Interview with Richard P. Hall, former headmaster


Interview with Richard P. Hall, former headmaster


Kevin Randolph interviews Richard P. "Dick" Hall, former Head of School at North Shore from 1979-1989. North Shore was his first headmastership. He looks back on his time at the school fondly and as an important time his life and career. He discusses setting up the school's first intensive fundraising effort and Development and Alumni department, directing Vaudeville, traditions like Work Day, Morning Ex, and making changes to the Gilbert and Sullivan tradition.


North Shore Country Day School Archives


North Shore Country Day School Archives


All rights reserved, North Shore Country Day School.







OHMS Object Text

Dick Hall: Hello.

Kevin Randolph: Hi, this Kevin Randolph calling from North Shore Country Day School.

Hall: Hi, Kevin. How are you?

Randolph: How are you, Mr. Hall?

Hall: Good.

Randolph: Good to hear your voice again.

Hall: Well, we almost met once when you going to the trip to Brussels.

Randolph: I think that's right.

Hall: Remember that?

Randolph: I think that's right.

Hall: And then it didn't really work out. You couldn't go, and so that was too bad.

Randolph: It was, but I think, Bob Stanley is who I had talked to and who you knew. And I thought a lot of him and think a lot of him. And that is such a first-rate organization.

Hall: Well, good. Well, I'm glad you think so we -- Well, it's come a long, long way over the years.

Randolph: We have, North Shore Country Day School, has benefitted enormously from the students, the ASSIST students, over the years. They have just -- They have been exceptional young people, I have to say. But it's just been a really wonderful relationship.

Hall: Well, that's terrific. Now, this year you have someone, I think.

Randolph: It's Sarah, I think.

Hall: And she's from where?

Randolph: Germany.

Hall: From Germany. OK.

Randolph: And in fact, I can give you -- As I have, so many times over the years, have the good fortune to be teaching her. And she is a sensational young lady -- just bright and interesting. And just person after person who has come over has just added so much to the school experience for everyone. It's just a wonderful organization. It really is.

Hall: Well, one of the pleasures I have is going over, now that I'm retired, is going over and doing interviewing.

Randolph: Oh, that must be really a lot of fun for you.

Hall: It really is. And it's mostly in Eastern and Central Europe where I go.

Randolph: Right, right. One of the things that's amazing to me, has been remarkable, is how effective the placement is and how well-suited the student is to our particular school. But I'm sure other schools say the same thing. And so it's clear, great care is taken in the match.

Hall: The match is very important. No question about it. And the result of that is very few kids go home.

Randolph: Yeah. Well --

Hall: Well, then -- oh man, obviously, there is, sometimes, so -- And I think you've had maybe one or two where it hasn't been perfect.

Randolph: Right, but very few. Very, very few. And so I clearly -- The evidence says that the process is working effectively and the people are -- It just -- The students are great and the interview process really does identify the qualities that can be matched to a particular institution. So it's a real, sort of the epitome of a, win-win from my experiences.

Hall: Well, North Shore's certainly done its part for it all. Julie was on the Board for a while.

Randolph: I know she was, right.

Hall: And Dale is now, so --

Randolph: Right, right. It's a happy relationship. That's for sure. It's a happy, happy relationship.

Hall: So you're up on -- And you, you're into a project of history-writing?

Randolph: Yeah. Let me tell you a little bit about it. Obviously, you know the good work that Nancy Geyer did in terms of gathering information and trying to put it on paper and leave a record for people like me and others to benefit from. And Nancy's work has been useful in so many ways. We have lots and lots of pieces of evidence. We have loads of archival photos and documents and all kinds of things. And at some point in the next six years, it's going to be someone's job to put that together into any number of forms to try and tell this story. And one of the things we decided to do this year is to add to the reserves, the pool of things that we could work from. And that was to add these interviews with as many people as we can get who have been connected to the school. Many of them are graduates, some are faculty members -- former and current -- parents, board members, heads of school, friends of the school, and just simply try and have conversations with people that might produce interesting stories and anecdotes and, certainly, fond memories of their experience that help to clarify what the school began as and what it continues to be. The photos are compelling, I have to say.

Hall: I bet.

