Dr. Sam Schaffer Will Be Roxbury Latin’s 12th Head of School

Roxbury Latin’s Board of Trustees has announced the appointment of Dr. Sam Schaffer as RL’s 12th head of school, to succeed Kerry Brennan upon his retirement at the end of the 2023-2024 school year. Dr. Schaffer has spent the last two decades of his career at St. Albans School in Washington, DC, where he currently serves as Head of Upper School.

Message from the Board President

Dear Roxbury Latin community,

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I am delighted to announce the appointment of Sam Schaffer as the next head of Roxbury Latin.  Sam will begin his tenure at the start of the 2024-2025 school year upon the retirement of Kerry Brennan on June 30, 2024.

Sam is currently the Head of Upper School at St. Albans School, an independent boys’ school in Washington, DC.  He has spent his entire career on two related pursuits: boys’ education and academic excellence.  Valedictorian, class president, and three-sport athlete of his high school class in Atlanta, Sam was a Morehead Scholar and Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of North Carolina where he majored in history with a minor in Latin.  He spent a year teaching and coaching at Groton before moving to St. Albans where, in only his second year, the senior class awarded him the John F. McCune Prize for teaching.  After six years as a dorm parent, history teacher, advisor, and varsity football and basketball coach, Sam left St. Albans to pursue a graduate degree in history from Yale, where he wrote his dissertation on Woodrow Wilson’s generation and the South from 1884 to 1920.  After receiving his Ph.D. in 2010, Sam was named the Cassius Marcellus Clay Postdoctoral Associate in Yale’s Department of History and the Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition.  From 2007 to 2011, he served as a fellow and coordinator at Yale’s McDougal Graduate Teaching Center, organizing workshops for teachers across disciplines. 

Sam returned to St. Albans in 2012 as the Assistant then Associate Dean of Faculty, while also serving as Assistant Director of College Counseling, teaching history, and coaching at various levels, before becoming Head of the Upper School in 2021.  As Associate Dean of Faculty, Sam worked closely with the dean of faculty in all faculty hiring, and developed and implemented a new and highly successful teacher evaluation program that a former teacher remarked “has now become part of the ether there and deeply embedded in the institution.”  Sam was also St. Albans’s representative at the Penn Fellows Teaching program where St. Albans, like Roxbury Latin, recruits and develops young teachers.  In these administrative roles, Sam has shown “a talent for seeing the potential in others” and was repeatedly referred to as a wonderful mentor who cares deeply for students “as well as for adults who care for students.”

However, as is always the case at our school, more important than his impressive resume is who Sam is as a person.  On this front, our extensive interactions with Sam as well as his references could not have been stronger.  Direct quotes from references included  “the most trustworthy and ethical person you will ever meet,” “his integrity and authenticity come out in everything he does,” “he’s unwavering in his commitment to do right by everyone,” and “I know how much Roxbury Latin cares about character, and Sam is an A++. Nobody is more dedicated and universally respected.”  Over the past three months the search committee got to know a remarkably “humble yet self-assured,” “highly empathetic,” “brilliant thinker.”  We saw firsthand the joy he exuded during lunch with the boys on his visiting day at the school, and heard his thoughtful and deliberate answers to questions about a classical general education versus specialization; academic rigor and mental health; and balancing tradition and change.  We met a teacher “more focused on students than any educator I know,” who attends every school event and now stands at the St. Albans circle each morning greeting each of the 325 boys of the upper school by name. 

Over our countless meetings and conversations with him, it became clear to the search committee that for Sam the moral, intellectual, and physical growth of young boys from all backgrounds and walks of life is a true calling.  In the words of Vance Wilson, the former head of St. Albans and former Roxbury Latin trustee, “Sam’s natural role in life is to create loving bonds between people through mutual respect, kindness, compassion, and sincere hope for the children’s future.”  Or in Sam’s own words, “my life as a teacher has been dedicated to boys from all paths and all places, and Roxbury Latin’s commitment to access and inclusion, to empathy and care, speaks deeply to me.”  We can say with great confidence that in this new role, Sam will ensure that every boy at RL is known and loved.

Sam is a devoted husband and loving father.  As you will read in his message below, he is very happy at St. Albans, his home for nearly 20 years.  But he was sent our role description, and the more he read and learned about Roxbury Latin, who we are and what matters most to us, the more he came to realize “the role of the Head of School at Roxbury Latin is a remarkable opportunity.”  An opportunity that, in the end I am pleased to report, moved him, both literally and figuratively.

