign seeks to support faculty leadership, increase access to the school by growing endowment funds for scholarships, enhance residential life, create a “boundless campus” open to the wider world, and significantly expand the science facilities. Hardy’s enthusiastic and tireless support of the plan helped launch the science project ahead of schedule, and the new classrooms are slated to be open for use in the fall of 2016, along with a more integrated curriculum, state-of-the-art lab spaces, and a sustainable building design.
Hardy’s natural talent as a writer and his love of stories have made him a vibrant spokesman for the school from the day of his arrival. Following up on one of his earliest stated goals, he is actively helping promote CA around the country and the world while carving out its centennial path at home.
Jacob A. Dresden
Jacob A. Dresden arrived at Concord Academy a seasoned leader, following a highly successful nine-year tenure as the head of Collegiate School in New York. A specialist in Russian history and economics, Mr. Dresden brought with him a love of teaching and a reputation for integrity, even-handed leadership, generous mentoring, and commitment to global community.
Mr. Dresden came to the United States in 1950 at the age of six, when he emigrated with his parents from the Netherlands. He graduated from Westtown School in 1962 and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania. While teaching history at Abington Friends School, he completed a master’s degree in international politics, also at Penn. He then taught Russian history at William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, where he chaired the history department and coached soccer, basketball, and tennis, eventually serving as dean of students, college counselor, and assistant head. In 1991, he became head of Collegiate, a venerable K-12 day school for boys. After nine years there, during which the school thrived, Mr. Dresden felt he had completed a natural cycle. He was drawn to a fresh challenge: the headship of a coeducational boarding school in historic New England.
The Dresden years were shaped by the new head’s long-held desire to forge stronger connections between people, which he has attributed in part to his Quaker schooling. On September 11, 2001, Mr. Dresden gathered the school community in the Performing Arts Center to provide support during the terrorist attacks. When classes began on September 11, 2002, Mr. Dresden opened the academic year with an all-school Convocation, a tradition that continues today. Realizing that he would have preferred to convene in the Elizabeth B. Hall Chapel, the heart of the campus, Mr. Dresden launched a successful effort to expand and renovate the Chapel so that, without compromising its cherished meetinghouse feel, it would once again accommodate the entire school. Completed in the fall of 2005, the historic renovation remains one of the hallmarks of Mr. Dresden’s headship.
Throughout his CA years, Mr. Dresden continued to teach history and economics and to advise students. His commitment to teaching was reflected in his strong support for increased funding for professional development and faculty salaries. He also instituted a new Learning Center, now the Academic Support Center, which provides help for students needing remedial work.
In an effort to expand students’ global awareness, Mr. Dresden spearheaded an exchange program with Brighton College in England and another in France, and he invited students displaced by Hurricane Katrina to study at CA. He also supported service trips outside the state, and he helped raise local service participation by both students and adults to record levels.
Mr. Dresden’s focus on connecting people also resulted in campus enhancements. He oversaw the transformation of Munroe House, purchased shortly before his arrival, into six faculty apartments, and the 2004 acquisition of Belknap House, which provided three new faculty apartments plus a new home for the Admissions Office. In another historic decision, Mr. Dresden oversaw the purchase of 13.6 acres of farmland one mile from campus, which became the Moriarty Athletic Campus. In addition to providing state-of-the-art fields and tennis courts, the acquisition freed up space on the main campus for future development.
On his retirement in 2009, Mr. Dresden and his wife, Pat — also a seasoned educator— moved back to Philadelphia, planning to spend more time with their two adult sons. Mr. Dresden continued serving as a mentor for participants in the Klingenstein Program at Columbia University and now works as an educational consultant.
Thomas E. Wilcox
Thomas Elliott Wilcox was just 34 years old when he became Concord Academy’s eighth Head of School. His pivotal tenure, the longest to date, strengthened every aspect of the school and bolstered its national standing.
Born in 1947 in New York City, Wilcox attended the Wooster School in Danbury, Connecticut, and earned an A.B. in Political Science from Colorado College. At the time of his appointment, he was finishing up a master’s degree in Administration from the Harvard School of Education.
