Two weeks ago, Mr. Davison wrote to the Grace Church community to announce that following the conclusion of next school year, he will be retiring from his position as Head of School.
His retirement next June will mark the end of his 35th year at Grace, 28 of which have been in his current role as Head of School. Over his tenure at the school, he has seen countless graduating classes and, perhaps most importantly, oversaw the expansion of the high school. Davison spoke about the high school in an interview, stating “The capstone of my career is to be able to envision, create, and implement an entirely new school model.”
The working relationship between Davison and Head of High School Mr. Mahabir was also instrumental in creating the high school. In an interview with the Grace Gazette, Mahabir stated that Davison “was not just interested in doing high school education the way it had been done for decades.” It is clear that this adaptability and forward-thinking by Davison is what has turned the high school into one of the most modern institutions in the city.
Many students were surprised by the announcement, as Davison has been a staple of their Grace experience and it is hard to imagine our community without him. Aaron Hessel ’22, who has been at Grace since kindergarten, spoke about the impact that Davison has had on his experience, saying “Mr. Davison has been someone who I knew could execute his job to the fullest potential and help this community thrive. If it was not for him and his leadership especially in the creation of the High School division and the development of the HS building and curriculum, I probably would not have stayed at Grace for four extra years.”
Davison has described his 35 years at Grace as being “filled with joy, challenge, excitement, trial, tragedy, laughter, sorrow, and love.” Both trials and tribulations have defined the past few decades in New York City and the Grace community. Despite having to go through some tough times, Davison has always sought to create a warm and welcoming environment for all students, saying “Only in a setting of emotional, intellectual and physical safety and belonging can students and adults realize their best selves and thrive in a complex world.”
He noted that “Nothing has brought this central truth home more forcefully than the crises of 9/11 and the pandemic, the pain of racism community members reported in @blackatgrace, and, most notably, revelations of sexual abuse of Grace students by a choirmaster of the Church in the 1990s.” Even throughout these difficult experiences, which undoubtedly were some of the toughest moments Davison has had to endure, he was still able to find joy in Grace’s perseverance. “I will never forget the profound joy I experienced when I heard the sounds and laughter of students and staff in the hallways when we returned to school in person last September and two days after 9/11.”
Trustee Co-Chair of the Institutional Culture Committee Barbara Sibley spoke to Davison’s commitment to Grace, saying “The day to day working of the school can be difficult and fraught with the push and pull of personalities and practicalities. But throughout these, Mr. Davison’s commitment to the children of Grace is constant.” The positive and caring environment that Davison has cultivated over his 35 years at Grace has led to the continued success of not only the middle school but the expansion and success of the high school as well.
Davison still has 18 months left on his tenure, so there is still time for students throughout Grace to appreciate what he has done for the school over the years. There is no part of the school that has not been positively impacted by Davison over his time at Grace, and although Grace will miss him dearly when he steps down next June, our community will continue to work towards its mission. In the words of Davison, “I have had the privilege of serving as Head of School, but I’ve always known that what moves this community forward is the enduring power of its mission and the devotion and energy of its students, faculty, administration, parents and alumni families. Those factors will never change.”