Randolph: And the documents are interesting, as documents often are. Our thinking is that when you match those things with the actual spoken by people who know, first-hand, what the school was like. Or in some cases, second-hand because they worked with a Perry Dunlap Smith or they went to school during a particular era, that we'll have ourselves all of the resources we need to tell the story as well as we possibly can. And what form it will take is kind of anyone's guess at this point.

Hall: Sure.

Randolph: But you how historians are. The gathering stage is where you begin, and that is an enormous effort and then decisions get to be made. So I get the happy task, over and over this year, of talking to people like you by phone, and in person, and just listening to the really interesting stories. Some of them I know. Many, I do not. And it's always -- I always leave thinking that I've learned something new about this place. And so you're really nice to take the time, and I really do appreciate it. And I know the school will benefit as it has already benefitted from your time here but will benefit again from the things you're about to say. So, thanks for taking the time.

Hall: Have you a chance to interview Nancy Geyer yet?

Randolph: I have not yet.

Hall: It will be a pleasure for you.

Randolph: She's on the list. I have the good fortune to meet Nancy on the day that I interviewed here, now, 23 years ago. And Nancy was one of the people that I got to meet.

Hall: Whoa.

Randolph: Bill Freisem was finishing up.

Hall: Wow.

Randolph: And so I feel really lucky because my path crossed those two people, Jack Ingram, Julie Hall and many, many others. And so I feel lucky that I crossed time with them. And so Nancy, I don't just know of her, I actually got to sit down with her and tried to pass muster that day back in May, years and years ago. So it was fun. It's a good memory. And there are people here who are still in very close with her, and I think it's, like with so many people, it's just a matter of time before her turn comes. And the list keeps growing, as you can imagine.

Hall: Oh, that's the way --

Randolph: The list keeps growing by the week, by the week.

Hall: That school has such an interesting set of, not only people who taught there but also the alumni. There is no bottom to your -- There's no end to your --

Randolph: There is --

Hall: The good news is, there's no end to your job.

Randolph: Isn't it interesting. I agree with you because every single one of these, someone says, "Oh, have you interviewed so-and-so?" And then I'll scribble the name down and say, "Sometimes I know the name, sometimes I don't. But this is a wonderful referral service that they're providing as we just sort of track, person-by-person." Our thinking is, in some respects, to just try and think of it as a hundred years and a hundred stories. And whether that means a hundred people or it means a hundred different episodes -- The story, for example, of Morning Ex is a story in and of itself. It's told so often by so many different people.

Hall: Okay.

Randolph: But that's its own story. So sometimes, the story's a person. Sometimes, the story will likely be an activity, a moment. And it's just -- If you like history, which is what I do and what I teach, it's just loads of fun to, not just talk about it but, actually to engage in it. And so it's a real treat for me to be able to do it. It honestly is.

Hall: Well, that's all right. Let me just, before I forget, to apologize that you had to track me down today.

Randolph: Please don't, please don't.

Hall: You were on my calendar on the computer, but I had not synced to my iPhone and, therefore, I missed it.

Randolph: I want you to not apologize and say that, in many ways, it's even better this afternoon because I didn't run right from one class and then rush over before I went back. And so now I can sort of, I feel like, ask you better questions and have a more relaxed conversation. So it worked out for the best from my standpoint. So no apology is needed at all. So with your permission, why don't we begin? I'll ask some questions, and my hope is, is that you'll just use it as a launching pad just to reminisce and to think about and to just make statements. And it will be a conversation in that I'm not trying to direct in any particular way. I'm much more interested in listening and hearing what you have to say because your experience here was clearly important. Your name has come up many, many, many times in the number of people I have talked with and all in the most positive of senses. And so you are fondly -- As you think you probably already know, you are very fondly remembered here at this place.

Hall: Well, thank you. I appreciate that.

Randolph: Well, I often begin by trying to ask the person: What is it, how is it, and what is it that brought you to 310 Green Bay Road in Winnetka, Illinois?

Hall: Well, that's a -- I like that question because my -- I'll tell you a little anecdote, is that I was looking for various headships. I was, at that point, head of the Upper School with Seven Hills School in Cincinnati. And I had various interviews, and my wife, of course, would go along on those interviews. And when we walked onto the North Shore campus, she said, "This is it." And she started talking to people, and we started talking to people. And you just kind of automatically know that the fit is going to be the right one. And although that sounds like it doesn't make all that amount of sense, it does. We have --

Randolph: Did you have a sense of -- What was it about it that caused her, so quickly, to reach that conclusion?