Wilcox brought with him wide-ranging experience in several areas of school life. During time off from college, he had worked on an oil rig in Louisiana, which strengthened his belief in the value of both hard work and education. After graduating, he taught history and math and coached at Fountain Valley School for three years, spent a year as a college counselor at the American School in Lugano, Switzerland, and then returned to the Wooster School as director of admissions and development. In 1976, he moved to Boston, where he launched a new boarding schools program for the National Association of Independent Schools in a successful effort to reach under-represented families unaware of such opportunities.
Tom and his wife, Elizabeth Whitney (Whitty) Ransome, who was then director of admissions at Dana Hall School and would later cofound the National Association of Schools for Girls, resided at 228 Main Street, eventually welcoming adopted daughter Kate and son Christopher.
The Wilcox years were distinguished by vigorous efforts to diversify the school. He encouraged recruitment of faculty, students, and trustees of color and launched a multi-school partnership to found New England Citybridge, an enhancement program for talented 7th- and 8th-grade inner-city students that helped place hundreds of motivated students in independent schools during its 12 years of operation on CA’s campus. By the end of Wilcox’s tenure, 25 percent of the student body comprised students of color, and the financial aid budget had grown from $118,000 to $1,212,500, reflecting a steep increase in socio-economic diversity.
Recognizing the pressing need to improve the physical plant, Wilcox oversaw extensive redesign and renovation plans, which helped fulfill his goals of revitalizing the boarding department and bringing more adults to live on campus. With his strong encouragement, CA purchased 166 Main Street (currently Aloian House), which was transformed into a new administration building, freeing Hobson House to accommodate additional boarders and house faculty. Two other purchases, 220 and 185 Main Street, provided additional faculty housing.
Helping design a campus with smoother flow and greater coherence, Wilcox spearheaded the construction of the Math and Arts Center (the MAC), the completely renovated Student, Health and Athletic Center (the SHAC), an enlarged science wing, an expanded library, and the creation of a quad for outdoor use by students.
Wilcox was an ardent believer in professional development for faculty, instituting in-house computer training and fostering a more inclusive curriculum by encouraging exploration and innovation. In addition, he responded to faculty concerns about inequality by instituting an equitable salary scale.
By the time of Wilcox’s departure in 2000, Concord Academy’s endowment had grown from $900,000 to $30 million and its stature as a leading boarding and day school was undisputed. Following their departure, the Wilcox-Ransome family moved to Baltimore, where Wilcox took up his new position as CEO of the Baltimore Community Foundation.
Dr. Philip Frick McKean was appointed Concord Academy’s seventh head in March 1977, while Academic Dean Jane Scarborough was serving as the interim leader of the school. At the time of his appointment, he was an associate professor in Social Sciences and a Dean for Advising at the recently established Hampshire College in western Massachusetts.
An ordained minister, Dr. McKean had earned a B.A. in History from Williams College, a B.D. in Ethics and Religion at Yale Divinity School, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from Brown, where he also served as a chaplain. Having done extensive anthropological research in Bali, Indonesia, and spent time studying in Scotland and Switzerland and engaging in ministry in the U.S. and abroad, he was committed to instilling in students an awareness of a wider world and a belief in reaching out beyond oneself to an appreciation of others’ experiences. He was appreciated from the start by faculty and students for his warmth and approachability.
Dr. McKean, his wife Deborah, and their two children, Tom and Susannah, made their home in the recently purchased house at 228 Main Street, which has since remained the head’s house.
Dr. McKean’s short tenure is highlighted by his amiable personal style and a return to sound fiscal management. At the end of his first year, the school, though still under-endowed, was once again on solid financial footing, and balanced budgets became the norm. His administration also oversaw the school’s first long-range plan, which noted the need to refurbish the physical plant, grow the endowment, attract more boys, and revive boarding enrollments, which had dipped well below those of day students since the days when previously all-male schools had opened their doors to young women.
As the school continued to address the early challenges of co-education and the social upheavals of the times, the McKean years were characterized by efforts to accommodate boys as smoothly and effectively as possible while maintaining the ethos of caring and support that had always distinguished the school. More classroom teachers were encouraged to live on campus as house parents, gradually replacing the separate house faculty that had predominated in the past.
By the summer of 1980, Dr. McKean and the trustees arrived at a mutual agreement that a different style of leadership would be needed to guide the school into the new decade. He served until the end of that calendar year, and took a leave of absence during the second semester, during which Academic Dean Janet Eisendrath became interim head.
