Academics / Community

Headmaster of OWLAG visits Dana Hall

Dana Hall welcomed to campus Mr. Melvin King, headmaster of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG) in South Africa, along with his wife, Ms. Liesl King, this past September. Moments after meeting Mr. King, his infectious smile greeted me warmly, and I felt as if I was conversing with a friend, not the headmaster of a prestigious school that is over 7,000 miles away.

Mr. King attended several classes during his visit, and the Principles in Engineering class especially caught his attention. He wants to “discover how to make similar classes available to his girls.” We agreed that schools should be able to offer their students classes that the students would enjoy and discover a passion for, rather than limiting students to taking a “core curriculum.”

After attending classes, Mr. King met with Head of School Ms. Caroline Erisman, Assistant Head of School Mr. Rob Mather, and some faculty members to discuss future goals for both schools and how the schools can work together in our mutual global education programs.

The relationship between Dana Hall and OWLAG originated when Oprah Winfrey (you may have heard of her) sent a team of evaluators to visit schools across the United States; they visited Dana Hall in the early 2000’s. Joy Moore ’77 was the Head of the Upper School at the time; she would later become the Interim Head of School at OWLAG in 2007.

“There is something to be said about all-girls schools,” stated Mr. King. It “allows you to be yourself, and for you to be yourself more naturally.” Mr. King thinks that one benefit of a single-sex education is that “[the] girls have such a great work ethic.” Mr. King hopes for the relationship between Dana Hall and OWLAG to be sustainable and reciprocal, with both schools benefiting each other.

Every two years, Dana Hall sponsors a trip to South Africa and visits OWLAG. Julia Donovan ‘17, who went on the trip her freshman year, shared Mr. King’s beliefs about the girls’ work ethic. She believes that what made her South African experience so much more memorable was being able to connect with the OWLAG students. “They are all very hard workers. and they welcomed us with open arms when we arrived on the first day,” stated Donovan. “I hope to see them again in the future!”

This past summer, English teacher Dr. Karen Keely and Librarian Ms. Maggie Davidov visited OWLAG and helped establish an online student newspaper, The OWLAG Anchor. Ms. Heather Panahi has also worked closely with Social Studies teachers at OWLAG in previous summers, and the African Studies students engage in collaborative projects with their OWLAG counterparts.

When Mr. King is not working (although being the headmaster of OWLAG is a very time-consuming position), he enjoys leisure time with his family. Mr. King enjoys barbecuing (known in South Africa as “braaing,” pronounced brying) because “everyone comes outside to cook since the weather in South Africa is much more agreeable year-round” than New Englanders are used to.

Ms. Davidov adds, “Mr. King is a fan of everything jazz.” While Mr. King was visiting Dana Hall, Ms. Davidov and her husband joined Mr. King and his wife at “an outdoor jazz festival sponsored by Berklee College of Music, where we got to see multiple concerts. We had an amazing time and it was a great way to end his trip by experiencing something that he [Mr. King] loves.”

Mr. King visited Dana Hall between trips to Phillips Andover Academy and Miss Porter’s School in Connecticut.

Photo: Mr. King visits with Dana Hall students in the Library. Photo credit: Ms. Liesl King.

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