“Brad spent 47 years in two independent schools, serving 18 years in a variety of capacities including Headmaster at Darlington School, and 29 years as Headmaster of Montgomery Bell Academy. He has been engaged locally, nationally, and internationally in education, and his love of building culture and community has defined his tenures.“
Brad grew up without the knowledge of independent schools or the college world since both his parents never finished their high school education. When he was 16 years old, he joined an Episcopal Church, where a youth counselor recommended that he apply to Sewanee, the first college he had ever seen or known about. In undergraduate school, he relished the community and engagement of students and faculty in an educational setting. He set out to work in independent schools in 1976 when he joined Darlington School, in Rome, Georgia, and began by teaching English, coaching athletics, directing plays, and serving in a dormitory. Over his 18 years there, he soon took on the roles of Admission Director, Principal, and Headmaster.
In 1994 Brad moved to Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville to serve as their Headmaster. At MBA he began a series of strategic plans to expand the campus, build annual and capital and endowment resources, and to provide greater opportunities for students and faculty. During his tenure, the campus grew from 30 to 50 acres at the main location, as well as 10 acres of playing fields just over a mile away, and a mountain retreat of 200 acres an hour and a half from the main campus. The annual fund expanded from $250K in his first year to $3.3 million in his final year. The endowment rose from $20 million in 1994 to $125 million in 2023. Student enrollment rose from 530 to 850 students in those 29 years.
In 2012 he secured an endowment gift to provide $1 million of grants for students interested in summer study and travel. He set up exchange opportunities for students and faculty in 10 countries, and he created an international symposium with the Headmaster of Winchester College for 10 schools around the world. He also helped three international schools—The African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, LEAF Academy in Bratsilava, and Letovo in Moscow—develop their programs, campus, and mission from their beginning stages. His fundraising experience also entails three separate large building projects totaling more than $300 million.
His greatest interests are school culture, admissions, and enhancing the student experience by developing a school and community that aspires to excellence in every realm and focuses on the care and knowledge of its students and their support of one another and appreciation of all endeavors. One of his favorite routines at Montgomery Bell Academy was leading the Board on retreats every other year to visit independent schools around the country as a way to gain perspective and to build board knowledge of the independent school world.
Brad has degrees from the University of the South, Middlebury College, and West Georgia University, as well as an honorary doctorate from Sewanee. He has served locally as President of the Independent Schools Association, President of the International Boys School Coalition, and President of the Heads Collegiate Forum.
Shortly after retiring from Montgomery Bell Academy in June of 2023, Brad was appointed Belmont University’s first Educator-in-Residence, where he continues to teach, advise, and lead professional learning opportunities as well as foster connections with independent schools. He and his wife, Minna, are proud parents of their two children and their families…. now comprising five grandchildren under three!
Listen to Brad’s interview on The Beacon Podcast where he discusses:
- How both students and parents have changed over 40 years in what they expect, what they want, what they need
- How finances and fundraising have changed in independent schools
- Changes in school culture and how important culture is to the longevity and success of a school
“In addition to his long and distinguished service as Headmaster of Montgomery Bell Academy, I have worked closely with Brad Gioia for fifteen years (since 2009) in a range of international contexts. This includes establishing partnerships with heads of schools around the world, from Australia, China, Russia, South Africa, Pakistan, Colombia, Japan and several European states. His wide experience, ability to win trust and give sound and imaginative advice to schools seeking to improve their governance, curriculum, structures of pastoral care and global outreach, in different cultural contexts, make him one of the most trusted and respected educational consultants in the business.”Dr Ralph Townsend
Director of Winton Consulting UK, Headmaster Winchester College UK 2005-2016, Oundle School UK 1999-2005, Sydney Grammar School Australia 1989-1999
“Brad Gioia is an exceptional educator, leader, and valued colleague who represents the best of independent school education. Having served as a visionary and successful school head for nearly thirty years, Brad’s experiences, insights, and perspectives are invaluable.
Having worked closely with Brad in the resolution of several challenging professional situations, I have witnessed his ability to lead an organization through dilemmas and decisions with clarity, conviction, and compassion. Refreshingly, he exudes an abiding belief in the good of people.
Additionally, I have admired Brad’s sincere appreciation of a school’s embedded traditions while witnessing him tackling issues that challenge the same culture. Through his measured approach to problems and people, Brad pursues the solution that is right rather than what is easy.
Brad Gioia is a colleague I respect and a mentor whose wisdom has helped me become a better leader. I am confident other school heads and Trustees would benefit similarly from his wise counsel and guidance.”Barbara E. Wagner
Former Head of Marlborough School
Executive Director, Heads Collegiate Forum
“Brad Gioia far exceeds the usual description of Head of School, even as complicated and demanding as we all know that title implies. He knows schools from the inside as an educator and from the outside as a visionary. He understands the importance of doing the small details right and the opportunities that arise from the courage to think big.
Brad came to Montgomery Bell Academy and transformed the school in a way not even the Board could fully envision. More importantly he did it while maintaining the essence of MBA’s core beliefs, identity, and traditions.
As a teacher himself, Brad fully understands the impact and importance of teachers who truly care about their students and are eager to interact with them outside of the classroom. Innovative in his hiring, he brought in young alumni as interns and staff from the business community.
Brad believes in the significance of a school’s culture. He believes a school culture is where and how students learn to support, respect, and care for each other. It is where they learn to succeed, to fail, to persevere. He developed a culture at MBA that recognized and celebrated every activity, every club, every achievement, not just that of the star athlete or scholar.
Brad likes to think big. To think outside the box. To have a vision. No idea is too big for him. That attitude and his ability to meet people, remember people, and connect people led to outstanding opportunities at MBA.
Brad developed an exchange program with colleges and universities in six countries. He helped put together summer classes and travel for 200 students with particular interests. He brought a broad array of speakers to campus: authors, adventurers, entrepreneurs, survivors. He introduced “away” Board retreats for members of the Board and their spouses. Every other year he set up a visit to a school. Seeing schools and meeting with administrators all over the United States and in England gave the Board ideas to implement at MBA. In addition, these trips were fun and helped develop a deep sense of camaraderie among the trustees.
Again, looking at the larger picture, Brad realized that being a college preparatory school was not a big enough endeavor. He felt MBA should be “teaching boys to be good men.” In response he took every opportunity to talk about the modern meaning of “gentleman” since “Gentleman. Scholar. Athlete.” is a foundational identity of MBA. The Board continues to support this approach, and its current long-range plan includes numerous ways to implement “teaching boys to be good men.”
Education is Brad Gioia’s calling and passion. He is a creative thinker and a problem solver. He understands how schools work and how that work can be done successfully. More importantly he can look down the road and envision possibilities. Every school would benefit from working with Brad Gioia.”Varina Buntin
Trustee of Montgomery Bell Academy
“I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with Brad Gioia for the past 29 years as a member of the Montgomery Bell Academy Board of Trustees under his leadership as Head of School. Brad is first and foremost a man of the utmost honesty and integrity who builds immediate trust with everyone he meets. He is an exceptional communicator with superb listening skills and the ability to articulate and execute strategic plans and objectives.
Brad has a special talent of attracting bright and diverse individuals to work together to create a vibrant and inclusive culture and community. Over the years, he has developed a vast network of global associates and friends throughout the independent school world and beyond. Brad has great knowledge and wisdom to share and help guide schools, school heads, and boards in their problem solving and decision making.”Ben S. Gambill, Jr.
Montgomery Bell Academy
Board of Trustees- 1982-Present