I very much look forward to more formally welcoming Sam, his wife Dana, and 12-year-old daughter Ernie to our community and enabling you to get to know and love them over the months and years ahead, just as the eight members of the search committee were fortunate to have done over the past few months.  They are a delightful family who will be wonderful new residents of 57 Quail Street.  Until then, I can only thank you again for the time and feedback so many of you gave to the search committee and board during this process, the trust you have given us in making this most important decision and, as always, your love for Roxbury Latin.  I speak for all members of the board that it is truly an honor and privilege to serve you and our great school.

Ethan Berman ’79

Message from Sam Schaffer

Dear Members of the Roxbury Latin community,

What a wonderful thing it is to be invited to join The Roxbury Latin School.  I am at once excited and humbled and honored.  Excited because of the remarkable school and community that Roxbury Latin is; humbled because of the deep traditions of the school’s long history and the remarkable legacy left by Tony Jarvis and Kerry Brennan; and honored that the board of trustees believes that I can carry on the work and love and care of the generations of leaders and teachers and students who have come before me.  I am eager to get to know you all, to earn your trust, and to join you in the pursuit of the education of our boys.

Roxbury Latin is a special school.  That is something that you all know by experience, and it is something I have come to understand over the years—both through the school’s reputation and through chance encounters along the way, whether coaching against RL teams in my first year as a teacher, or working with RL faculty as a member of the Penn Fellows program, or encountering RL leaders at various boys’ school conferences.

And over the past few months through the search process, I have come to see what makes Roxbury Latin so special even more vividly.  As I read more and more about RL, deeply held and oft-repeated phrases such as “every boy is known and loved” and “accomplished generalist” have resonated powerfully with me.  As I spoke with faculty, I heard their passionate commitment to a rigorous liberal arts curriculum as well as to the school’s core emphasis on character development and relationships with students.  As I talked to boys at lunch and asked them their favorite thing about RL, to a man they gave some version of “community.”  As I chatted with parents, I listened to them praise what RL’s teachers and coaches and leaders have done for their sons.  And as I spoke with alumni, I heard the reverence with which they recounted the transformative nature of their time at RL and the importance of the school’s broad access to boys and families from all walks of life.  In each of these conversations, the love for the Roxbury Latin community was palpable.  And it was inspiring.  This is a special school.

It is also a school that aligns closely with my own values and aspirations as a teacher, a coach, a scholar, and a leader.  The focus on excellence, the dedication to the growth of boys, the emphasis on the intellectual, the physical, and the moral—all those are at the core of Roxbury Latin, and all those are at the core of the person I hope to be and of the place I hope to live and work and grow.  Indeed, I have had the great joy of being at a similar institution with similar values, St. Albans School in Washington, DC, which has been my home for nearly two decades.  The mentors that I have had at St. Albans, the faculty whose talent and dedication have inspired me, the boys who have challenged and taught me, all have made me a better teacher and leader and person.  I am grateful and forever indebted for their care and guidance and inspiration.  

But the pull of Roxbury Latin is strong.  In my time in schools, I have come to learn that at the heart of great institutions is not only a strong mission but also a healthy and aligned culture.  Culture at schools comes from big things: from core values such as a dedication to a “Classical education,” from special places like the Refectory and Rousmaniere Hall, from deeply loved traditions such as Exelauno Day and the Opening Day all-school handshake.  Culture also emerges in the small places—in the spaces in between—in the ways boys speak to each other, in the daily interactions in the hallways, in the classes that are offered and taken, in the behaviors that emerge in moments both challenging and triumphant.  That culture is so powerful at Roxbury Latin, and that culture has resonated with me and has drawn me to the school.  I am blessed and grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to both the school’s mission and its culture.   

So let me close by reiterating how excited I am to join the Roxbury Latin community.  I will do my best to honor and strengthen the school’s core values and traditions.  To continue to make RL a place where boys can flourish, where they can be inspired to a life of the mind, where they can sharpen both their creative and analytical instincts, where they can learn and sing and play and compete and laugh together.  To promote the school’s standards of academic rigor, emphasis on character development, and athletic and artistic excellence.  To reach out to and communicate its values and uniqueness to the community around it.  I will also strive to enhance the way in which the school carries out this mission, not only holding the core but also adapting to future conditions, responding to complexity, and embracing progress.  Boys’ schools are uniquely positioned to take on the challenges of the world that will face us, and none more so than Roxbury Latin.  I will do my best to approach these duties with humility and thoughtfulness and care.

I am so eager to get to know all of you and look forward to doing so in the days, months, and years ahead.  I am grateful for the opportunity.