Hall: I think part of it is the style of the place. Part of it is the kind of qualities of people that we met, people on the board who were very involved in the search process. And then, of course, the faculty that we met were just folks that it was so easy to talk to. And North Shore, as you well know, has a certain style about it, and it's an informal style never to be confused with undemanding.

Randolph: Right, right.

Hall: And it just kind of fit very well what we like and are used to. And it also, it happened for my wife that the music center was right next store. And of course, she is a musician. But it wasn't really so much a part of it. It was much more the way people interacted with each other, the way people talked to each other, the way people treated each other made it immediately a terrific place. For me, of course, I met a lot of Board members right at the beginning. And Walter Elisha was head of the Board -- of the Search Committee. No nicer person more grounded or more -- who's values you could respect than is Walter Elisha. And then also in the group was a fellow named Harold Hines. And you would not have met him because he died while I was picked.

Randolph: Right. Right.

Hall: But I'm sure you've met Mary.

Randolph: Oh, Mary, I've met many times and she continues to be a force for so much good at this school. And his legacy, obviously, is sizable and significant. And so I wish I could have met him because he sounds like a real towering figure.

Hall: He was, indeed, a towering figure. That's the exactly the way to -- Physically, as well. And so as we came to know each other, we got to know each other very well and Mary as well. And they became very good friends. And then, of course, the name that always come right up is Rich Franke, who was Chair of the Board.

Randolph: Right.

Hall: And to this day, we are good friends.

Randolph: Right, right.

Hall: And indeed, visited him in Arizona with Dick and Sharon Cooper last April.

Randolph: Right, who I had good fortune of working with Sharon Cooper. And what a spirit, what a compelling force. She fascinated me. I think just such an amazing, interesting, eclectic, wise person is Sharon Cooper. And I had the good fortune to work with her for a lot of years, and she just -- There was a spirit about her that was just magical, I think.

Hall: You know how she got to her job?

Randolph: I have no idea, but I've love you to tell me.

Hall: Well, let me tell that story because it's a great story. And that is that, at a certain point, the head of the Upper School, a fellow named Larry Chiappetta, was also the college counselor. And he said one day, "I would love to have a little of bit support in this job." And it was about the same time that Barbara and Rich Franke's daughter had graduated. And Barbara was looking for something to do. And so I said to Barbara, "Why don't you come and be an intern in college counseling?" because she was so good with kids. And so she said, "Well, that would be fun." So she came and worked with Larry Bullwith[ph]. And about three months, Larry said, "She is so good." It might've been longer than three months. But, "She is so good." And so one thing led to another, and she became the college counselor.

Randolph: Oh, interesting.

Hall: Then, she said, "I'd like to have somebody to help me, and there is a woman who is head of the Parents' Association who is my very good friend. Her name is Sharon Cooper."

Randolph: Oh, interesting.

Hall: Both Sharon and I came to work as well. And of course, both of them were immediately -- The kids were immediately attached to them. They really learned the job -- learned it on the job. It was in those days that that was OK, and Larry was there to support them. And so they became just expert. And then Barbara got sick and was gone for a while. Well, Sharon stepped right in. And then when Barbara came back, she said, "You know, I think I can turn this over to Sharon." And so, indeed, she did. And so Sharon became the Dean of College Counselors.

Randolph: Yes, she did and had a remarkable, remarkable run here.

Hall: Great. Great. So what can happen from head of the Parents' Association to such an influential person in the school.

Randolph: Yeah. Well, she was grounded in understanding the school and its mission and its values. And so those -- I always was impressed at her understanding of, again, a fit of understanding schools but also understanding kids and just going about it in such a thoughtful way to try and find a fit, which now, of course, is the way it seems most every college counselor does it. But it's not how the people I had known did it before I got here. And so I think she was doing it in a way that was well ahead of her time.

Hall: Yes.

Randolph: And I think everybody just caught up with Sharon Cooper, is all it was, because she had already figured out what was the right way to do that job. And not by putting -- having "one size fits all" because that was never, ever, ever her style.

