Willy MacMullen ’78, who has served as Taft’s fifth head of school since 2001, announced on February 25 that he and his wife Pam, who serves as an English teacher at Taft, will retire at the end of the 2022-23 academic year.
“I am sure that everyone in the school community who has had the privilege of interacting with this couple will have a deeply emotional response to this announcement,” Board Chair Grant Porter ’69 wrote in an email to the Taft community. “Together they have served a school they love…I have enjoyed the experience of watching the MacMullens grow into their respective roles to become one of the most admired Head of School couples in the country.”
Willy and his wife, Pam, have served Taft for a combined 65 years. After graduating from Taft in 1978, Willy received a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a master’s degree from Middlebury College. He returned to Taft in 1983 to teach English and coach soccer. Willy, known as “Mr. Mac” to decades of Taft students, has also served as class dean, Co-Director of the Senior Seminar, College Counselor, Director of Teaching Fellowships, Dean of Faculty, Dean of Academic Affairs, and Coordinator of NEASC Accreditation Self-Study. Pam, who taught at a public high school before arriving at Taft in 1990, has joined Willy in years of caring for Taft students in the classroom and as a dean, aerobics instructor, and advisor.
As Porter outlined in his letter, Taft has grown in a myriad of ways under Willy’s leadership — from the depth of its academic, arts, and athletics programs, to the strength of its faculty and global diversity of its student body. “Believing it to be vital for the development of the skills for citizenship and leadership,” Porter wrote, “[Willy] has articulated a vision of a deeply diverse and global student body and the financial aid needed to create it, such that today Taft has students from 52 countries and 33 states, a unique statement of composition that no school our size can make.”
Taft’s physical campus has been stewarded in remarkable ways under Willy’s leadership, too, with every major component of the physical campus having been renovated, and countless other facilities added during his tenure. And as Willy stewarded the school’s physical architecture, so too has he strengthened the school’s financial architecture, helping lead the historic Ever Taft Even Stronger capital campaign (which raised more than $185 million) and growing the endowment from $100 million in 2000 to more than $330 million today.
“We owe Willy and Pam a deep sense of gratitude for the incredibly successful transformation achieved,” Porter wrote.
For their part, the MacMullens have loved the day-to-day life of the school — greetings on Main Hall, time spent with advisees, spectating at games, and applauding performances. And they are now excited for the next chapter in their lives.
“The opportunity to spend time with our families and parents, and also for travel and adventure, will be welcome,” Willy wrote in his email to the community. “And to be clear, there is much I hope to do in my last fifteen months!”
“Today, Taft is in an extraordinary position,” he continued. “We have an amazing Board of Trustees, men and women who serve with vision and wisdom. We attract a talented and diverse student body from around the nation and world. Our faculty and staff are singularly passionate, committed, and caring, and more diverse than ever. The academic program is broad and deep, marked by rigor and challenge. The campus, a combination of historic, renovated and new spaces, is beautiful. The generosity of alumni, parents, and friends combined with our fiscal discipline means our financial architecture is sound. The culture on campus rests on core values: service, honor, respect, belonging, kindness, excellence, and perseverance.”
Taft’s Board of Trustees will begin a search for a new Head of School in the coming months. This process will involve the formation of a Search Committee, the hiring of appropriate consulting services, and a comprehensive interview process to select the next Head of School to begin their tenure in July 2023.