TimTalk | A Long and Winding Road

 

TimTalk | A Long and Winding Road

Head of School Tim Richards reflects on his place of centering and peace. 


By Tim Richards, Head of School

Way back in 1914, my paternal grandfather — a lifelong boarding school educator — and his wife built a classic lake cottage on an isolated and unpopulated point of land on Squam Lake. Squam is a beautiful seven-mile body of water located just south of White Mountain National Forest in the heart of New Hampshire. It is home to a healthy population of loons, snapping turtles, bald eagles, a wide variety of fish, and majestic great blue herons. For you more “seasoned” readers, it was also the location for the filming of On Golden Pond forty-three years ago.

The Richards' house on Squam Lake.

Our house — built of thin planks of pine and lacking any heating system — is really only “comfortably” usable from June through September or early October. My dad and mom, also lifelong boarding school educators, inherited the property along with my dad’s siblings, and now my siblings and I share this special place with a few cousins. It is no exaggeration to say that the house on Fire Point is, for everyone in our family, our favorite place in the world, a geographical and mental antidote to the stress and demands of the non-Squam world.

Days at Squam are populated by almost nonstop activity: rowing, swimming, gravel biking, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, fishing, and stand-up paddleboarding. There is no television, so evenings are filled with lake cruises, endless games of Scrabble, puzzling, and rafting with friends and extended family members. The pace, however, is self-imposed and intentionally relaxed. The days invariably conclude with long leisurely dinners full of laughter, storytelling, and enjoying great company. It is a place that resonates with family history, a shared love of the outdoors, and the importance of time spent with people you love. It is hard to explain just how much time spent there means to me. The days I spend there ground me, center me, refresh me, and restore me. Sadly, the time there is always too short, limited by the calendar and the demands of my job as head of school.

The Richards family at Squam Lake.

I have been told by many people who know and love Squam that the best time to be there is in September and early October, when the lake quiets down and the days remain warm, but the nights start to acknowledge the impending change of season. It’s when the foliage switch gets turned on, and the trees begin to glow in their autumnal beauty. Yet, with very rare exceptions, for the past sixty-one years, I have not experienced Squam at this magnificent time of year. As it was for my grandparents and my parents before me, September has always meant returning to the rituals of boarding school life, that six-plus-days-a-week lifestyle that runs from September to June. It’s a custom that I have happily embraced for nearly four decades, yet one that has precluded me from spending more time at this source of centering and peace.

In early January, I formally announced that the 2024–2025 school year would be my last as head of school at Pomfret. Serving as Pomfret’s twelfth head has been the single greatest professional honor and privilege of my life. I have been blessed to work with three terrific board chairs and a fantastic and supportive board of trustees. Add to that the wisdom, compassion, and guidance I have received from my senior leadership team and the collegiality of a dedicated and talented faculty, and the fact is that I have been truly blessed. I would be remiss not to recognize the most important constituent group, our students, who have inspired me in countless ways across every aspect of school life since the day we arrived.

Tim and Anne on Squam Lake.

I have been asked dozens of times over the past couple of months what I am looking forward to most when I step down from Pomfret in June 2025. The list is long, and includes spending more time with my family; knocking off bucket list travel items with Anne, my amazing wife of thirty-five years and my partner in all adventures; and being able to go see friends … on a Tuesday … in New York … in January. I’m looking forward to whatever my next professional chapter may be and to opportunities to volunteer more frequently to help those less fortunate than I am.

Let me be clear; I know that that day is another twelve months away, and I am excited the end of my tenure at Pomfret is not imminent. The next twelve or so months will be head-spinningly busy. They will be full of joy and hard work and opportunities to celebrate this great school. They will also be an opportunity to enjoy time with the people who live and work and study here. We have a comprehensive capital campaign to complete, a new science building to dedicate and inhabit, and a long list of new, continuing, and emerging initiatives to work on as we strive to improve how we educate young minds. We have to prepare everyone for the new head of school to arrive and pick up the mantle and lead Pomfret into its next inspiring chapter.

Baloo enjoys the lake.

And once that hard and satisfying work is done, in early September 2025, as life on the Hilltop is ramping up, Anne, Baloo, and I, with joy in our hearts and time at our disposal, will drive in unhurried fashion up Route 93 to Exit 23. We will turn onto Route 3, take a left on Route 113, and 8.2 miles later will turn right onto Coolidge Farm Road, a serpentine, bumpy, and almost labyrinthine 2.5-mile dirt road that will lead us to the final left turn into our home on Fire Point. And with hearts and minds full of gratitude, we will pull into that driveway, let Baloo out to go for a swim, and know that a lifetime of waiting and service to schools was worth it.

 

This story first appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of Pomfret Magazine.

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