Hall: Those are the things that you can't teach somebody in the job. You can teach somebody how to learn about the colleges and to do all the travelling and all that kind of -- But you can't teach them how to relate in a way that make a process an inspiring process for kids. And Sharon really had it, and she's a special character.

Randolph: I agree. I agree. I thought of her --

Hall: Barbara, by the way, is also a special character. She's an independent school -- Don't know why. A public school teacher in Oregon.

Randolph: Right. Fabulous. I thought Sharon was as much as teacher as she was anything else. That --

Hall: Oh, yes.

Randolph: The exercise was a problem-solving exercise for students and for families and that she was instructing, not telling -- ever-- but instructing, in that process. And I just thought it was as an important a field as history or math or science or anything else. It was just wonderful to watch her work. It really was wonderful to watch her work.

Hall: Right. Anything she wrote.

Randolph: Oh. A gift. Didn't she?

Hall: Yeah. Incredible.

Randolph: Could put words together and make them elegant. I just thought she was just an elegant writer, such an elegant, elegant writer.

Hall: Yeah.

Randolph: So, well that's -- I love the story, and I hope you keep telling them. When you the met people from the Board, did you have a sense of what they were asking you to do?

Hall: Yeah.

Randolph: A sense of what they were looking for next. Did that make sense to you? And then, maybe, if you can follow from there, how did you go about starting the process of achieving those shared goals?

Hall: Well, I think that I was -- The fellow who preceded me was a very bright, very interesting guy who wrote extremely well and who had a very different style from mine, and I didn't know him very well at all. But I think that what they were looking for was to have somebody who would come in and bring -- Well, let me see how I can say this in a way that makes sense. They wanted to have somebody who was going to fit the community as well as fit the ethos of the school. And my predecessor, a guy named Doug MacDonald, was -- had many, many excellent qualities. But by the same token, I think they were ready to see someone who was going to dive much more into the outside community as with the school itself.

Randolph: When you say "dive into the outside community," can you clarify that a little bit?

Hall: Oh. Well, I will give you a good example. I joined the Rotary thinking -- kind of kicking and screaming. I had all kinds of ideas since I wasn't going to enjoy it. Well, I became president by the time it was over and thoroughly enjoyed every part of it and put some time into a couple of things that I think they wanted that Doug was not involved in. One was that kind of, I think, community activity, but also fundraising.

Randolph: Right.

Hall: And they -- And I think that the school had not done very much. There was a wonderful woman named Jean Talley.

Randolph: I know.

Hall: You probably heard --

Randolph: I know that name well. I sure do.

Hall: And she ran the alumni. She really ran the whole alumni part of it but with time to branch out and get to know the alumni much more as an institution. And so during that time, we hired our first Director of Development. And that was Nancy Emrich.

Randolph: Who I also know and have worked with.

Hall: Well, then that would be a good person to interview as well because she's got a lot of -- Yeah, she retains information extremely well.

Randolph: Sure, sure.

Hall: And so Nancy came from an admissions office at Foxcroft School and was moving to Chicago and just walked in the door one day. And she came to work and organized a total alumni and development program. And that was the beginning of serious fundraising at North Shore.

I think that it was very important that the head of the school get involved in that. My predecessor was terrific with kids. And he would go off camping and, man, do that aspect extremely, extremely well. But you can't do it all.

Randolph: Right.

Hall: And so I ended up spending my time, probably, less doing that kind of stuff and more doing, been getting the fundraising going and working on those aspects.

Randolph: Well, that --

Hall: Although I did --

Randolph: Those are both good -- Those are helpful examples in terms of understanding.

Hall: But I did direct Vaudeville. Do you still have that?

Randolph: Do not. Do not.

Hall: Well, that's interesting. Well, Vaudeville was a -- Every year, it was a talent show, basically.

Randolph: Right.

Hall: And it had gone into -- I decided, at one point, that it was important to have that take a little bit of different direction. And so I decided that I would direct it myself. And that was pretty scary because you're the head of the school and there are you running Vaudeville and wondering if anybody's going to try out.

Randolph: Right.

Hall: And so I got the two of the most popular kids in the school, fabulous alumni of the school, to do it with me. And so I kept my hand in with activities with the kids, but it was a different kind of activity.

