Payne accepts job at Atlanta prep school

Woodward Academy Board Chairman Ben Johnson III announced on December 7, 1999 the appointment of Harry C. Payne, president emeritus of Williams College, as the academy’s sixth president. Payne will succeed A. Thomas Jackson ’64, who had served since 1990.

For the past 13 years, Payne, 52, has served in college presidencies. Before coming to Williams on January 1, 1994, he had served as president of Hamilton College since 1988. He was acting president of Haverford College the year before. Williams recently announced that it will establish in Payne’s honor the Harry C. Payne Williams College Professorship in the Liberal Arts.

Founded in 1900 by Colonel John Charles Woodward, the academy has more than 2,800 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and 500 faculty and staff members on three campuses in metropolitan Atlanta. Originally a military boarding school for boys, the academy underwent in the 1960s a transition to a co-educational, college preparatory day school embracing racial and cultural diversity. It now serves students from 23 counties in the metropolitan Atlanta area.

“Hank Payne knows about education like few people in America,” Johnson said. “He cares deeply about students. He is committed to nurturing, recruiting, retaining and supporting the faculty on whom Woodward and its students depend. He is brilliant yet modest, humorous and self-effacing. The governing board is confident that, building on the foundation laid so meticulously by Tom Jackson over the past ten years, Hank Payne will lead Woodward to the next level.”

As president, Payne will be responsible for the total organization, administration and development of the academy. He will also represent the academy in all relationships with governmental and external regulatory agencies, businesses, community groups, educational associations, colleges and universities and other independent public schools.

“I am very pleased with this opportunity,” Payne said. “It gives me a chance to remain in the world of education yet also to grow and learn in an entirely new world of pre-K through 12. Woodward is a large and complex organization, actually a small independent school system with campuses around the Atlanta area and its own bus system.

“The Woodward story is most impressive, having transformed itself from the Georgia Military Academy for boys, with a substantial boarding component, to a strikingly progressive school in the spirit of Atlanta. Woodward has unusually strong commitments to racial and religious diversity, the arts and new technologies, and a deep commitment to working with students over a wide range of strengths and challenges, including an impressive program for students with diagnosed learning disabilities.”

Payne continued, “It is a special pleasure to succeed a Williams alumnus, Tom Jackson, who has had a distinguished career in independent primary and secondary education and who, in partnership with…Johnson III, is given deserved credit for Woodward’s current success.

“By necessity my learning curve about Woodward and pre-K through 12 education will be steep in the months ahead. The clearest challenges already identified will involve strengthening the endowment; addressing the physical facility for the current Middle School; and designing the best ways to nurture, recruit, retain and support the faculty on whom the intense Woodward approach depends.”

Payne will be on scholarly sabbatical this spring and assume his new duties July 1.