The Frederick Gunn School Board of Trustees announced March 15, 2023, that Emily Raudenbush Gum has been enthusiastically and unanimously selected to serve as the 12th Head of School, beginning in the 2023-24 school year.
“Emily joined Gunn in 2018 as the Assistant Head for Teaching and Learning and since then, she has demonstrated a record of unmatched accomplishments, driving the school forward as a hub of innovation and excellence,” Board Chair Patrick Dorton ’86 said in a letter to the community. “Today’s announcement ensures that our school’s ongoing pursuit of innovation and excellence will move forward without interruption — consistent with our ongoing strategic initiatives to establish The Frederick Gunn School as a leading boarding school in the world. With the selection of Emily as our next Head of School, we are confident that our bold investments in people, place, and program will only accelerate in partnership with her formidable leadership experience.”
The announcement follows a thoughtful, thorough search process to identify a successor to Peter Becker, who is leaving Gunn at the end of this academic year and has been selected as the next Head of School at The Taft School. In the fall of 2022, the Board of Trustees formed a Head of School Search Committee, led by Executive Chair Jonathan Tisch ’72, Co-Chair Ashleigh Fernandez, and Co-Chair Neil Townsend P’18 ’20. The committee members were drawn from across the school community and encompassed current and former Gunn trustees, alumni, parents of current students, parents of alumni, and faculty members. Their work was supported by the global leadership advisory firm of Spencer Stuart, which has an impressive track record with the country’s leading independent boarding schools as well as a strong affinity for the mission of The Frederick Gunn School.
“The committee was charged with identifying an extraordinary and diverse group of candidates to lead our school forward,” Patrick said. “Working in partnership with Spencer Stuart, the committee initiated a global search, and it was quickly apparent that interest in our Head of School position was tremendous, with candidates emerging from around the world. Throughout the search process, the committee was guided by the survey responses of our community, which decisively defined the characteristics and priorities expected for our next Head of School. Academic excellence, visionary leadership, and integrity were strongly represented in the survey results, along with an expectation for a leader who would be committed to listening, belonging, approachability, and an ongoing engagement with the educational values Frederick and Abigail Gunn put forth 173 years ago. We have found this leader in Emily.”
As a member of the school’s Senior Team, Emily has been engaged in all strategic planning and initiatives. One of the most transformational impacts of her leadership has been to define school founder Frederick Gunn’s educational philosophy for the 21st century as four pillars — learning yourself and how to learn; risk taking and innovation; a sense of rootedness and place; and public character and active citizenship. Commitment to the pillars has created a strategic program alignment across all facets of the Gunn community — in the classroom, on the field, throughout the school’s residential life experiences, and across all aspects of its key programming initiatives. Among Emily’s other notable contributions are a comprehensive set of objectives on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for The Frederick Gunn School, which were adopted by the Board in 2020. Emily has been a key contributor in the initiative to write the school’s current Core Values, the most recent review of its Strategic Plan, and has actively engaged in marketing and enrollment strategies.
Prior to joining The Frederick Gunn School, Emily served in several leadership roles with the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture (IASC) at the University of Virginia and its affiliate foundations over a 13-year period. During her tenure, she achieved a multi-million dollar fundraising initiative, managed daily operations and annual budgets, accomplished branding work focusing on inclusivity, edited The Hedgehog Review, launched a social impact non-profit, and wrote and spoke about ethics, character education, contemporary social and political theory, religion, questions of identity and diversity, and educational theory.
A graduate of The Hill School, where she was captain of the school’s highly acclaimed field hockey team, Emily went on to earn a Master of Arts, with Joint Honours, in International Relations and Theological Studies from the University of St. Andrews. Following the completion of her studies in Scotland, Emily earned a Master of Philosophy in Theology and Religion, with distinction, from the University of Oxford in England. Currently, she is nearing the defense of her Doctor of Philosophy in Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford, where she has presented her thesis, “The Role of Identity Formation in the Education of Children.”
In the final months of the current academic year at Gunn, Emily will be supported by a Head of School Transition Committee appointed by the Board of Trustees and led by Stephen Baird ‘68. Emily will officially begin her new role as Head of School on July 1. She is the second female head of school appointed since the school was founded in 1850. The first was Susan Graham H’12, who served as the 10th Head of School from 1991-2012.
“Over the last decade, The Frederick Gunn School has experienced an unprecedented period of innovation and excellence guided by our Strategic Plan and we are confident that the selection of Emily as our next Head of School will allow this transformational momentum to continue without interruption,” Patrick said. “Our aspirations are large as we seek to realize the vision of Frederick and Abigail Gunn to create an ‘ideal school’ that will inspire a new model for boarding school education. We are thrilled to have Emily leading our school forward and we are relentlessly confident that the best is yet to be for The Frederick Gunn School.”