Randolph: Sure. For sure. Well, those are both good examples of understanding the shift in the roles and the responsibilities of the head of school. And one of the things that's interesting to me is I've listened to people talk about, obviously, the tenure of Perry Dunlap Smith and the kinds of things he did and then various other people. And I had a long conversation with Julie Hall last week. And so it's been interesting for me to see the periods for the school in terms of what was asked of each of the heads. And that's why I asked you the question.

Hall: Oh, sure.

Randolph: And the answer I thought you gave was really interesting. It's a period of sort of re-tooling, and it sounds like, and a modernization. Maybe sort of a synchronization of kind of the some of the programmatic elements of the school and to trying to get them to work more effectively and then reaching out the community. And I think it's a logical bridge as I think about the way Perry Dunlap Smith operated and the men who follow him and then the way Julie operated. And it seems to me, as you describe it, you're the guy who was the bridge between the two, is that you sort of created a little bit more contemporary model on how this school might be run and might function within the community.

Hall: Well, and then Julie was -- When I was there, Julie was teaching sixth grade.

Randolph: Fifth grade, I think. Yeah, fifth and sixth. She did have --

Hall: Actually, it was sixth grade.

Randolph: Sixth grade, OK.

Hall: First went. And then she became head of the middle school. Then, she went back to teach fifth grade.

Randolph: OK, OK. It's hard to keep track. She did about every job there was to do.

Hall: I know. And Julie, as you well know, is just a star in every way.

Randolph: Absolutely. Yeah, a giant. Again, a towering figure in the history of this school. No question. No question. So at some point, I'm guessing, a head of school has to begin to hire people. And I think I know, in fact, some of the people that you hired because I work with them.

Tell me what, as you thought about hiring people to work here, what kind of qualities were you looking for in a faculty member?

Hall: I just wanted everybody to be like Tom Doar. Then, I wouldn't have to do anything.

Randolph: I see. I see. Wow. That may require a follow-up question to try and pin you down on exactly what that means. But for the uninitiated who don't know exactly what you mean in the way I think I might, what kinds of qualities made for a North Shore County Day School teacher?

Hall: Well, I think a serious answer to that is that you assume, you start by assuming that people are going to know their subject matter. But then after that, because of the size of the school and because of the things that teachers need to do outside the classroom, they just absolutely needed to be devoted to kids and devoted to teaching, not only subject matters but, teaching kids. And then to be able to -- If they could adapt to things like Morning Ex, is a good example. Morning Ex is such an incredibly important part of the ethos of that school. And if they were more worried about getting class time rather than what Morning Ex represented in the life of the school, they weren't right for the school. And occasionally, that would come up. And people would -- As good teachers always do, they want more time in the classroom. But it's maybe a good metaphor to say that Morning Ex works pretty well for that example because what happens in Morning Ex is so incredibly important. And if people don't understand that they don't understand the school. If they don't understand what Work Day is -- Do you still have Work Day?

Randolph: We had it when I came here. It eventually sort of has turned -- It taken a slightly different form. I bet for five- to seven-years, when I came here -- So that would put it about 1995 to 1997 -- no longer. And instead, some other -- more of an emphasis on service throughout the course of the year as opposed to just isolating a day or two to do particular kinds of tasks. So it has been interesting for me to watch the shift. But I remember Work Day well, very well, and thought it was an interesting tradition. And there are others like that, I mean, when you're trying to figure out who is a good fit. Morning Ex, Work Day. What other things would be on your list as your try to sort of determine: Is this person a community fit?

Hall: Let me give you an example of the Work Day thing because I think that it was very important because the different grades got together to work together.

Randolph: Right, right.

Hall: The problem was that the work was no longer work that needed to be done. And so, with the machines to pick up leaves and all that kind of thing, it was almost looking for jobs for people to do.

Randolph: Exactly why it was eventually, I think, phased out. Exactly the --

Hall: Well, I'm sure that that was right. But I'll tell you a funny story, is that one Work Day I thought, "You know, what they do is to rake all the leaves up and make an enormous pile in the morning. In the afternoon, they get in and jump all over them and spread them all out again."

Randolph: Sounds familiar to me.

Hall: But it's our weekend. We ought to be able to better than that. And of course, everybody had a wonderful time. And so it was hard to be too upset about it.

