Andy Taylor ’72 has spent almost his entire career as an educator. He taught history at the Horace Mann and Spence Schools in New York City, and in Botswana and South Africa. Today, he is the principal of the Maru-a-Pula School in Botswana. And his connection to Taft has never been stronger.
“I was brought up in a family where we constantly hosted international students through AFS [American Field Service],” Taylor told the Taft Bulletin. “I thought it would be a spectacular opportunity if Maru-a-Pula students could go overseas and have a similar experience at Taft.”
And, thanks to Taylor, they have: In almost every year since 1981, Maru-a-Pula students have traveled from Botswana to Watertown, in a partnership that powerfully and inextricably entwines the values of his youth and the lessons of service learned at Taft with his commitment to education and opportunity. These are the same values and commitment that earned Taylor Taft’s highest alumni award: In 2016, Taylor was honored with The Horace Dutton Taft Alumni Medal, which is given each year to a person whose lifework best typifies the school motto: Not to be ministered unto but to minister. Awardees are celebrated for their humanitarian efforts—for going beyond the call of duty to serve others. The award is bestowed at the Old Guard Dinner on Alumni Weekend, and memorialized with a citation hung in Main Hall. The Medal is a reminder of Taft’s commitment to serve others.
After graduating from Taft, Taylor spent a year at the Aldenham School in the UK as an English Speaking Union Exchange Scholar before returning to Connecticut to continue his education at Wesleyan University. Answering a persistent and rewarding call into global service, Taylor packed his bags for Natal, South Africa, where he spent his first year out of college teaching history at the Michaelhouse School. Soon after, he was in Botswana for his first stint at Maru-a-Pula. Taylor returned to Maru-a-Pula in 2004, where he has made an indelible mark as principal.
Maru-a-Pula is widely considered to be one of the top independent schools in Africa, and the best in Botswana. Its mission is to serve the nation of Botswana, the continent of Africa and the world, by preparing leaders who will serve their communities. Nearly two-thirds of Maru-a-Pula’s 765 students are citizens of Botswana. As principal, Taylor oversees a staff of 150 and an annual budget of over $5 million.
“Top colleges from around the globe visit the school,” says Taylor. “The ultimate expectation for many of our students is to study overseas.”
Maru-a-Pula students have gone on to attend schools like Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, MIT, Williams, the London School of Economics, and Oxford, where two former students were Rhodes Scholars; there are currently four Maru-a-Pula students attending Cambridge University. Taylor also pioneered the Harvard Intern and Princeton in Africa Fellows programs, and built a partnership with Juilliard. And while Maru-a-Pula’s first exchange program was with Taft, students now spend time at more than 25 high schools worldwide, including Brooks, Deerfield, Emma Willard, Catlin Gabel in Portland, Oregon, and Keystone Academy in Beijing, China.
Under Taylor’s leadership, enrollment at Maru-a-Pula has increased by 200 students in 10 years. His development initiatives have allowed facilities growth that includes a new library media center and seminar room, two new language classrooms, and three new science labs, as well as more than $200,000 each year for orphan scholarships.
Taylor helped mentor senior staff for the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa; addressed Botswana’s Ministry of Education officials and school leaders on Maru-a-Pula’s community service program; addressed southern Africa’s independent school headmasters’ conference on building an Orphan & Vulnerable Children Scholarship program; and hosted a Global Connections Conference of school leaders from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, India, Jordan, Kenya, New Zealand, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Swaziland, Switzerland, Thailand, and the USA. He has spoken to audiences throughout the world about Africa’s AIDS orphans, and the continent’s educational challenges. Taylor also pioneered a "Democracy Training" curriculum, engaging South African high school students in service projects with non-governmental organizations.
“Andy's life is inspiring—our motto writ large,” notes Headmaster Willy MacMullen ’78. “He is a visionary educator and leader, and his work at Maru-a-Pula has changed lives, brought amazing students to Taft, and furthered a remarkable partnership between two great schools.”