Emmett assumes role as president of High Mowing

WILTON – Richard Emmett, the grandson of High Mowing School founder becomes Beulah Emmett, has become president of the esteemed school.

Beulah Hepburn Emmet (1890-1978) founded High Mowing School in the fall of 1942. A long-time follower of the writings of the Austrian philosopher and scientist Rudolf Steiner, Mrs. Emmet founded a school inspired by the Steiner’s revolutionary educational philosophies. It was the first Waldorf high school to be founded in North America, and today it remains the only Waldorf boarding school in North America.

Emmett said his background in corporate America and working for Fortune 500 companies gave him unique experience, although he never necessarily so himself in this new role.

“I didn’t have any master plan to get back to working more closely with High Mowing School,” he said. “You know how life just sort of happens. My grandmother died in 1978, just when I was out of college starting my career in banking and business finance. I lived down in New York and then Philadelphia for many years.”

Emmett got married and had children and said there wasn’t a lot of connection with High Mowing after his grandmother’s death.

He would stop by and see the campus when he was back in New Hampshire.

“Once the internet got up and running, I’d stay in closer touch electronically,” he shared. “There wasn’t any real plan to be involved and it didn’t seem that the school had any particular plan for me. I got back involved about three of four years ago and happened to be in Southern New Hampshire.”

It was a fall October Saturday when Emmett and his wife were driving in the area and “turned the wheel up the hill to see what was happening.” Emmett said it was parents’ weekend and the school was out with bells on.

“The parents were there, the kids were there, the faculty, the staff, it was delightful to see,” he said. “The soccer team was playing a game. It was wonderful to see the school in such fine condition. It was showing it so well and there were new buildings that I hadn’t seen before.”

Emmett fell into conversation with some of the staff as he was invited back and organized a small Emmett reunion at High Mowing to coincide with the annual Alumni Weekend.

“A lot of the alumni come back and reconnect,” he said. “Me and maybe a dozen Emmetts joined them that year in 2018. High Mowing has a way of pulling people in. And with my background and childhood love of the place, I was an easy mark.”

Emmett joined the Board of Trustees and has been quite active the last couple of years.

“I’ve got some skills that are useful to this school, and it’s been a good fit I think,” he said.

Surprised by how many people remembered his grandmother, Emmett felt especially comfortable and welcomed back to the institution. People recalled her original vision and Emmett was impressed.

“I would have thought things would have changed,” he said. “I saw that it was equipped for the 21st century, but its interpretation of my grandmother’s vision for the school and her definition of the mission was very, very similar to what I knew.”

When Emmett was a child and would visit his grandmother during the summers, he idolized the students. He felt those students that he met in the ’60s and ’70s were “the most interesting, creative and self-possessed young people” that he had ever seen.

“High Mowing takes the best of the Waldorf approach to educating the whole student,” he commented, “mind, body and soul. They do such a wonderful job of that in such a personal way.”

One of Emmett’s grandmother’s emphasises when she was head of school was that High Mowing would be a family.

“It’s very much a family still,” he said, “with the students feeling very much at home, whether they’re boarding students or day students. The culture is quite integrated and still at its best. And the students connect very deeply with each other and the faculty in a way that is very meaningful to them. That’s particularly apparent when you attend the graduation.”

As the president of the Board of Trustees, Emmett said that his vision of his role is a supportive one of the new head of school, Kate Meyer.

“She is our brand-new head of school but is absolutely not new to High Mowing,” he said. “Class of 1990, she’s a Pine Hill parent and was our director of finance and operations for many years. So, Kate knows High Mowing through and through and has a strong grip on what works, what might work better and how to manage our vision as best possible within the budget restraints that all small schools are stuck with.”

Emmett and Meyer are working this summer on their strategic plan, as coming out of a COVID crouch.

“For most independent schools, this past year has been one of survival, trying to keep the doors open and the students healthy,” he said. “High Mowing has really done a remarkable job doing that. The COVID year has brought out real solutions and creativity.”