Randolph: Right, right. I used to tell people I was convinced that it was named "Work Day" because by the end of it, it made more work for the maintenance people.

Hall: There you go. There you go. So I decided that what I would do is be to have half the day -- No. What I decided was we would make it into a service where the older kids would go off campus and work with people, and we would turn it into something like that.

Randolph: Right.

Hall: So there was one little issue that I hadn't really remembered. And that was that that is the day when the seniors and the kindergartners would go and plant bulbs together.

Randolph: Right.

Hall: Of course, in the spring they would all come up. And extremely important. So the seniors came to see me about it. And I said, "Oh, how could I miss that?" And so I thought about it, didn't sleep for a bit. Thought about it, and then we came up with the half-and-half where they did that in the morning and then went off and helped senior citizens within the community to clean up their yards and that kind of thing. So --

Randolph: That was exactly the model that I saw for those three- or four- or five-years when I got here. That combination you're talking about is exactly the way it was being run. And then, at the end of the day, you had duck-duck-goose and then John Almquist had made a film. And then you'd watch the film, and it was actually, it was a very, very pleasant day. But as you said it, there was a little bit of a create tasks for people to do. So I think what the school has done, and I think it's made a lot of sense, is work with organizations who work year-around and have real needs and to try and fill in and support them, not with manufactured projects but try to tap into the work that they are already doing. I think it's actually -- The shift has worked very effectively and has produced, in fact, at the end of the senior year, a two-week senior service project for students that, often, is very, very meaningful for them. So it's a good -- I think it's a good evolution, actually.

Hall: That sounds great. Well, the whole issue of having the younger kids and the older kids together is a value that actually, without making it forced but having them actually be able to do stuff that need to be done was important, I thought.

Randolph: Right. Well, and that still exists. And you wouldn't be surprised that from pumpkin-picking to holiday gift exchanges, those things have continued on. And the whole buddy program, certainly, is a fixture at the school. And nowhere does it work better than between seniors and kindergartners. And it is one of the trademark programs of the school. That is absolutely for sure. And one of the first things, I think, that people actually notice when they come here.

Hall: Oh, literally.

Randolph: And rightfully so because it's unusual, but I think it makes sense. And it's a rich experience for both sides of that.

During your time, I know that music was important, drama was important, sports important -- all kinds of things. Maybe talk a little bit about that in terms of what kind of growth occurred, programmatically, in terms of over the time that you were here, in terms of -- I know there was a maintenance of the traditional Gilbert Sullivan. Maybe you could talk a bit about those kinds of programmatic things as you look across the school.

Hall: OK. Well, those are all, of course, great questions. The sports is an interesting aspect because you knew Mac, I imagine.

Randolph: I did. I did, absolutely.

Hall: A wonderful man, he was.

Randolph: Yes.

Hall: And he had a philosophy that really went right through the school, which was: If you want to play, you play. And so kids -- Well, he had a football team for years where, some years, it was a bit of struggle to get the team together. But we had an international kid, actually an ASSIST kid, come and live with us for the year. And when he got off the plane, he said, "I want to play football."

Randolph: Oh, interesting.

Hall: And of course, I knew that because I'd been involved in it, and I taught 4H and all, I knew what's going on with soccer.

Randolph: Soccer.

Hall: "Oh, I want to play football, American football."

Randolph: Wow.

Hall: So he was a fairly big kid. Mac was thrilled, and so he went off. There was, happily, a boy on the team who was a Spanish-speaker. And so my wife and I suddenly became football parents and from a point of view of parents, rather than just going as a headmaster, and we'd begin to worry about whether he'd take the ball and run down to the other end and score for the other team.

Randolph: Right, right, right.

Hall: But that kind of thing that allows kids to play. And I remember, once, we won a tournament of some kind. I can't even remember quite remember what it was. And it was at the end of the fall season. And announcements at Morning Ex, which I presume still go on, people were lined up to do announcements and Mac was there. And so I thought he was going to give a little talk about winning and sportsmanship and all that. And his announcement was: Basketball begins at 3 o'clock. That was it.

Randolph: Yeah.

Hall: It was just -- That was just his way of saying this is a regular part of what school life is about.

Randolph: Right, right.

Hall: And it's not about winning and losing. It's about playing, and it's about being about having an integrated curriculum in the mix. So that was good.