Since their departure, Dr. and Mrs. McKean have traveled widely and now divide their time between homes in Maine and California. He has worked as a consultant and board member for many philanthropic causes, including educational and health care organizations. Deborah McKean was ordained as an Episcopal minister in 2007.
Russell Mead joined the faculty in 1962 as an English teacher. Born in Colorado, he attended the Denver public schools before heading east to Dartmouth, where he was named a Rhodes Scholar. He taught at the Woodstock School in Vermont for two years before being hired by Concord Academy. Articulate, gregarious, energetic, and creative, he was popular among colleagues and students and was appointed Acting Headmaster during his predecessor’s sabbatical during the fall of 1970.
Mead’s tenure is distinguished by his shepherding of co-education through its challenging early years. Twenty-six boys, ten of them boarders, were enrolled during Mead’s first year, and that number would grow to 42 in his second year and 72 in his third. Additionally, in 1971Concord Academy welcomed boys from the all-male Middlesex School across town, in the first of a three-year experiment at coordination. Ultimately, the complications of such an arrangement put an end to the experiment, and in the fall of 1974 Middlesex became fully co-educational.
In his first year as head, Mead officiated at the school’s 50th anniversary celebration, at which he presented his vision for Concord Academy’s future. His forward thinking included a new educational role for film and video and more individualized instruction tailored to students’ talents and interests. He also envisioned a curriculum filled with subjects relevant to the times and taught by specialists in those areas. These plans involved increasing the faculty to accommodate several more elective courses, a move that proved popular among both faculty and students.
During Mead’s early years, the school purchased 228 Main Street (now the Head’s residence) and Toad Hall (Elizabeth and Livingtson Hall’s former residence), which it would resell in 1977 but where Russell and Florence Mead would reside. Trustees also spearheaded a capital campaign to build endowment and fund the construction of the Student-Faculty Center and a new gymnasium. As a result of this ambitious fundraising mandate and the wide geographical reach of the school by that time, Mead was the first head to travel off campus for substantial lengths of time, reaching out personally to promote the school’s strengths.
By the fall of 1974, enrollment had grown to 298, and the number of boys was approaching one-third of the student population. But competition from previously all-male schools was starting to pose a new problem, and the campus facilities were showing the wear and tear of increased use. All of this began to strain the school’s finances, and Mead’s enthusiasm for diversifying and widening the curriculum, while a boon to faculty and students, was adding to persistent deficits that would soon require belt-tightening.
Mead’s years were also marked by social turmoil caused by the Vietnam War, student protests, and the rise of civil rights movements. During a particularly volatile time, he defused tensions in an eloquent talk that called for “mutual trust,” a belief in personal responsibility that evolved into the principle of “common trust,” an essential pillar of the school’s mission. He also created and taught in the innovative film and media program, a distinguishing element of the school’s curriculum that remains vital today.
Mead is best remembered for his commitment to innovation, relevance, and individualism and his ability to forge positive relationships between students and adults. Following his departure, he headed back west, settling in New Mexico, where he has continued working as a film teacher and educational consultant.
David A. Aloian
David Aloian arrived at Concord Academy from the all-male Belmont Hill School, where he had spent the previous nine years. He had been director of the Upper School, a teacher of Latin, English, and mathematics, a football coach, and a published scholar. With his scholarly demeanor, characteristic reserve, and steady hand, Aloian led the school successfully through the cultural transition that divided his tenure into two distinct segments: five years of relative tranquility and continued growth followed by three years of unrest that reflected the national upheavals of the time and paved the way for co-education.
Aloian was born in 1928 and grew up speaking Armenian at home and learning English in the public schools of Niagara Falls. After winning a regional contest, he became a Quiz Kid—one of the 7th and 8th-graders from around the country who appeared on a popular weekly radio program. Those appearances earned him the attention of a benefactor, who steered him to Harvard College where he was accepted with a full scholarship. He began his teaching career at the Fenn School in Concord, where he met his future wife, Mimi Frankenberg, a 1948 graduate of Concord Academy. From Fenn, Aloian moved briefly to the Park School and then to Belmont Hill. Along the way, he and his wife welcomed three children, and he earned a master’s degree from Boston University. He also published scholarly articles, an introduction to a new edition of Thoreau’s Walden, and his own book, Poetry and Poems.
