Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 36
 
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
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“Poised to Move Forward,” Patty L. Fagin Rejoices in Her New Role as Head of Stuart

Ellen Gilbert

“It feels great,” said Patricia (“Patty”) L. Fagin of her appointment as the new Head of the Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart.

“I came out last October for the first round of talks,” the former Principal of Villa Duchesne High School in St. Louis recalled. “It was one of the best processes I’ve ever been through. The Stuart organizers should write a book about selecting a new head of school; they thought of everything.”

Like Stuart, Villa Duchesne is administered under the Sacred Heart umbrella, and is also an all-girls school. Ms. Fagin holds a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, an M.A. in media communications from Webster University in St. Louis, and a B.A. (with highest honors) from Fontbonne College, also in St. Louis.

“You have these notions in the midwest that the east is going to be colder,” said Ms. Fagin of moving to Princeton. “But everyone is so friendly; all you have to do is say you’re interested in something, and people follow-up for you.”

She and her husband, Tim, have already familiarized themselves with local walking trails. “I wake up and pinch myself,” Ms. Fagin reported. “I can’t believe I’m in such a beautiful place.”

Ms. Fagin, who is the first Head in Stuart’s 47-year history who is not from a religious order, is now happily settled in “Lainie’s House,” the on-site home named after board member Elaine Simco. “My husband said, ‘you can’t beat this,’” Ms. Fagin reported. A telecommunications professional, Mr. Fagin has the flexibility to live almost anywhere.

In addition to his job credentials, Mr. Fagin also, apparently, has cooking skills. When nine senior students woke up from a recent overnight “retreat” at Lainie’s House, they were greeted with pancakes and bacon. “We had such a blast,” said Ms. Fagin. “The house was filled with laughter.”

As the parents of two adult sons, the Fagins say that they are particularly appreciative of the ebullience they find in girls. That energy, Ms. Fagin believes, will help Stuart “continue to be a powerhouse in field hockey and lacrosse,” and, she mused, possibly soccer. “I love all the sports, but I love most to win,” Ms. Fagin candidly admitted.

She was also frank in her assessment of the differences between St. Louis and Princeton. “St. Louis is a racially segregated city at a geographic remove. The diverse population at Stuart is the kind of world our girls will live in.”

“I think we have such an amazing legacy,” Ms. Fagin said, reflecting on Stuart’s history, which includes a distinguished academic and service record. Reiterating her commitment to the goals of the Sacred Heart and to single-gender education, she added that she is prepared to “move forward in a respectful way.”

Stuart has more than simply weathered the recent economic downturn. “Our endowment is higher than it’s ever been, and we’ll be debt-free as of October,” Ms. Fagin proudly reported. “We’re poised to take ourselves to the next level.”

Moving forward includes optimizing the use of new technology which, Ms. Fagin observed in a recent article on developments in learning styles, “change how we deliver instruction as never before. Students and teachers e-mail assignments back and forth. Teachers have resources from around the world at their fingertips, thanks to the Internet. Moreover, technology makes it easier for individualized instruction to meet the needs of a wide variety of students.”

She is also mindful of the “full plates” that many students are balancing. “I often overhear students, even as young as those in the ninth grade, talking about building their resume. Many are also involved in community service, extracurricular activities, student government, and sports. I see students as being much busier, far more scheduled in their activities and, honestly, far more committed to making a difference than ever before.”

Ms. Fagin replaces Frances de la Chappelle, who last year announced her intention to retire. Although she began her job on July 1, Ms. Fagin’s official installation will take place on Thursday, September 16.

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