Mel Cort ’23
Quentin McDowell is an astoundingly busy man. Before he sat down to share his thoughts on the beginning of this year, the acting head of school took a moment to scroll through seven swipes worth of Google calendar appointments, ranging from flights to meetings to speeches. There, a thin red time slot stood highlighted, the universal signal meaning right now: an interview for news.
“It’s incredible to be back,” he began, with a flurry of motion that somehow never breached his eloquence. “I’m watching everyone come back on campus for this, to be connected to one another. To be spending time with one another.” McDowell took a minute to sweep his arm over the bustling dining hall, filled with new and returning faces. “To see everyone eating together, being together in the spirit of boarding school. It’s wonderful.” Students poured over books at a table next to him, another group roared in raucous laughter.
“The first and foremost requirement is safety,” McDowell noted, with a gesture to the mask he wore and the bottle of hand sanitizer located by the dining hall door. “Physical safety, social-emotional safety. We’re all coming from different mindsets and senses of disruption this year, which can hurt our growth and perspective. My main goal going forward is to make everyone feel that they’re safe here. To foster this engagement, this excitement, that I see around me, but everywhere on campus.”
“That does mean, though, that we have a lot of work to do to truly reconnect with our community, our culture, our values, our purpose,” he said, laying out the thought behind the Culture Clinics and engagement periods that students participated in. “A successful year for me is one where everyone walks back home feeling connected with the school and with themselves. I’m working towards cultivating our culture – all the things we love about Mercersburg and all the things we hope Mercersburg will evolve into.”
He compared Mercersburg to a garden that needs to be watered by a sense of community growing into what it can eventually become. “We’ve been talking about everything going on behind the scenes. The overall experiences, extracurriculars, and academics, of course. How do we make sure that they’re meaningful, and that they focus on knowledge application and foster a love of learning? We always need to be evolving.” He gestured widely with his hands, illustrating Mercersburg forming into something bigger and better.
“We’re not looking for a revolution. We’re looking for continuing evolution,” McDowell finished, a final sprinkling of fertilizer on the future he sees for Mercersburg. He jumped back up; the moment of being stationary slipped away as his calendar buzzed out a new alert.