Head of School Emeritus Lance Odden Named 133rd Commencement Speaker

Head of School emeritus Lance Odden will serve as Taft’s 133rd Commencement speaker Sunday, May 28.

“It is hard to put in words the honor I feel knowing he will speak from a stage from which he has spoken so many times at the school he fundamentally shaped,” notes Head of School Willy MacMullen ‘78. “It is impossible to look at Taft and not see the legacy of his leadership.”

Lance Odden P’86’89, GP’19,’23,’25’27 served as headmaster of Taft from 1972-2001, is one of the nation’s most respected private secondary school leaders, and is grandfather of Jack Odden, a member of Sunday’s graduating class.

Odden graduated from Andover and attended Princeton University, where he received a B.A. in history, with a focus on Asian Studies. He received his master’s in history at the University of Wisconsin and holds an honorary degree from Middlebury College. Odden joined Taft in 1961, teaching history at all levels, and introduced elective courses in Chinese history. In addition to serving as chair of the department, he coached varsity hockey and varsity lacrosse, the sport he introduced to the school.

Odden was appointed headmaster in 1972, and there began the transformation of this school. An immediate and significant element of that transformation: building a coeducational community with the goal of offering equal space and opportunity for the first 82 young women who arrived at Taft in the spring of 1971, and for those who would follow. During his tenure, he oversaw the construction or renovation of some of our most important buildings, including Arts-Humanities, Wu Math and Science, Centennial, Vogelstein, and the library renovation. In addition, Taft opened the Odden Arena, named for his wife and legendary girls’ hockey coach Patsy Odden and him. During his 29 years at the helm, Taft became a school with a global reputation for academic and extracurricular excellence. (Read more about Odden’s impact on Taft here.)

For decades, Odden has been a nationally recognized leader in education. He is past president of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and has served on numerous boards, including Connecticut Association of Independent Schools and A Better Chance, where he was chairman of the board of trustees. He chaired numerous visiting committees in accrediting peer schools, and his counsel has been sought by countless school leaders and boards. Odden continues to work closely with schools, including Taft, as coordinator of the Davis Scholars program. He has mentored countless educators, including many who have gone on to school headships, and he has been a keynote speaker at numerous educational conferences.

To learn more about Taft’s 133rd Commencement Weekend, visit the Commencement web page.

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