DA’s next head of school hails from Mideast academy


  • Deerfield Academy administration building in Old Deerfield. File photo

Recorder Staff
Published: 9/1/2018 1:20:51 AM

DEERFIELD – When the king of Jordan wanted to establish King’s Academy prep school in his Middle East kingdom, he drew inspiration from his alma mater, Deerfield Academy.

Now King’s Academy is returning the favor.

The Deerfield Academy trustees have hired the King’s Academy headmaster to be their next head of school.

John Austin will take the helm as Deerfield Academy’s 56th head of school when the current leader, Margarita O’Byrne Curtis, retires leaves in 10 months. Curtis is retiring next July following 13 years in the position at the prestigious prep school.

“I am deeply grateful for this extraordinary opportunity, and for the trust and confidence of Deerfield’s Board of Trustees,” Austin said in a statement. “The academy’s commitment to creating a community where young men and women can grow, flourish, and reach beyond themselves for lives of citizenship, service, and leadership has long defined the Deerfield experience. It is the work of many generations, and I look forward to helping steward and deepen this work. My family and I are honored and excited to join this exceptional community and to collaborate with those who have made Deerfield the school it is today.”

According to Deerfield Academy, Austin is a graduate of Williams College, Columbia University, and the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College in Vermont.

“(He) brings to Deerfield a commitment to the creation of vibrant educational communities that honor student initiative, creativity, and wellness; and to a school culture that fosters supportive, caring relationships between adults and young people; as well as diversity, inclusion, and educational opportunities,” the trustees said in a statement.

Brian Simmons, president of the Deerfield Academy Board of Trustees and chairman of the Head of School Search Committee, said he has full confidence in Austin.

“The Search Committee was charged with finding a head of school that would honor Deerfield’s historic roots and its commitment to high standards of scholarship, citizenship, and personal responsibility; someone who models a community mindset; a person with relentless intellectual curiosity; a moral leader with a strong sense of integrity and fairness; and an infectiously positive leader who inspires across all constituencies,” he said in a statement. “The members of the Search Committee, the Board of Trustees, and I believe that we have found this head of school in John Austin, and we are thrilled to welcome John and his family to Deerfield, even as we thank Dr. Curtis for her outstanding leadership over the past 13 years.”

Prior to being its headmaster at King’s Academy, he served as academic dean at St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, Del., where he joined the faculty in 1987. He and his wife, Monica Matouk, also taught and coached at the school while serving as dorm parents. Austin also served as a class adviser, as chair of St. Andrew’s English Department, as associate academic dean for the humanities, and as dean of students.

King’s Academy in Madaba, Jordan, was founded by King Abdullah II, who graduated from Deerfield Academy in 1980. According to his alma mater, the king was inspired by his experience in Deerfield “to create a unique educational opportunity for high school students in the Middle East — one that fused the best of the educational traditions of East and West, and was open to students from all socioeconomic backgrounds, faiths, and cultures.” Jordan is bordered by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Israel and Palestine.

Under Austin’s leadership, King’s Academy opened a middle school for seventh and eighth grades in 2016. He also saw King’s founding membership in the Global Online Academy — a nonprofit organization that “empowers students and educators to thrive in a globally networked society.”

Reach Domenic Poli at dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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