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Head of School Phil Peck Announces June 2022 Retirement

Dear Holderness Community,

It is with profound gratitude that I share I will be retiring in June 2022.  As Board Chair Nell Reynolds, the board, and I have discussed, the timing feels perfect for Holderness and for Robin and me. I am incredibly fortunate to be able to retire at this time, but I am also thankful to have another 18 months to serve Holderness.
What a gift it has been to be the 9th head of school at Holderness and to serve Holderness for the first two decades of the 21st century. It has also been a blessing to me, Robin, and our family to be part of the Holderness family since the summer of 1984. Before becoming head of school in 2001, I was fortunate to teach, coach, and advise for 17 years. I also had the opportunity to work in admissions, be our director of diversity and dean of faculty, and work with my colleagues in maintenance for seven years during summers. In each of these positions I learned much and always received more than I gave. That learning has continued in my role for the last 20 years as head of school.  

Many of you have heard me say, I believe I have the best job in secondary school education. The reason is that I work for such a remarkable community of colleagues, alumni, students and their families, and our board of trustees. It has always been the people that make Holderness a great school, and it is because the Holderness family believes deeply in the motto and mission of Holderness, “to work for the betterment of humankind and God’s creation.” Holderness is truly a lifestyle for all of us connected to this little school with such a high calling. 

It is that high calling that has allowed us to accomplish quite a bit in recent years, and I have total confidence that this momentum will continue. I am confident in this growth because we have a truly exceptional leadership team and board of trustees, who will no doubt keep Holderness on the move. 

No question, it is an exciting time for Holderness, and part of that excitement is the opportunity for Holderness to welcome a new head of school.  Over the past year, the board of trustees have been very deliberate in taking the initial steps, and I am confident that Holderness will find just the right leader to serve Holderness in the coming years. 

As for Robin and me, we are eager to support that process in any ways that are helpful and appropriate. We have the utmost faith in the process.  Following June 2022, we are looking forward to retiring to our “hill house,” where we have countless projects and activities to keep me active, fit, and fully engaged.  

With my and Robin’s love and deepest appreciation,
Phil Peck

Dear Holderness Community,

When I assumed my role in the spring of 2019, it was with the knowledge that I would have the incredible honor of serving as Phil Peck’s last board chair and of standing by his side as he announced his retirement. Months of thought, care, and planning have gone into this moment and into the forthcoming head of school search as we do not take this transition lightly. Since its founding in 1879, Holderness School has been fortunate to have had long-serving and venerated heads of school; serving as the 9th head of school for twenty years, Phil Peck is no exception.

Phil and Robin Peck have made their life at Holderness. In his 37-year tenure of teaching, advising, coaching, and leading, he has impacted the lives of countless students. What is even more impressive is that he also remembers most, if not all, of their names and usually some personal story or fact about them. He has served the school and its mission with kindness, empathy, energy, and grace, and he is the embodiment of Holderness’s core values of community, character, and curiosity. The Head’s House is a home for students, parents, faculty, alumni, and trustees as Phil and Robin welcome them for weekly brownie nights or for more formal events all with the same purpose – to embrace and enjoy the Holderness community. Phil has participated in or led thirteen Out Backs, one of Holderness’s signature Special Programs, and is a champion of the leadership process, Job Program, and chapel as these programs deliberately work to impart leadership traits of fairness, initiative, dependability, and empathy. Phil leads with questions such as “what have we learned from this experience?” and “how can we be the best Holderness we can be?” His curiosity and drive to learn are palpable and contribute to the continuing growth of Holderness in every way. Phil, though, is most gratified by the friendships he has made, the headships of other schools filled with Holderness folk, the mentees he has helped, the organizations on which he has served who have benefitted from his experience, and most importantly, the students he has taught, led, and championed throughout his years at Holderness.

Holderness is in an excellent place due to Phil’s leadership, and we look forward to selecting an equally dedicated and qualified successor to lead Holderness into the future. A search task force made up of Board members, staff, and faculty who represent all aspects of the Holderness community has been assembled and is honored to take on this immense responsibility in the months to come. I am equally honored to be co-leading this search with Bob Hall P’13, ‘16, my predecessor as board chair. The search task force will work hand in hand with Carney, Sandoe, and Associates to ensure that the Holderness community as a whole is heard in every possible way throughout this process. More details about the search and all that it will entail will be communicated next week.

I am so grateful to be able to serve Holderness with Phil as his last Holderness board chair, to have benefitted from his experience, intelligence and warmth, and to help guide Phil and Holderness into this next adventure. Please join me along with the entire Board of Trustees in our gratitude for all that Phil has done for Holderness. I look forward to the numerous opportunities we will have to celebrate his immense achievements in the months to come. Go Bulls!

Nell Reynolds P ’18, ’20, ’22
Holderness Board Chair

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