To house the new head and his family, trustees purchased 58 Main Street, now known as Lee House, which was renovated and ready for habitation in 1964. Aloian also oversaw the construction of a new art-science classroom wing and a performing arts center.
Throughout the Aloian years, the school’s eminence grew, attracting prominent families from around the world. Enrollment rose consistently, peaking at 242, and boarders outnumbered day students, enhancing geographic diversity. In an effort to increase racial and economic diversity, Aloian oversaw the enrollment of the first students from the ABC (A Better Chance) program. He was also committed to maintaining a strong faculty, persuading trustees to fund a sabbatical program, which continues today.
Among other lasting contributions, Aloian implemented the Hall Fellow Program, funded by an endowment gift from trustees to honor Elizabeth B. Hall at her retirement. Beginning in 1964 and continuing today, the program welcomes leaders in their fields who spend time with students and faculty and give talks to the school community. Among the luminaries who accepted Aloian’s invitation to become Hall Fellows were Archibald McLeish, Marian Anderson, H.D.F. Kitto, Ogden Nash, and John D. Rockfeller.
In 1968, the school began to reflect social changes affecting the entire country. The curriculum included more electives, and an exchange program was instituted with the all-male St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire. Mirroring decisions made by many other single-sex independent schools at the time, trustees voted in May 1970 to begin admitting boys in the fall of 1971.
Ultimately, David Aloian would not lead the school into co-education. During the 1970-71 year, he accepted the headship of Belmont Hill, a position he held for seven years before moving to Harvard. There, he served as executive director of the Alumni Association and master of Quincy House until his death in 1986.
Elizabeth Blodgett Hall
Trustees made a transformative decision in appointing the school’s freshly minted history teacher, Elizabeth B. Hall, as Concord Academy’s fourth head. Under Mrs. Hall’s leadership, the school would metamorphose from a relatively unknown, local establishment into a prestigious, nationally recognized leader in secondary-school education for girls.
Born in Manhattan in 1909, Elizabeth Blodgett attended the academically rigorous Ethical Culture School in the city and, later, Miss Hall’s School in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. For brief periods after high school, she attended Knox College in Illinois and the Columbia School of Journalism. But in 1930, she interrupted her academic career to marry Livingston Hall—who would later become a professor at Harvard Law School—and to raise their four children.
In 1942, Mrs. Hall’s intellectual curiosity led her to enroll in Radcliffe College as a freshman. Four years later, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude, with a degree in American Government. In the fall of 1948, she was hired by Concord Academy as head of the History Department. When Josephine Tucker announced her impending departure during that same academic year, trustees unanimously chose Mrs. Hall as her successor over some 85 applicants. Though she possessed little proven experience, they considered her “a born leader.”
During Mrs. Hall’s 14-year tenure, the school grew in both size and stature. Gradually eliminating the lower grades, Mrs. Hall directed CA’s limited resources into the college-preparatory program for grades 9 through 12. She oversaw the construction of a new classroom wing, and a separate refectory and infirmary building. The purchase of Wheeler and Phelps houses (and the re-acquisition of Tucker House, which had been sold) allowed the school to enlarge its boarding facilities and welcome a more geographically diverse group of students. In her final year, the school had grown to 218 students in four grades Of the 103 boarders, 90 were from out of state and four from foreign countries.
In 1954, Mrs. Hall purchased an old Baptist meetinghouse in Snackerty Brook, New Hampshire. Two years later, she, her husband, and a group of faculty friends dismantled and transported it to campus, where they and their student apprentices reassembled it. Today, the Elizabeth B. Hall Chapel—rededicated in her name in 1984—has become the cherished repository of decades of stories shared in chapel talks given each week by seniors and faculty members.
Over time, Mrs. Hall would become something of a legend, famous for her ability to drive a tractor, whistle through her teeth, pitch a baseball game, and live her belief that one should “Just do it!” Her irrepressible personality set the tone for a lively campus, where students were expected to engage fully and actively in and out of the classroom. Believing young women needed practical life skills, she taught a seminar called “Stuff and Nonsense,” which included lessons on such how to change a tire. She tossed out the many rules that had proliferated in the previous decade, and replaced them with one overall tenet: “You are always expected to do the right thing,” As a result, she would later say, Concord Academy was not a strict school, but it was a hard one.
