Dear Members of the Germantown Friends School Community:
It gives us great pleasure to announce the appointment of Dana J. Okeson as the next Head of Germantown Friends School. Dana comes to GFS from Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn, New York, one of the nation’s leading independent schools, noted for progressive educational practices and high academic standards. It is a non-sectarian, co-educational day school for students in preschool through 12th grade, with a current enrollment of 1088 students. The School Committee enthusiastically approved Dana’s appointment at its November 3 meeting. On July 15, 2013, Dana Okeson will become the 14th Head of School at GFS—and the first female to hold this position since 1869.
- Dana Okeson
A native Philadelphian, Dana grew up in the Overbrook section of West Philadelphia and attended Merion Mercy Academy in Merion. Her subsequent studies demonstrate a rare combination of science and humanities: She holds a B.S. from the University of Scranton with a double major in Chemistry Management and Philosophy; an M.A. in Philosophy from Villanova; and she completed additional graduate courses in Cell Physiology and Molecular Biology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, where she was a Visiting Scholar.
Dana has been a teacher and administrator at Saint Ann’s for 22 years: as a Biology teacher and Chair of the Science Department, responsible for the curricula for fourth through twelfth grades, and currently as Head of the High School. As Head she has reorganized advising, shared in the responsibility of hiring outstanding teachers, and strengthened the school’s communication and connection to parents and families. While at Saint Ann’s, she was also, for four years, an adjunct lecturer in Human Anatomy and Physiology and the Philosophy of Science at New York University.
Dana brings a philosophy of education appropriate to our academic traditions and mission. Her broad teaching experience at Saint Ann’s—a school community that values the intellect, individuality and informality—is a striking match with GFS. Her deep commitment to an educational program that combines academic rigor with each student’s capacity for growth, interests and achievements is congruent with GFS’s respect for each child.
Dana applied only to Germantown Friends School, and in her application she wrote:
“During the course of my teaching career I have had the privilege of developing cherished friendships with colleagues who are GFS alumni. My admiration for their expertise, passion for teaching and compassion for students confirms my sense that the values held dear by the Germantown Friends School community are those that I hold in high regard as well.”
And on the goals of education:
“Education begins as a celebration and exploration of the human condition and emerges as an awareness of the greater moral imperative to others. There is movement from thought to action.”
Dana, her partner, William Weeks, and her daughter expect to move to Philadelphia in the summer of 2013. Bill, the founding partner of a health care management consulting firm based in Chadds Ford, PA, currently works as the executive director of a non-profit organization serving at-risk high school students in the Bronx, NY.
In accepting this appointment, Dana writes:
“I am thrilled to join the GFS community, one comprised of passionate and dedicated teachers, talented and creative students, families that care deeply about the GFS experience, a devoted School Committee, and a school community dedicated to the Quaker tradition. I look forward to getting to know, and working collaboratively with, all members of the GFS community. The belief that education consists concomitantly of a pursuit of knowledge, equality, individual identity, and social responsibility, makes GFS a great and unique educational experience, and one that I will serve with tremendous care and boundless respect.”
We want to thank all the members of the Search Committee—Ellie Elkinton, David Feldman ’76, Anne Gerbner, Rita Goldman, Megan Hess, Sam Rhoads ’82, Anne Stassen, David West ’49 and Andy Williams ’72—for their many hours of devoted work, deep concern for, and thoughtful attention to the future of GFS. We also want to thank our search consultants, Clay Stites and Linda Gibbs of Resource Group 175, who provided indispensable assistance throughout the process.
Finally, we thank those many members of the wide GFS community—the Meeting, faculty, staff, administrators, parents, grandparents, alumni, students and former parents—who, throughout the search process, offered their suggestions and opinions of the school’s strengths and its needs for the future. The consistency of their opinions was heart-warming to our committee in confirming the core values of the Germantown Friends School community, another tribute to Dick Wade’s exceptional leadership over the last two decades.
Those who met Dana during her visit to GFS, and those who work with her at Saint Ann’s, spoke of her intelligence, passion, energy and collaborative style. We have confidence in the leadership Dana will bring to our community, and look forward to a bright future.
Clerk, Search Committee
F. Parvin Sharpless
Clerk, School Committee