An independent day school serving grades K-12 | St. Paul, MN

SPA announces the retirement of Head of School Bryn Roberts

On April 5, 2021, Head of School Bryn Roberts and Board of Trustees President Tim Welsh announced Roberts' retirement to the St. Paul Academy and Summit School community. Roberts, who has served as SPA's Head of School since 2006, will retire in June 2022, at the end of the 2021-22 school year. The full announcement from Welsh and Roberts is below.

To the SPA community,

After serving as Head of School at St. Paul Academy and Summit School since 2006, Bryn Roberts will retire in June 2022, at the end of the 2021-22 academic year.

If you are like me, remembering 2006 might be a challenge. In 2006, the members of SPA's current senior class had not yet started kindergarten, and some of their current teachers were still students themselves. The most popular social media site in 2006 was MySpace, Google had just overtaken Yahoo as the most-used search engine, and the iPhone was still a year away from its first release. Our son William, now a college sophomore, had just started his adventures in the Lower School. Katherine, now a junior, was still in preschool, and our seventh-grader James would not be born for two more years. As a community, we had not yet even begun to imagine enjoying performances in the Huss Center, and it would still be many years before students made new discoveries in the Schilling Center. Indeed, 2006 almost seems like ancient history.

To say that Bryn has led the SPA community through an extraordinary period seems like quite an understatement. Our world and our community have changed in ways that none of us could have imagined since that year when we were fortunate enough to have a hockey-loving historian join us as our new Head of School. In the midst of these rapid changes in the world, Bryn has led the evolution of SPA from being a wonderful school with a proud legacy into a vibrant institution that is preparing students to make remarkable contributions to the world in the 21st century.

A few examples help to illustrate the breadth and depth of the transformation of SPA that Bryn has led. During Bryn's tenure, SPA developed programs in computer science and engineering, and added substantially to the school’s scholarship endowment. He expanded the faculty, increased significantly the school’s enrollment, and expanded the diversity of both groups.  Students have won countless awards in academics, the arts, and athletics. And, as I alluded to earlier, he led the fundraising and renewal of the Upper School that featured the construction of the Huss Center, the Schilling Center for Math and Science, and the renovation of Old Main.

When you walk up the stairs toward Bryn’s office on the Randolph Campus, you can’t help but notice the words of SPA’s mission statement on the wall: “shaping the minds and the hearts of the people who will change the world.” I know that each day he has walked up those stairs, Bryn has taken that message to heart. His vision was that the  students in his care would learn the values and skills that would enable them to make significant, positive contributions to the world that we all share. His daily decisions about every aspect of the school were rooted in that aspiration.

The cumulative impact of those many decisions since 2006 have truly transformed SPA. Under Bryn’s leadership, nearly every aspect of SPA has evolved to meet the rapidly increasing expectations of a school in the 21st century. Through innovative strategic planning, genuine care and support for his team, and an unrelenting commitment to the school’s mission, Bryn has positioned SPA and its students to make the world a bit better for all of us. Bryn’s most important legacy is that thousands of students who have come through the doors of SPA since 2006 will shape the world in countless ways. Our community and indeed our world are, and will continue to be, much better off because of Bryn’s leadership at SPA.    

Each of us in the SPA community has benefited from the wise, caring, and thoughtful leadership Bryn has provided for so many years. Over the next year, we will have many opportunities to recognize and thank Bryn for all he has done for our community, and for many of us individually.  It has been one of the great privileges of my life to work alongside such an inspiring leader, and all of us on the Board of Trustees want to express our deep gratitude to Bryn for all that he has done for SPA. We look forward to many opportunities in the next year to celebrate Bryn with all of you.

Bryn’s reflections on today’s announcement are in his brief note below, and in the coming week, we will provide the entire community with the details of the search process for SPA’s next Head of School. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to any Trustee if you have questions.

Tim Welsh, President
Board of Trustees
St. Paul Academy and Summit School

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To the SPA community,

As you know from Tim Welsh’s very kind note, I will retire in June 2022 which will mark the end of my sixteenth year as the Head of School at St. Paul Academy and Summit School. It has been a marvelous experience and an honor to lead SPA, and I know that this is the right time for me to step away and for the school to embrace new leadership. My retirement date was set several years ago and there was a clear plan for my last two years. Following the completion of the capital campaign for the Upper School, I intended to concentrate on major strategic issues drawn principally from the school’s strategic plan while preparing for the arrival of my successor.

Such has not been the case thus far. COVID intervened and the challenges of responding to the vicissitudes of life in the pandemic have consumed my time. COVID has been a harsh master, yet I am proud of the way that we--as a school community--have adapted to the stresses and unpredictability of the last year. The needs, interests, and safety of our students have remained our priorities even as we, the adults, wrestled with our own anxieties, struggled to interpret public health data, and debated how to apply shifting guidance on best practices for schools in a pandemic.  

This unremitting passion for students defines SPA at its best. It has been a privilege and great fun for me as an educator to lead a caring community that prizes the unabashed pursuit of excellence. Charles Eliot, one of Harvard’s most famous presidents, suggested that beautiful facilities were all well and good but it was the character of the people in the buildings that truly mattered. SPA passes Eliot’s character test with flying colors.

Few educators and school leaders have enjoyed the opportunities and support that I have received throughout my tenure as the Head of School at SPA, for which I am deeply grateful. I look forward to next year. I hope that we will be beyond the worst of the pandemic and thus able to focus on renewing the expansive bonds of our community and envisioning the next stage of this remarkable school’s evolution.

I am excited about SPA’s future, not just through June 2022, but in the decades ahead.

Best wishes,

Bryn S. Roberts
Head of School