On Friday September 16, 2022, interim head of school Quentin McDowell P’25 will be officially installed as Mercersburg Academy’s eighth head of school. The Board of Regents is hosting the installation ceremony in the Irvine Memorial Chapel. Prior to the ceremony, McDowell answered a series of questions to help the community understand the new head of school better.
Mercersburg News: How is your day going so far?
Quentin McDowell: It may sound cliché, but every day is a good day, and I am honestly grateful for each one I get.
MN: What are you looking forward to in the school year ahead?
QM: There is so much to be excited about at Mercersburg. I love to be witness to the individual and collective growth of our community and its members, particularly our students. The opportunity to live and learn together in such a special place is a truly transformative experience.
MN: What is on your mind often?
QM: There is a constant stream of thoughts, ideas, and worries on my mind, but they mostly all focus on trying to make this experience the best it can be for our students and adults.
MN: What is the best part of your new job?
QM: Being the head of school at Mercersburg is an exceptional honor. I just want to be a good servant to our students, our faculty and staff, our alumni, and our school. I feel really fortunate to have this opportunity to impact the lives of so many in the Mercersburg
MN: What is the worst part of the job?
QM: There is a lot to worry about when you are a head of school; it just comes with the job. Luckily the good far outweighs the bad.
MN: What do you like to do in your free time?
QM: My family is my biggest priority, and I spend most of my free time with them. I enjoy every moment I have with my wife, Lauren, and each of my three kids. They bring me immense happiness. Outside of my family, I love soccer, a good podcast, and live music (or any music for that matter).
MN: On a scale of 1-10 how nervous are you for the installation? Why?
QM: Nervous is probably not the right word, as I certainly enjoy public speaking and a proper ceremony. The difference with the installation is that the focus is on me, which is something I struggle with. This job and the work we all do here is about students and about Mercersburg, not any singular individual. I often say that no one is bigger than our school. That being said, I recognize that an installation of a new head of school is an important moment for Mercersburg to acknowledge and to celebrate, particularly since there have only been 8 heads in 130 years. I am sure it will be a lovely day and then we can all turn our attention back to making this year a great one.
MN: What is your most memorable childhood experience?
QM: I tell a lot of stories about my childhood and it would be hard to choose just one as the “most memorable.” That being said, I often think about my first international trip, which was to Germany, the Netherlands, France, and Belgium when I was a teenager. It opened my eyes to just how big the world is and encouraged me to see well beyond the small town I grew up in.
MN: Pretzel pie or chocolate chip cookie pie?
QM: I feel guilty admitting this, as I know pretzel pie is a coveted Mercersburg treat, but I am definitely a chocolate chip cookie pie person. Ice cream and I have always had an up and down relationship.
MN: What’s hiding under the beard? Will you ever shave it?
QM: Honestly, it is just my face is under there. I’m not entirely sure I would even recognize myself at this point, but last I checked it was still there. Since growing it, I have not once considered shaving it so it is likely going to be around for a while.
MN: How has your perspective of the HOS job evolved since you were first instated as acting head?
QM: I think the biggest change is the sense of stability that came with being named the official head of school. It allows me to feel more assured about the work at hand and not as much like I am in trying to run the school while also auditioning for the job.
MN: What’s an old Mercersburg tradition you would like to bring back?
QM: Most of the traditions that were here when I arrived are still alive and well so I am feeling good about where we are and what we are doing. If there are things I am missing that the community is longing for, I am all ears!
MN: What are your long term goals as head of school?
QM: My long term goals are largely focused on continuing to build community and reinforce the culture of Mercersburg, while also focusing on continuing to evolve our programming through our strategic design choices and efforts to ensure the financial sustainability of our future.