Matt Burgy, Head of School

October 27, 2023

Dear Oakridge Family,

Over the course of my career as an independent school leader (21 years and counting now), I have had the fortune of having some amazing mentors. Each of these mentors had an indelible impact on my philosophy and practice, and each had their unique sayings:

"Do what's best for the child," and "It's not your job to judge the child in the classroom; it's your job to teach them," came from Dr. Bernard Fulton, founder of the Greenhill School.

"If you're not green and growing, you're red and rotting," from Bobbye Hicks, my Head of Lower School at St. Mark Episcopal.

"See 12 seconds ahead," and "Be a gardener, not a carpenter" from Garhett Wagers, my mentor Head of School at St. Mark's in Houston. By the way, he'll be wearing a Rangers jersey in his school carpool for the next few Fridays, compliments of a wager gone wrong. Thank you, Rangers. I do not look good in orange and blue.

"Empathy never let anyone down," Andy Broadus, Headmaster of Oakridge from 1981-2008

These four people have given me guidance in times of challenge, wisdom in times of growth, and advice in times when, well, I didn't know the right answer to a major dilemma. For the past two weeks, I've leaned heavily on Mr. Broadus's words. "Empathy never let anyone down…" is a simple quote from a man who embedded this important trait into the fiber of Oakridge. Walking around campus, I see empathy displayed everywhere in our student body. Whether it is a teacher having a conference with a struggling student, a friend helping another swing as high as they can, or an athlete picking up an opponent after knocking them down (legally), I see our students display this lifelong skill in a myriad of ways. 

Valuing empathy is a collective responsibility. It's something we should cultivate in ourselves and encourage in others. It should be nurtured, which is a word we use liberally in our mission and school culture. In a world in which we are bombarded with self-interest and division, it is a clear reminder of our shared humanity. It serves as a counterforce to the negativity and sad news that surrounds us every day and allows us to share the feelings of others and transform the individuals around us by connecting on a deeper level with our classmates and friends. 

As our children grow and continue to learn, let us not forget the power of empathy and its impact on our kids. They are watching us. They are listening to us. They are mimicking our every move. We are mentoring them when we don't even realize it, and by embracing empathy, we empower them to understand and be understood.

Go Owls!

Matt Burgy
Head of School