by STEFANIE SEARS
for Montclair Local
After 10 years as Lacordaire Academy’s head of school, the first man in the school’s history to serve in that position, Brian Morgan is preparing to retire.
Morgan came to Lacordaire in 2007, following a long military career that included 11 years working as an instructor at the United States Military Academy at West Point. It was during his time at Lacordaire that the school’s elementary and secondary divisions were united into one school, and the school also expanded its academic offerings.
In addition to being head of school, Morgan also taught economics, history, wellness and public speaking.
Morgan’s successor will be William Hambleton.
Morgan started work at West Point in 1987, and taught there until his retirement in 2002, having attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. It was during his time at West Point, working with freshman through senior cadets, that he began his career as an educator.
“When I was trying to determine what I was going to do next, I spoke to someone and I said, ‘After I’m done with the Army, what do you think I should be doing?’ Somebody said to me, “Hey Brian, what have you been doing your whole life?’ I said, ‘Well I’ve been teaching and leading and coaching kids.’ They said, ‘Seems to me you should continue to do that!’”
In addition to his professional background at West Point, Morgan holds degrees from Villanova University, St. John’s University and East Stroudsberg University. While in college, he’d thought of going into accounting or joining the FBI, but he joined the ROTC instead. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and worked as an armor officer.
At Lacordaire, Morgan faced several unique challenges, including bringing the school’s two divisions together. “When I started there was an Elementary and Secondary Division, and the two divisions were basically split,” explains Morgan. “My first task was to put the two schools together under one academy model. That meant that we had to be accredited by the Middle States Association as an academy, Pre-K through 12. The year after I arrived we went into a self-study to do that, and the following year we had the visit from the Middle States team and we were accredited for the first time in the Academy’s history.”
Morgan also recalled that some questioned whether he was prepared to lead a predominantly girls’ school: “My biggest challenge in the beginning was to understand “How does a male head deal with female issues?’” he recalls. “I think people have forgotten that I have led a cadet company at West Point made up of males and females for three years and I was second-in-command of a regiment that had males and females in it. It’s the same issues women have either there or here. I have grown to perhaps understand female development more in terms of educational process, but I think in terms of providing them the opportunity to develop their character and leadership, I think I’ve been able to bring those skills to the Academy.”
Morgan saw several new academic classes and arts programs added. The school now offers film and photography electives, as well as a required theatre class for freshmen.
“You have to meet the need of those who are out there who want to come to your school. And so, as we have progressed, and we have been able to build the arts program, and performing and fine arts, we’re attracting those students who perhaps don’t have the desire to be a D1 athlete but wish to do something creative. I believe that students need an outlet to be creative to be better thinkers and problems solvers. What I’ve seen is that a student can act a certain way in a class and that may not be the academic scholar, but you put them on a stage or in front of artwork and what they perform is amazing, and it helps the student body understand each other. It’s just a knowledge that some kids are going to be artists, some are going to be scholars, some are going to be athletes, but no one is better than anybody. You just move differently. Our arts program has grown. I credit that to the people who help me run this school and the teachers. We actually have a department moving the arts program forward.”
Morgan’s future plans include relaxing and spending time with his family, which includes his attorney wife Nancy and sons Brian Jr. and David. They enjoy visiting the Jersey Shore in the summer where Morgan loves to fish and in the winter they inhabit their Vermont home and go skiing.
To his successor, Morgan says, “Sustain the traditions and values and customs that this academy has had for almost 98 years. Enjoy your run and embrace the Academy. As much as you give the Academy, it gives back to you.”