Following her departure in 1963, Mrs. Hall moved to Great Pine Farm, her family’s estate in the Berkshires. The following year, she founded a progressive post-secondary school on the family property, which she called Simon’s Rock, now part of Bard College. She retired as president of the college in 1972, remaining in western Massachusetts until her death in 2005.
J. Josephine Tucker
Thirty-eight-year-old Judith Josephine Tucker, an English scholar and experienced department head, became Concord Academy’s third headmistress at the start of a tumultuous decade shaped by world war and its immediate aftermath. Her calm, stately demeanor helped steady the school through years of dropping enrollments caused by family strife, gas rationing, and tightened belts. Ultimately, her talent and vision are credited not only with seeing the school through this dark period but also with establishing some of its most defining traditions and inaugurating the library that now bears her name.
Born in Richmond, Virginia, Josephine Tucker received a B.A. in English from Westhampton College in Virginia and a master’s degree from Radcliffe College, whose president was one of her most ardent recommenders. She also studied at Cambridge University, Middlebury’s Breadloaf School, and the University of Colorado. Before accepting the headship at Concord Academy, she held several teaching positions at public and private schools and colleges, and was twice appointed to head English departments, first at the Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia, and then—just before coming to Concord—at the Hathaway Brown School in Çleveland.
Miss Tucker’s wide experience and her commitment to teaching English literature (she taught a popular Shakespeare seminar to seniors) helped maintain the high academic standards set by her predecessors. Her tenure was also marked by long-needed enhancements to the physical plant, notably the acquisition of two large properties along Main Street that would become Tucker House (currently Admajaja House) and Bradford House, providing more room for boarding students.
In concert with these purchases, Miss Tucker ushered in other practices that would become vital to the school’s longterm strength: fundraising campaigns, parents’ groups, and strategies to promote the school to a wider audience. She hired the first male faculty member in 1942, a music teacher, and continued Miss Hobson’s attention to faculty welfare by urging the adoption of a bona fide retirement plan, TIAA-CREF, which the school still uses.
Though she is remembered in part for reprising many of the rules that had been relaxed during the Knapp years, and adding a few of her own, Miss Tucker’s true legacy resides in her far-reaching vision, which remains central to the school’s character. Believing that each student deserved personal attention, Miss Tucker instituted an advisor system that allowed faculty members to meet individually with their advisees, a system that remains central today. She also flouted received wisdom by de-emphasizing academic prizes and honors in favor of celebrating the talents and achievements of all students, an educational philosophy that continues to distinguish Concord Academy from other independent schools of its caliber.
Just before her departure in 1949, in an especially visionary talk to trustees, Miss Tucker urged them to work hard at making enrollment possible for qualified, motivated students “from all walks of life, of every race and religion and economic standing.” She said such diversity would strengthen everyone’s educational experience and ensure a “glorious future” for Concord Academy. Along with her namesake, the J. Josephine Tucker Library, these contributions and urgings helped shape the school that followed her.
After leaving Concord Academy, Miss Tucker moved back to her Virginia birthplace, serving as dean of students and English professor at Westhampton College of the University of Richmond until her retirement in 1968.
Valeria Addams Knapp
The Hobson years had established Concord Academy as an intellectually rigorous school of exceptional merit. By 1937, the school had also become somewhat set in its ways and rule-bound in its daily practices. So when free-spirited Valeria Knapp arrived, she blew in refreshingly “as though on the East wind,” in the words of faculty member Marcelia Wagner. “Miss Knapp was “young, breezy. … Almost immediately, the school took on a carefree air.”
Miss Knapp came to Concord from the Winsor School in Boston, where she had been a student and then a teacher and administrator. At the time of her appointment, she was supervisor of the lower school and a leader in curriculum development. Though she lived from the age of three in Newton, Massachusetts, she was born in 1898 in Monomonie, Wisconsin, and boasted Chicago social reformer Jane Addams among her cousins. In 1922, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar, with concentrations in English, history, and political science.
Miss Knapp was chosen in large part because of her extensive research into progressive methods of education. After years of staunch solidity, trustees were looking for forward momentum, and they found in Miss Knapp a creative thinker who led by encouragement and example. She stimulated her faculty with an innovative approach to teaching and learning, and her commitment to professional development would become a foundational principal of the future school. As Miss Wagner recalled, “She did a wonderful thing for her teachers. She provided them with intellectual stimulus. She drove us recklessly away in the evening to seminars at various schools where there were choice speakers and afterwards discussion. Educational theory was again a romantic venture.”