Randolph: He, you know -- Again and again, people -- His name comes up as well. And talk about a loyal group of people who were affected by their time with a teacher or a coach, you won't find a group more loyal to their mentor than the players of Mac McCarty. In multiple sports, I might add. And not just -- And not exclusively male, either. He had a tremendous reach, a tremendous influence on, not just the individuals but, how they conducted themselves on the field of play and off.

Hall: The Gilbert and Sullivan was -- During my time, we did do the Gilbert and Sullivan pretty -- I think it was every year. However, there was a certain feeling that maybe we ought to be doing some other things as well. And that was hard one to deal with because the alumni were so attached to that, and it was an important traditional to the school. And it had changed, largely, from the days Perry Dunlap, that everybody was involved.

Randolph: Right.

Hall: The school was much too big for that. But, I had to deal with it. And it was my last year when I finally did deal with it. And I did a survey among all of the alumni. And I talked to everybody and discovered, very quickly, that, in the course of it that, if we made the change to go to Gilbert and Sullivan every other year -- That's the way it worked. Yeah, it was every other year, that that was going to be pretty well accepted by alumni and everybody else. So that got salvaged, but it wasn't going this great uproar about it if we did it away. And Vin Allison had retired, and the new people came on. And they were thinking they might to do some others things as well. So as I left, I made that decision and didn't feel bad about doing it as I left because I thought it was the right thing to do, and it would save my successor from having to do it.

Randolph: Yeah. And I remember vividly when I came that things had already been set in motion. And the cycle that you identified, eventually, evolved. And you may already know, to a one every three. And those kinds of conversations are interesting, aren't they, with an institution as you try to maintain the traditions that you began with but you also acknowledge that change is just a part of life and whether you, maybe, you had Morning Ex five times a week back at one point in the school's history. But things have changed, and so you try to preserve the integrity of the program but also try and balance it with all the other kinds of things that are going on in the life of a school these days. And that's --

Hall: No question.

Randolph: It must have been that -- I'm sure that required a level of diplomacy from you on any number of fronts.

Hall: Well, you do have to be sure you don't take away the soul of the school while you're doing it, though, because there are certain things that -- Continuity is worth a huge amount in a school, where people who are currently in the school can relate to people who were there 30 years ago. There are certain aspects of the school that make that happen. And so you have to try to find a balance.

Randolph: Yeah. There does have to be a sense of familiarity about the place, doesn't there, for people who graduated in another time. They have to see their school in the one that exists right here, right now. And that's challenging. I know that there were, not just programmatic things that you dealt with but, also, there were some structural things that occurred during your time as head of the school -- building projects and those kinds of things. Maybe you could talk a little bit about that in terms of how you found the school and then what it may have looked like, physically, when you moved on to the next position.

Hall: Well, I think the big building program was the library and how that tied everything together with the art through where the art studios were and then a little terrace and then the library itself. And then the art gallery going up to the theater. And that was really a major project. And that took a long time to do because of all the, as they always do, with all the permissions you get and the like and working with architects and all that. And I was new, so actually the first building project I was involved in, and it turned out to be pretty good. And it would appear that we did a pretty good job in thinking that maybe, someday, there would another building built on top of it because we --

Randolph: You sure did.

Hall: -- look forward to science. And what a fantastic building that is.

Randolph: Right, right. It was quite visionary to do the linking that you did and then also leave room for what might come next. And as you said, what did come next was really quite spectacular and very much needed to advance the school in the sciences. Absolutely right. And the library continues to have an important role in the day-to-day life of the school and meets the needs, really, of the kids from kindergarten all the way through into high school as a gathering place for meetings. It, I think, it fulfills the mission that was established for it, and it has been very successful.

Hall: Well, the fact that it's a K-12 library is so typically North Shore, and it mixes the kids. It just tells a story all by itself just by the way it's constructed. So that was a very exciting time.

Randolph: Right. Well, let me ask you just a couple more. You've been so generous with your time, but I don't want to wear out my welcome here, but maybe a couple more just to finish. When you look back over the time that you were here, what kinds of words, if I asked you for two- or three- or four-words that describe that period in your professional and your personal life, what would those words be?

