Aspire to be who you want to be, not who someone else expects you to be. – Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust ‘60

A highlight of fall 2023, President Emerita of Harvard University and Powhatan alumna Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust ‘60 spent a full day with our students and community, including tours of the campus, assemblies with Lower and Upper School students, and lively discussions with teachers and administrators about the future of education.

Dr. Faust’s visit coincided with the recent release of her book, Necessary Trouble: Growing Up at Midcentury. The book describes some of her Powhatan (and Blue Ridge Country Day School) experiences, and is also a tale of “one girl finding her way through the world” in the 1950s and 1960s — a period in which American society was changing amid resistance. Following the assemblies, Dr. Faust graciously signed copies of her book for students and the Powhatan community.

Reflecting on her childhood and her book while speaking to Upper School students and community members, Dr. Faust noted the importance of reading in showing her a bigger world. “I began to find my role models in books, in reading, in education, that opened worlds for me beyond what I could imagine,” she said. Strong females portrayed in books — both fiction and nonfiction — became her role models. Fictional and historical characters like Nancy Drew, Susan B. Anthony, and Anne Frank were “girls who dared” to be all they could be and helped her aspire beyond the expectations of the times, Dr. Faust explained.

Following the assembly, Mia Timberlake ‘23 presented Dr. Faust with a watercolor painting of the portrait on the cover of Dr. Faust’s new book as a token of the school’s gratitude (opposite). To Dr. Faust’s delight, in her presentation Mia drew a connection between the school’s pillars, her artistic decisions, and Dr. Faust as an inspiration and legacy.

Earlier in the day, Dr. Faust toured Powhatan’s campus, which has dramatically expanded and changed since Dr. Faust graduated almost 65 years ago. She was particularly impressed with the wide array of opportunities available to our students beyond the traditional subjects she was taught, notably the arts and technology.

That evening, Dr. Faust also headlined an education symposium organized by Powhatan: Leading Innovation: A Discussion On the Future of Education. In addition to Dr. Faust, prominent community educators and administrators including Dr. Tracy Fitzsimmons, President of Shenandoah University; Evan Robb ‘80, Head of Upper School at Powhatan; and Dr. Jason Van Heukelum, Superintendent of Winchester Public Schools, discussed a variety of educational challenges and opportunities that face our communities. The event was hosted by Head of School Jay Briar, and the panel was facilitated by Donald Gilpin ‘64, retired educator. Among several topics discussed were the need for continued innovation in education, the impact of artificial intelligence on teaching and learning, and community and school engagement.

“The inspiration for this event was really borne out of a desire to celebrate all educators in our extended community for their tireless efforts to inspire and guide our youth. Having such an esteemed panel who represent a variety of educational backgrounds and perspectives ensured a very robust and interesting discussion.”

— Former Powhatan Parent, Associate Trustee, and 75th Anniversary Chair Amy Sluss

The video of the Educator Panel is available here for viewing:

One of our most notable alumni, Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust ‘60, President Emerita of Harvard University will return to Powhatan’s campus and address students and faculty. Parents and alumni are welcome to attend. Her memoir, Necessary Trouble: Growing Up at Midcentury will be hot off the presses. There will be a book signing after the presentation. Books will be available for purchase.