Rick spent his entire career in the world of education, serving as Head of Belmont Hill School in Boston, MA for 25 years as well as on several boards.
From his start as a history teacher at Deerfield Academy to teaching today about leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, SSL Co-Managing Partner Rick Melvoin has devoted his entire professional career to the field of education.
A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard College, with an M.A. and Ph.D. in American history from the University of Michigan, he began his career at Deerfield, where over fourteen years he taught history, coached soccer and track, directed plays, and served as History Department chair and then Dean of Studies. He returned to Harvard in 1988 as Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid and as a Lecturer in History and Literature.
In 1993 he was appointed Head of School at Belmont Hill School in Belmont, Massachusetts, where he served for 25 years. During his tenure, admissions applications doubled, financial aid and diversity in the student body grew exponentially, the endowment grew from $7M to $125M, and campus facilities were expanded and revitalized. Most important, though, was the strength of community—students, faculty and staff, parents, alumni and trustees – that was built during Rick’s time. It was, he said, “the best job in the world,” one that he loved for all of his years there.
Active professionally beyond his campus, Rick was elected a member of the Board of Overseers at Harvard University, where he chaired the Nominating Committee. He also has served on the Boards of Trustees of The Winsor School, The Haverford School, The Epiphany School, and Gould Academy; the Board of Directors of The Steppingstone Foundation; and the Board of Directors of Facing History and Ourselves, where he currently chairs the Program Committee. He also served as Board president of the International Boys’ Schools Coalition and president of The Headmasters (now Heads and Principals) Association. He is the author of two books: New England Outpost: War and Society in Colonial Deerfield (W.W. Norton, 1988) and Chapel Talks, a compendium of talks from his years at Belmont Hill, as well as numerous articles on boys, education, and school leadership published in Independent School Magazine and beyond.
In stepping down at Belmont Hill, Rick knew there was another chapter to be written. It was his deep belief in the power of schools to do good, and his breadth of experience, that led Rick to join with Co-Managing Partner Vance Wilson to create Strategic School Leadership LLC. The job of Head of School is vastly broader and more complex than it was a generation ago, and Rick and Vance believe that heads, both new and veteran, deserve the support of experienced professionals. With five other partners, all veteran and successful school heads, SSL works hard to live its mission: “to help heads to help their schools thrive.” In addition to his core work as a thought partner with school heads, both new and veteran, he has led numerous board retreats and sessions that focus on good governance and on how boards can work strategically. Amidst all that, teaching about independent schools and school leadership at Harvard keeps him energized and attuned to the array of issues that all schools face today.
- In the River of Ordinary Courage, NAIS Magazine
- Surviving, Thriving, and Sometimes Just Enduring; as a Head of School, NAIS Magazine
“Rick often provides guidance through the form of questions or through indirect observations. Like Yoda, he is hesitant to tell his pupils—at least this pupil—what to do. I have appreciated that posture, as it creates a partnership.”Tyler Casertano
Head of School, Haverford School, Haverford, PA
“Rick’s experience is deep and broad. Nonetheless, he maintains a thoughtful approach of questioning to understand. From this learning posture he masterfully helps me to think about how I might approach the challenges before me, us, and our school, with the occasional nudge to look deeper or consider additional possibilities.
In addition, Rick is a wonderful communicator. I feel like his written and spoken messages are always generous and express care and thoughtfulness. He improves my communication, though when we’re not directly working on that. He’s a skilled modeler of leadership.”Adam Fischer
Head of School, The Rashi School, Dedham, MA
“[What Rick offers is] the flexibility to discuss whatever is on my mind and what I need help with in that moment. The ability to rise above the day to day and discuss some strategic pieces. The perspective around what you are seeing at other schools right now. The clarity that comes from talking to somebody who is a bit removed from this particular place”Chris Kolovos
Head of School, Boston University Academy, Boston, MA