This school year, Harpeth Hall said goodbye to two beloved directors who will pursue incredible career opportunities as they take the next steps in their professional journeys.
Judi O’Brien led the middle school with grace, wisdom, and thoughtfulness for seven years. Her integrity and dedication to learning and growth set her apart as a leader.
Given these qualities, it is no surprise that Ms. O’Brien was the Fay School’s top choice for the newly formed position of assistant head of school for the educational program. Ms. O’Brien joined the Fay School’s team in July as she accepted the incredible opportunity in leadership coupled with a chance to move closer to home. Fay is where she began her teaching career as a history teacher, coach, advisor, and dozens of other important roles.
Ms. O’Brien will be remembered at Harpeth Hall for the delight she finds in every encounter with a middle school girl. Slow to criticize and quick to encourage, she championed our 5th through 8th grade students in all of their pursuits and steadily lifted the Harpeth Hall middle school program to a new level.
She moved to a long block schedule to ensure classes were inquiry-driven and allowed time for deeper discussion. Leading the work of our strategic plan, she elevated attention to curriculum design and brought meaningful professional development opportunities to our campus. Perhaps most impactful is the culture that Ms. O’Brien and her faculty have intentionally built where our 10- to 14-year-old girls cheer for and support each other in all ways.
Ms. O’Brien will be missed in countless ways, and we send her to her new opportunity and adventure with the knowledge that she will continue to do good things.
Judi is able to see underneath the surface of what may be challenging in a situation (for a student or faculty member). She speaks to the heart of the issue with leadership, foresight, and belief in every girl's potential. She listens intently in every conversation, making the person she is with feel that they are the only thing that matters to her in that moment. Genuine student growth is the ‘true north’ for Judi, and all of her energy moves in the direction of supporting teachers as we strive to help each girl reach her fullest potential both personally and academically. — Rachel Van Dyke, middle school English department chair
Thank you for your investment in me and your impact during my time at Harpeth Hall and beyond. You were the best advisor. I know Harpeth Hall will miss you. — Eva Rosa Daniel ’24
You have made such a great impact on Harpeth Hall . . . You are welcoming to every single student, and we couldn’t have asked for a better director of the middle school. — Adelle Pitts ’27
Judi O’Brien is a brilliant division director: a perfect balance of professional, passionate about best practices in teaching and learning, and, most important, focused on the needs of the girls in her care. We will miss her, none more than me. — Frances Fondren-Bales, director of the upper school
MarQuis Chappell’s magic in the classroom is well known. Beginning with his warm greeting to each student as she enters his room, he creates a space where each girl is seen, heard, and respected. That enthusiasm, coupled with his love of English literature, made him Harpeth Hall’s first choice for an English teacher in the upper school in 2018. Three years later, he carried that same thoughtful attention to building relationships and community when he became Harpeth Hall’s director of equity and inclusion.
Under his leadership not only our students, but also our teachers and parents have been touched by Mr. Chappell’s ability to affirm each individual while reminding us of our common mission. He has supported us through deep listening and conversations in his office, the creation of alliance groups for students and affinity groups for faculty and staff, and through many presentations and discussions in meetings and assemblies. Mr. Chappell has made a positive and indelible impression on each student he has supported and every faculty member he has uplifted.
The Spence School, which is a leading K-12, all-girls school located on the Upper East Side of New York City, has seen Mr. Chappell as the promising educator and leader that he is and named him its new director of institutional equity. This is a wonderful opportunity for Mr. Chappell, and we wish him all the best. He will not soon be forgotten at Harpeth Hall.
You never fail to see the best in your students and always saw our full potential. We wish you the best as you begin a new journey. — Anna Li Hornsby ’24
You taught me that working hard does pay off in the long run. I will never forget walking into your class the first day of freshman year with your firm handshake and welcoming smile. You truly taught me what a mentor is. — Hannah Ericson ’22
You have left an impact on my life that words can’t describe. Every time I walked into your classroom and smelled the scented candle on your desk and saw the smile on your face my day got so much better. You have left an impact on Harpeth Hall that will last a lifetime. — Annie Lea Choate ’24
Beyonce for life. —Camille McCarter ’26 and Margaret Helm ’26
Best wishes in retirement
This year, two Harpeth Hall staff members are retiring after decades of service to our school. Head of School Jess Hill recognized the women at the annual Faculty Appreciation Assembly, sharing her gratitude for their dedication to the students and our school.
Janet Baxter, payroll and benefits administrator
Ms. Baxter came to Harpeth Hall 23 years ago and has made a lasting impact on the behind-the-scenes workings of the school. As one of her colleagues said, “Janet Baxter will do anything for anybody.”
Loyal, dependable, and caring, Ms. Baxter puts the needs of Harpeth Hall employees first, making sure everyone is taken care of while making improvements to protocols and procedures to help the business side of the school run smoothly.
"She is devoted to doing what is right for this community and each person in it. A protector of the rules while also looking through a truly personal lens," Ms. Hill said. "Her presence on campus will be greatly missed."
Pamela Carver, upper school dean
Mrs. Carver has served as a middle school English teacher, English department chair, leader of the SEEK program, and as an upper school dean of students during her 16-year tenure at Harpeth Hall.
"Her smile and ready laugh are her calling cards,” said Ms. Hill. “But in whatever role she has held, her greatest gift is that she always sees the very best in everyone."
As a dean of students, Mrs. Carver approached her position with consistency, kindness, and fairness. When she jumped into the role at the beginning of COVID-19, she worked to uphold the full student life and culture of our school community.
“Thank you, Mrs. Carver, for bringing your vision to Harpeth Hall,” Ms. Hill said. “You have truly made us greater, better, and more beautiful.”