They’re School People
After two decades, Tom and Martha Whittington retire.
They came to Gould 20 years ago, hired by Headmaster Bill Clough as Tom was completing a master’s at Stanford and Martha was the athletic director at nearby Castilleja School. The Whittingtons chose Gould so it would be their school this time — not his, not hers.
Gould just had the right feel, Martha says.
And for 20 years, Tom and Martha Whittington have served Gould as consummate boarding school “triple threats” — teachers, coaches, dorm parents…as well as advisors, deans, department heads, committee chairs, chaperones, drivers, and anything else that was asked of them or needed doing.
Tom taught biology, freshman science, and AP Biology, eventually adding environmental science, and organizing Earth Day activities. As academic dean, he helped to develop more leadership among department chairs and to create a broader vision for Gould’s academic program for 15 years.
His background at Dartmouth and Stanford helped him lead Gould’s academic team toward a more comprehensive, rigorous, and collaborative curriculum, says Brad Clarke, Gould’s new assistant head of school for teaching and learning, who served as his assistant dean.
“He also fully understood the challenges of the athlete, and particularly the ski program at Gould,” says Science Department Chair Peter Southam. “This has been a huge part of the success that we have had in building a competitive ski program interwoven with a demanding academic program.”
He never gave up teaching Environmental Science, a course that put him in contact with the full range of Gould students. A DI soccer player in college, Tom set a great example to other faculty and coaches with his very successful coaching of the varsity girls’ soccer team.
“We are all better teachers and coaches because of his hard work and knowledge,” says Southam. “I know that he has made the world a better place by sharing his love for sports and his care for the environment with thousands of Gould students.”
“Three years ago, Tom returned to coaching girls’ varsity soccer at Gould, and I believe that his return brought out the best in him,” says Clarke.
Tom began his career at Vermont Academy, and it was there that he and Martha met. Before that, Martha had worked at Westminster and Nichols and coached field hockey and lacrosse at Yale and Harvard (while earning a master’s in education there). Already a seasoned boarding school teacher, over the next two decades Martha served Gould in a variety of leadership positions — director of international students, NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) Committee chair, and for more than 20 years of her career, she served as a dean of students. She also led the development of PEER, the faculty evaluation process.
“Martha’s work with NEASC is nothing short of extraordinary in both its breadth and depth,” says Jim Mooney, who is deputy director of NEASC’s Commission on Independent Schools. In addition to serving as the Self Study coordinator at Gould, she has presented workshops for other coordinators, been a visiting team member for other school accreditation – including the School Year Abroad team who circled the world to visit each of the SYA campuses. “She’s been a resource for the new standards NEASC is rolling out this year,” adds Jim. “In essence, Martha is an accreditation superstar. We will do all that we can to keep her involved in accreditation even though she has retired.”
It is also very rare to have a high school coach with Martha’s background and expertise in athletics. A former U.S. national team player, Martha’s teaching, coaching, and leadership have been a mainstay at Gould. In the classroom, Martha was well known for her “coaching” of students through challenging math problems.
“Gould’s solid footing for the future is in no small way due to Martha’s leadership through several NEASC accreditation reviews,” says Clarke. “Her knowledge of the school evaluation process and passion for Gould shine through in those reports. Martha’s unflagging dedication to Gould and the principles of service and leadership have been an example to her colleagues!”
They lived in Gehring for five years and had an advisory for quite a while until being international student advisor took up much of Martha’s time. Her leadership and development of the international student program has made hundreds of Gould students feel at home away from home. The Chinese New Year dinner and Moon Festival have become some of the highlights of Gould’s culinary schedule.
Tom and Martha also traveled for many years with Gould’s Ninth-Grade Four Point since the early days in Germany and Hungary— a true highlight of the year for them. Each of them has made trips a dozen trip to China, most of them together.
“I love that experience with kids,” says Tom, “watching the aha moments” at diverse places from Buchenwald to the Great Wall. They’ve been pleased to see how the Four Point program has grown to be more integrated with the curriculum and a more reflective experience for the students.
Individually and together they have certainly left their marks on this community. Martha’s homemade bread always made faculty meetings feel more welcome. Tom’s Pink Shirt Tuesdays, Aloha Fridays, and a strict ban on indoor hats are all part of his legacy. Nor can we forget his various assemblies on plagiarism over the years.
“Perhaps, most importantly Tom and Martha care deeply about Gould and Gould students,” says Brad Clarke. “For 20 years under his academic leadership and her work on accreditation, Gould has been able to bring together the best of the traditional boarding school model along with the best of contemporary 21st-century education.”
“We did it for the kids,” says Martha. And Gould is fortunate to be the school they chose those 20 years ago.
With no kids of their own, they are planning plenty of visits to spend time with siblings and parents, nieces and nephews. This winter they will head to Costa Rica and Florida. “And then who knows,” says Martha.
For now, they are enjoying a Maine summer, tucked away on the far side of a pond in Norway, only 40 minutes from Bethel but also a world away — with loons, fish, and geese. As we talked, a red-wing blackbird was swooping around for a meal not far from shore. It’s a place they’ve spent 18 years making their own. Just as they did at Gould.