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Remembering Former Head of School Hawley Rogers 1938-2021

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Beloved by all who knew him, former Head of School Hawley Rogers P’82 GP’12, ’17 died on Friday, August 20, 2021. While the Oldfields community mourns this tremendous loss and offers deepest condolences to his wife, Wendy, and the entire Rogers family, we know his legacy lives on in each of us and in every Oldfields student—past, current, and future.  

In 1969, young Hawley Rogers and his family made their way to Maryland and Oldfields School, where Hawley would be teaching English. It was the first step of an extraordinary 28-year journey in which the Rogers would devote nearly three decades to educating girls in a culture of kindness and leading the School to become one of the most sought-after girls’ boarding schools in the country.

It was apparent right away that Hawley was no ordinary teacher. Within two years, not only did the Class of 1971 dedicate their Rarebit yearbook to him, but he was also named the Assistant Head of School and the Director of Studies. And in 1976, at the age of 37, Hawley was appointed Head of School, the sixth person to lead the School since its founding in 1867.

Hawley took up the reins at a challenging period in Oldfields’ history, when the School, like many boarding schools at that time, was struggling. Former Head of School Taylor Smith said at the time of Hawley’s retirement, “I suppose you can measure the worth of a man by his deeds. Many leaders would have been paralyzed by the pressures at hand, but Hawley never lost sight of his goals, and more importantly, never sacrificed the Oldfields philosophy for the expedient solution.”

During Hawley’s 21-year tenure as Head of School, Oldfields doubled its enrollment to reach capacity (with a waiting list), brought the first day students into the community, attracted an excellent staff who were sensitive to individual differences and needs, built or renovated multiple buildings on campus, successfully completed Oldfields’ first multi-million dollar capital campaign, and established the endowment, growing it to several million dollars.

While Hawley’s tangible accomplishments are monumental, without question his greatest achievement was the impact he had on the people with whom he worked and the girls who were lucky enough to be at Oldfields under his leadership. Former Dean of Students Sue Louis wrote, at his retirement, “His pragmatic and sensitive approach and emphasis on the individual, his insight into the uniqueness of every situation, has made Oldfields a school where girls feel cared about.”

Upon hearing of Hawley’s death, Trustee Marney Babbitt-Pierce '04 shared, “There are no words to describe the impact Hawley Rogers had on my life. It feels impossible that he is gone. While I didn’t have the pleasure of being a student of his, he was an incredible mentor and teacher when we were on the Board together, and I will forever be grateful for the perspective he taught me and the jokes we shared during some really tough times.”

“Hawley embodied characteristics of integrity, honesty, commitment, compassion, respect for uniqueness and differences, and respect for self and others. All of these and the fact that students and faculty alike strive to live up to his expectations are what make Oldfields the special place it is,” said Samantha Coker ’90 upon his retirement.

Elizabeth Love ’90 P’20 posted, “Today, and for many days and years to come, we honor your legacy and the tremendously positive and loving impact you had on the lives of dozens upon dozens of young women. To Sir, With Love, from your Oldfields girls.”

Others speak of his gentle, yet firm and sincere way of being, his openness to creative problem-solving, his intellect, his sense of humor, his determination, his kindness, his acceptance of different points of view, and his compassion. A community built on family values tempered by fairness, firmness, and his ability to remain young at heart--all of these qualities made him an iconic head of school.

It’s been a long time since Hawley “graduated” with the Class of 1997, but his love for Oldfields never waned. Both his granddaughters, Ali Towne ’12 and Sarah Towne ’17, followed his daughter, Laura Rogers Towne ’82 in attending Oldfields. Hawley kept up his myriad of Oldfields relationships with both students and colleagues, volunteered his vast experience and judgment as a board member twice during his retirement, and, most recently, was esteemed by Head of School David Perfield as a valued mentor.

Without a doubt, Hawley Rogers shaped Oldfields for the good, embracing the ethic of educating the whole child espoused by its founder, Anna Austen McCulloch, and giving it relevance in the times in which he led the School. He was wholly loved, and he loved wholly in return. 

And now we say goodbye—to the man who gave Oldfields such a strong foundation that even today new generations of young women come to Glencoe to experience the Oldfields “magic” he bequeathed them. Thank you, Hawley Rogers, from the bottoms of our hearts. We are all the better for having known you.

If you have a special remembrance, tribute, story, or photo to share about Hawley, please share it by clicking here. We will collect your submissions and share them with the Rogers family. Thank you.