2008: Mary Louise Leipheimer

Teaching is the highest form of understanding. – Aristotle

In 1967, a country girl from Western Pennsylvania arrived at Foxcroft School to teach English. Mary Louise Leipheimer was new to girls’ schools and to boarding schools — and not sure about either. Expecting to stay two years, she has given Foxcroft, instead, more than 35 years of service, 20 (so far) as Head of School. 
A teacher first, last and always — it’s in the blood of this fourth-generation educator — she has achieved, for herself and for those she has touched, new understandings of the magic of girls’ schools, the benefits of boarding, what it means to be a teacher, why it is that we “give back,” and how it is that we “live with ambiguity.” 

Honesty and openness have been a hallmark, with her code reflected in oft-repeated phrases: “No surprises;” “Work with me here;” “Let me be straight with you;” “Am I making myself clear?” and “I hear you.” Unimpressed as she is with the weight of her own importance, her contributions to the larger educational community are abundant: co-founder of the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, member of the exclusive Headmasters Association, chair of the Secondary School Admission Test Board, secretary of the National Association of Principals of Schools for Girls, board or committee member of the Virginia Association of Independent Schools, The Association of Boarding Schools and the National Association of Independent Schools. All these organizations value her incredible gift for consensus building in times of transition, her steady hand at the helm through challenging times and for raising the level of dialogue among various factions.

Teaching is the achievement of shared meaning. – D.B. Gowin
In 1989, this teacher, seasoned by a range of roles from department chair to assistant head and possessing the requisite intellect, passion, and energy, came together with a School wobbling in the wake of changing times, revolving-door leadership and economic unease. “The School needed me and I needed the School,” she says, and indeed together they have thrived: A vibrant student body, fine faculty and blossoming grounds and buildings; the most successful endowment campaign in the history of girls’ schools completed, a bricks-and-mortar initiative that grows daily and a reputation in the independent school world that scales the heights. The ideals, vision, and spirit of Foxcroft’s founder Charlotte Haxall Noland, have been preserved even as they have been transformed for the 21st century and students, alumnae, faculty, parents, and friends all are partners in and students of the “shared meaning” of Mary Lou’s lesson plan.

Life is about learning and the continuum is infinite. — Mary Louise Leipheimer

Mary Lou remains ever the teacher and the learner. English is no longer the official subject, though her facility with a well-turned phrase remains a legend. She has learned more than she ever wanted to know about balancing a budget, computer networks, legal entanglements, helicopter parents, sewage treatment plants, county politics, Facebook.com, and horses. She continues to pose the hard questions, scrutinize current challenges, prime for the future and, quite simply, to be “caught up in the world of thought.” And she continues to teach every day. The students, the faculty, the staff, the parents, the trustees, the alumnae, the community are enlightened regularly by her writing on the black – no – whiteboard. “Life is about learning, and the continuum is infinite,” she says. So too are the lessons and the love Mary Louise Leipheimer’s students – past, present and future – enjoy with this quintessential teacher and outstanding human being. She is, truly, one singular sensation.

And so, the Board of Trustees and the entire Foxcroft Community honor Mary Louise Leipheimer, Head of School, by presenting to her Foxcroft’s highest honor, the Anne Kane McGuire Distinguished Service Award.
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An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.