Hall: Well, I think it was my first headmastership, for one thing. And therefore, so much of what I did was new to me, which made it a very exciting time in the career. Every school is, of course, a different entity but, for me, North Shore represented a community that, as I mentioned earlier, is both my wife and I so related to and so enjoyed that it was -- Well, it was just in a very important time in our lives, and we've always felt very warmly about the school. And it's always fun to go to back, and you see so much that's familiar, and you see so much that's new. And I think what's happening right now is just incredible at the high school building. And all that that represents is so, I think, so related to what the mission of the school is and how it has people relating to one another, that I think the place could really has to be very proud of progress that it's making.

Randolph: Right. I think that's absolutely right. And the challenge, of course, is to celebrate the present to plan for the future but also to respect the tradition, respect the past, to make sure that we remember those important lessons from all the people who have come before us. And that's, obviously, the purpose of this project. The question I always end with, and I know you'll give an interesting answer to this, is what I ask someone: What's the one thing that this school, that North Shore Country Day School, should never change so that somebody listening to you 25-, 30-, 40-, 50-or more years from now will hear a variety of answers, which are actually remarkably similar. You won't be surprised. But I think it's a really interesting -- that the answers have been really interesting -- as to the one thing that the school should never change?

Hall: Wow, interesting question, of course. Well, I think we've talked about some of it already, of course, because there's -- When you talk about things like Morning Ex, talk about mixing the classes, when you talk about -- You're talking about community, and you're talking about a community that's very different from the schools around North Shore and very different from the other independent schools as well. It has a distinct personality that I think every head of school has fought to make sure is maintained. And it is that personality of joining of age groups and of kind of the sense of we're all in it together and we're all moving in the same direction, is something that it doesn't happen by itself. So I think any head of a school has to always have that in mind, that it's very easy to make the decisions that keep it from being the kind of community that it is -- You can make decisions that you should have more math and science time because it's a very important aspect of school life these days. And in doing that, get rid of some things that are like Morning Ex and like some of the traditions that happened, which would just take away what makes the school different from everybody else and makes this school the kind of place that the alumni think back on and treasure for the rest of their lives. And it's not just getting up in the morning and going to class and going home. It is a true community, so I -- That, probably, is similar to what other people said, but there you are.

Randolph: Similar, but really well articulated and really very thoughtfully described. And you didn't disappoint. And I knew you'd really important and interesting things, and you really, really did. And let me be, if someone has not already, let me be the first to invite you back for the 100th Anniversary, which is only six short years from now, to save your seat with your wife and, hopefully, celebrate the important contributions you two made to the history of this institution.

Hall: Well, I certainly hope we'll be back before that.

Randolph: I hope so, too. But your seats are saved for that event. I can promise you that.

Hall: Well, say, "Hi" to Sharon and to, of course, Tom --

Randolph: I will.

Hall: -- and to Nancy and to Molly. I mean, there are a lot of people there whom I know well.

Randolph: There are. Jackie Melissas talked fondly about you. She and I --

Hall: She came over to Brussels to teach for a year.

Randolph: I know. And she and I talked about three weeks ago, and she had this lovely sort of nostalgic smile on her face talking about you. And so there are. That's really nice to be able to look around and to know that there are a lot of people still here from your time. And that's sort of the beauty of passing the torch, you know, from one group to the next, as there's tremendous overlap from one group to another. And I think we all think of ourselves as being select members of a very special club to have done what we've done here on this campus.

Hall: Well, I think it's true. I think it's absolutely true. Well, glad you've been in the club. You've been there a long time.

Randolph: I have been there a long time.

Hall: Oh, I think we should meet.

Randolph: It would be my pleasure. I assure you, it would be my pleasure. And I hope that will happen sooner rather than later. But I want to thank you again for taking the time. You were really so generous with it. And I have a feeling our paths will cross.

Hall: I am sure they will.

Randolph: Thank you, sir.

Hall: Thanks, Kevin.

Randolph: All right. Bye, bye.

Hall: Bye.


Richard P. Hall


Kevin Randolph

Interview Format



North Shore Country Day School: The First 100 Years

Interview Accession


Interview Duration





North Shore Country Day School Archives, “Interview with Richard P. Hall, former headmaster,” North Shore Country Day School Archives, accessed July 13, 2024,


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