In Memoriam: John Lathrop, Headmaster 1992-2011

Published On: February 17th, 2023 | Categories: Food for Thought |

To the Powhatan Community,

I am saddened to share the passing of John Lathrop, Powhatan’s 8th Headmaster from 1992-2011. As the leader of this community for 19 years, he was our longest serving Headmaster and shaped so much of the school we are today. He recruited many of the wonderful teachers still in classrooms here today and provided a vision for his favorite pillar: excellence. He led the planning and fundraising for construction and expansion of Lee Hall and subsequently the McIntosh Center for the Arts & Sciences, both of which added state-of-the-art facilities for our students and supported the expansion to our current enrollment.

Peter Cook, a family friend and Associate Trustee, remembers the many ways that John connected with the entire school community, from greeting every child at arrival to teaching history classes to organizing an annual Gilbert and Sullivan opera. “He worked diligently for many years to add land to the campus through the Crocker Conservancy and was enormously pleased when eventually, towards the end of his headship, the much hoped for gift of land was made, giving Powhatan the extraordinary resource that it has today.” John also connected Powhatan to the local community with longtime involvement in the Rotary Club and the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley.

Associate Trustee and former Board President John Willey recalls that when John Lathrop was a candidate to become Headmaster, he learned quickly about the importance of traditions at Powhatan and included a photo of his family on a ski trip to demonstrate that Ski Tuesdays would be important for him. Dr. Willey added, “I think that might have gotten him the job!”

At the time of his retirement, longtime teacher Ann Robb wrote to John: “None of what happened throughout the past 19 years would have been possible without your ability to connect and communicate, both in person and in writing, with members of the community who support Powhatan. As a result, you raised enough funds to add beautiful new buildings and facilities to our impressive campus. I wonder how you managed to stay calm and cheerful throughout!”

After retiring, he continued his dedication to Powhatan, serving as an Associate Trustee. Jean Gilpin, President of that group, recalled John’s continued involvement. “At the beginning of Covid, a small group of Associate Trustees met with Billy Peebles just before he began his interim headship. John was a part of the discussion as we talked about logistics, finances, admissions, and the prospect of in-school learning during a pandemic. His dedication to the school was evident to all, and he was ardent in expressing his desire to help in any and all ways.” He was also very proud that his grandchildren, Alaina Pastore ‘17 and Jake Pastore ‘22, are Powhatan graduates.

John was of invaluable counsel to me over the past two years. He called shortly after my appointment and we spoke regularly. I also had the opportunity to visit him and his wife, Sheila, on Nantucket last summer, and he was particularly proud to show me his collection of Powhatan memorabilia. He continued to care deeply about the success of our school, consistently urging continued academic excellence, integration of the outdoors into learning, and opportunities for children from all backgrounds to benefit from the Powhatan experience.

When he retired in 2011, the John G. Lathrop Scholarship for Outstanding Leadership was established to honor his years of dedicated service, and the family has asked that those wishing to pay tribute to John make a donation to his scholarship. The endowed fund assists with tuition payments for an Upper School student who otherwise would not be able to attend Powhatan. The recipients have and will continue to embody the characteristics championed by Powhatan, demonstrate leadership in both academics and athletics, and represent an underrepresented group at the school. Donations may be mailed to Powhatan or click here to donate online in John’s memory.

Please join me in expressing our condolences to the Lathrop and Pastore families.

Jay Briar
Head of School

We invite you to share your memories with us so that we can properly reflect the totality of John’s contributions. When his family is ready, we will also find a proper way for those who knew John at Powhatan to gather and remember him.