Palfrey will leave Phillips for foundation post

RYAN HUTTON/ Staff file photo Head of School John Palfrey is leaving Phillips Academy to lead the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

ANDOVER — John Palfrey, the head of school at Phillips Academy in Andover, will conclude a seven-year tenure this summer to take on a new role, according to an announcement Tuesday from the academy's Board of Trustees.

The board said Palfrey will become the sixth president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, one of the country's largest independent, nonprofit charitable foundations.

Palfrey's new position is effective Sept. 1.

According to the announcement from the board, under Palfrey's leadership the school has been in "excellent shape," with record applications and enrollments year after year.

“Andover is an incredible school with unmatched talent and resources. I have felt privileged to be part of this community, and will remain connected as a parent,” said Palfrey in a written statement on the school's website. “I will miss my daily interactions with students — our time together in class, on the courts, and in the dining hall, their cheerful greetings on the pathways."

According to its website, the organization Palfrey will work for "supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world." Some of the issues the foundation tackles include over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk and increasing financial capital for the social sector.

Palfrey and his family will move to Chicago this summer for the new post, according to the announcement from the board. He will continue to lead the school through the coming months.

The board announced it has taken steps to ensure a smooth transition following Palfrey's departure, appointing Jim Ventre as interim head of school.

"Rising through the ranks in the Office of Admission since arriving in 1983, Jim is currently the assistant head of school for admission and financial aid, leading all aspects of the mission to recruit, enroll, and support talented youth from every quarter," the trustees' statement reads.

The board said Ventre's primary role will be ensuring that students continue to thrive, and that the campus remains guided by its strategic priorities.

According to the statement, board members will begin the process of searching for Palfrey's replacement soon.

"The MacArthur Foundation has found its next leadership gem in John Palfrey, as Andover did eight years ago when we found a promising dean at Harvard Law School," the trustees' statement reads. "John has been an extraordinary Head of School, and on behalf of the trustees and all of the Andover community, I offer to John our heartfelt gratitude and admiration."

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