Though more outgoing and informal in her demeanor than her predecessor, Miss Knapp proved to be a strong proponent of the hard work, enterprise, and academic standards that had distinguished the Hobson years. In a talk to trustees at the end of her first year, Miss Knapp reported the students’ excellent results, adding, “These high standards have … been made possible by Miss Hobson’s fine leadership and by her teachers’ unsparing efforts throughout the whole life of the school.” Miss Knapp also proved to be a sound financial manager, reducing the budget deficit that had accrued during the Depression and increasing enrollment.
What made her short tenure truly distinctive was the freer atmosphere that surrounded the academic intensity, a more open, trusting environment reflective of the informality envisioned by the school’s founders. Miss Knapp is credited with reducing rules to a minimum and opening the campus to a wider world and to a greater awareness of current events.
During her third year as headmistress, Miss Knapp was offered the position of assistant director at the Winsor School, for which she felt an abiding loyalty. It was an opportunity she believed would never come again, so she returned to Winsor for the following academic year and remained there for the rest of her career. In 1951, she was named headmistress of Winsor, a position she held for twelve years before retiring.
Elsie Garland Hobson
When Concord Academy’s founding trustees sought a guiding spirit to lead their school, they chose Elsie Garland Hobson, an accomplished Latin scholar and seasoned school administrator. Miss Hobson is credited with building the school’s strong reputation and establishing its guiding principles: excellence without pretension, service to the wider world, and hard work balanced with wholesome recreation. “[T]he very best was demanded, and she was,” wrote veteran faculty member Mercelia Wagner. The formidable Miss Hobson arrived with a firm commitment to “dignity, honesty, hard work—[and] duty first.”
Miss Hobson was born in 1872 in the remote village of Island Pond, Vermont. Thanks to her parents’ belief in the value of education for young women, she attended Boston Latin School, where she developed a lifelong love of the Classics, and Boston University, where she received her B.A. and M.A. Beginning at age 25, she served as principal of three girls’ academies in Illinois before returning to New England as an administrator at the Wheeler School in Providence, Rhode Island. Meanwhile, during vacations, she pursued a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Chicago, which she received in 1916. When Concord Academy’s founders discovered her, she was leading the progressive Open Air Model School on the Bryn Mawr campus.
The school’s early circulars characterized Concord Academy—which then comprised twelve grades, a co-educational lower school and a secondary school for girls—as a place that would be “informal” in its setting and atmosphere but “sound” in its education. Stalwart and reserved, Miss Hobson was not known for her informality, but though some found her stern manner intimidating, the headmistress was “warm and vulnerable at heart.” Honoring the founders’ wishes, she kept the school “simple and strong,” and earned the respect and “affectionate devotion” of her faculty, with whom she maintained a collegial relationship as a Latin teacher.
Having benefited herself from her parents’ belief that young women should be challenged intellectually and encouraged to make a difference in the world, she set high expectations for achievement and behavior but enveloped these in a caring, supportive atmosphere that continues to characterize the school. One alumna wrote of her enjoyment on Sunday nights when, “with her exquisite command of the English language,” Miss Hobson would read aloud to students. “Her patience and understanding of us all came through her stern sense of the ‘fitting and proper.’” Another alumna recalled, “Miss Hobson exhorted us to have pride in ourselves, to set high standards and apply every effort we could to meet those standards.“
Miss Hobson would set the stage for the future by assembling an imaginative faculty that encouraged high intellectual achievement. When the Great Depression descended in 1929, she kept the school viable with a leadership model that combined thrift with compassion. As enrollment plummeted, trustees were forced to cut teachers’ salaries, but Miss Hobson convinced them to establish an insurance plan to guarantee their longterm well-being. In addition, she spearheaded an effort to provide scholarship funds for qualified students whose families could not afford tuition.
Despite the volatility of the Depression years, enrollment grew from 51 to 120 students by the end of Miss Hobson’s fifteen-year tenure. On her retirement to New Ipswich, New Hampshire, in 1937, trustees honored her by naming #72 Main Street “Hobson House.”