It is with great joy and excitement that I share that Rick Holifield is rejoining The Walker School to serve as Director of Community Life. Rick is returning to Walker from The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey where he was the school’s first Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement. Before joining Lawrenceville, Rick was The Walker School’s Assistant Head of Upper School and Director of Community Life for three years. Prior to that, he was the Director of Diversity at Pace Academy from 2013-2017.
Walker’s Director of Community Life is charged with building community across all divisions as well as ensuring a sense of infinite worth and dignity for each member of the Walker community. This position is rooted in both our mission to be a caring and diverse community as well as our first core value. Our desire is for Walker to be a place where everyone experiences a genuine sense of belonging and participates wholly in the life of the school – in the classroom, in our arts and athletics programs, at community events and beyond.
There are so many reasons why Rick is the ideal person for this position.
First, Rick is known for developing meaningful relationships with students and adults alike. This was a key component of his previous service at Walker, and I know firsthand that he has kept in touch with many Walker students during his year at Lawrenceville.
Second, Rick is a master community builder. He has done this at each school he has served, and after a year in which community building was so challenging because of COVID-19, I am excited to have Rick returning to Walker to help us reconnect in meaningful and genuine ways. Many of you may remember the “New Parent Dinner” that Rick and Shelly Manuel created – an evening under the stars (and tents) next to Warren Science & Technology Building as we enjoyed the conversation, connection and a wonderful meal. Rick is always thinking about ways in which we can bring our community together, whether for a meal or participating in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day March or serving those in need in our community.
Third, Rick is exceptionally talented in collaborating with non-profit organizations to bring much-needed opportunities for student growth, training and professional growth for faculty and staff, and parent education. During his three years at Walker, one of the key highlights of Rick’s impact on our community was bringing the “Power of Words” program from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which included a separate opportunity for parents to learn about the program, ADL-facilitated training for student leaders, two meaningful assembly programs for Middle and Upper School students and a reading program for Primary and Lower School students and families.
Last but not least, Rick loves The Walker School, considers it “home,” and will be able to hit the ground running when he arrives on campus this summer. Rick will connect with Dr. Derrick Williams, who served as Interim Director of Community Life this past year, and the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Council to learn more about their work. Together, they will create a plan for building and strengthening our community and creating opportunities for students, faculty, staff and parents to develop a keen understanding of what it means to be a welcoming and inclusive community where every child experiences a genuine sense of belonging.
During his previous tenure at Walker, Rick had a profound positive impact on building a true sense of community, and he was able to do that in a part-time role. As we welcome Rick back to Walker in a role that is fully dedicated to community life, we should all be excited about how Rick’s cumulative experience and immense talent will play a critical role in making Walker an even stronger school and more cohesive community.
“I am humbled and excited about the opportunity to return to The Walker School,” Rick said. “The chance to work alongside this amazing faculty and staff, parent body and most importantly the students, affords me the chance to lead this important community-building and DEI work in a meaningful way. I am committed to ensuring all students feel accepted, valued and encouraged at Walker. I eagerly await the start of the 2021-22 school year.”