Dear Members of the Deerfield Academy Community,
On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the Head of School Search Committee, we are extraordinarily pleased to announce that the Board has voted unanimously to appoint Dr. John Austin as the Academy’s next Head of School. Dr. Austin, who currently serves as Headmaster of King’s Academy, Jordan, will succeed Dr. Margarita O’Byrne Curtis in July of 2019.
John was appointed Headmaster at King’s in 2010, prior to which he served as Academic Dean at St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, Delaware, where he joined the faculty in 1987. In addition to serving as Academic Dean at St. Andrew’s, John and his wife, Monica Matouk, taught and coached while serving as dorm parents. John also served as a class advisor, as chair of St. Andrew’s English Department, as Associate Academic Dean for the Humanities, and as Dean of Students.
As many of you know, King’s Academy was founded by His Majesty King Abdullah II, Deerfield Class of 1980. His Majesty was inspired by his Deerfield Experience to create a unique educational opportunity for high school students in the Middle East—one that fused the best of the educational traditions of East and West, and was open to students from all socioeconomic backgrounds, faiths, and cultures. His Majesty selected former Deerfield Headmaster Eric Widmer ’57 as King’s inaugural head of school. King’s celebrated its first decade in 2017. In 2016, under John’s guidance, King’s opened a middle school for grades 7 and 8. During John’s tenure King’s also witnessed a near doubling of the overall student body, a broadening of its international outreach and enrollment, and a steady improvement in the quality of the school’s residential and student life programs. John oversaw King’s founding membership in the Global Online Academy—a nonprofit organization that “empowers students and educators to thrive in a globally networked society”—as King’s also continued its involvement in the AP Capstone program as well as a continued emphasis on active, creative, and engaged forms of learning and instruction in all classes.
At King’s, John has worked closely and collaboratively with faculty to balance continuity and change, tradition and innovation. His career and accomplishments exemplify a commitment to the creation of vibrant educational communities that honor student initiative, creativity, and wellness; and to school cultures that foster supportive, caring relationships between adults and young people within a culture of respect, clear values, diversity, inclusion, and educational opportunity.
John says, “The best schools—those, like Deerfield, that sustain excellence in learning and leadership—are confident in their ethos and values. They know who they are, and they build their culture outward from their defining strengths. They understand that one of their greatest resources is their mission, their distinctive history, and rootedness in a particular place. The best schools are also agile, open to change, and attentive to future opportunities. They resist complacency, they are global in outlook, and they embrace thoughtful, studied change relentlessly focused on the quality of the student learning experience.
“I am deeply grateful for this extraordinary opportunity, and for the trust and confidence of Deerfield’s Board of Trustees. The Academy’s commitment to creating a community where young men and women can grow, flourish, and reach beyond themselves for lives of citizenship, service, and leadership has long defined the Deerfield Experience. It is the work of many generations, and I look forward to helping steward and deepen this work. Monica and I are honored and excited to join this exceptional community and to collaborate with all of you who, together, have made Deerfield the school it is today.”
A graduate of Williams College, John holds a Master of Arts, Master of Philosophy, and Doctorial degrees in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University, along with a Master’s degree from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College.
John and Monica have three children: Isabel, Alexander, and Maia. Isabel is a college freshman in the US, Alexander attends St. Andrew’s, and Maia is currently a student at King’s. Monica grew up in Beirut and Cairo, but as an alumna of St. Andrew’s, Middlebury College, and Columbia University, she is excited to return to the United States.
John’s appointment is the result of an extensive search led by Carney, Sandoe & Associates and the Head of School Search Committee, with invaluable input from the broader Deerfield community during our visits to key cities and to campus, as well as from the survey that many of you participated in—thank you.
The Search Committee was charged with finding a Head of School who would honor Deerfield’s historic roots and its commitment to high standards of scholarship, citizenship, and personal responsibility; someone who models a community mindset; a person with relentless intellectual curiosity; a moral leader with a strong sense of integrity and fairness; and an infectiously positive leader who inspires across all constituencies. The members of the Search Committee and the Board of Trustees all believe that we have found exactly this Head of School in John Austin. We are thrilled to welcome John and his family to Deerfield.
Brian Simmons, Chair
Sara Ofosu-Amaah, Vice Chair
Mark Rockefeller, Vice Chair