Friday, July 21, 2017  

Making Waves. Shaping Futures: Getting to Know St. Margaret's Head of School


Soon after meeting St. Margaret’s Head of School, Lindy Williams, your cheeks hurt from laughing and head rushes with excitement about whatever topic at hand. Williams, some might say, is not your typical head of school. Sure, she values single-sex education, living by an honor code, innovative teaching strategies, college preparedness, and community leadership – all things St. Margaret’s. She is well-respected in the education field for these reasons and others. Somehow though, she manages to balance a long list of traditional beliefs and impressive credentials with a very colorful, warm, open-minded, and spirited disposition. For these reasons, many become enamored from the start.
“We all fell in love with her sense of humor immediately,” said one of the student leaders selected to interview Mrs. Williams during the final round of the head search in 2012. “She’s a firecracker, too. We were impressed with how well she was able to blend that charm with candor when answering difficult questions.”
Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Lindy attended The University of Memphis on a music scholarship – she played the bassoon – and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Public Relations followed by a Master of Science in Counseling and Student Personnel Services in Higher Education. Initially, she went the public relations route, landing her first job in professional baseball of all places. She soon found her calling, though, in education, first as Academic Dean for Christian Brothers University, followed by Alumni Director at The University of Memphis, then Director of Admission and Financial Aid at St. Mary’s Episcopal School, an independent all-girls’ PK-12 school in Memphis. Before joining St. Margaret’s School, she was the Associate Head of School at Collegiate School in Richmond. Her husband, Chris, works in the Athletic Department at Collegiate, and daughter, Ali, studies Human Development and Family Studies at Auburn University.
At the start of her second school year, Williams called on a former colleague to host a faculty-wide training session on mindfulness. To be mindful is to develop full self-awareness and to practice positive thinking and responding. An expert in the field, Alex Peavey, explained that mindfulness in the classroom or school office can reduce stress, increase resiliency, improve decision-making, enhance working memory, and regulate emotions among other physical and emotional advantages. This kind of unconventional yet invigorating thinking defines Williams’ leadership style.
“I like to offer a fresh perspective or way of doing something and am always looking for new and innovative ways to educate not only our girls but ourselves. The beginning of each school year is exciting, but it’s also stressful and overwhelming. I wanted to start the year off on the right foot. The bottom line – we can all benefit from being mindful.”
After last year’s ALL IN theme, she decided to allow faculty and staff to put many new suggested themes to a vote. The victor? MAKING WAVES. SHAPING FUTURES. The appropriate new tagline marries perfectly with one of Williams’ many passions and the future of St. Margaret’s School – the Rappahannock River.
Williams played a large part in securing a grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund this winter that affords St. Margaret’s the opportunity to hire a river program director for the upcoming school year. This position will be responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive program that seeks to incorporate the river into curriculum and to conserve the river by enhancing and creating initiatives that will impact school life and the region.
“With our beautiful waterfront location comes great responsibility and educational opportunities. We must become a river school, not just a school on the river,” said Williams.
Lindy admits it may be the river that first drew her to St. Margaret’s School but it’s the people who have kept her here.
“The faculty and staff at St. Margaret’s are amazing. They are our greatest asset – an incredibly talented, passionate and kind group of people.”
Blessed with a green thumb and a knack for decorating, Williams also takes pride in maintaining a certain level of curb appeal on both sides of Water Lane. Her home is constantly refreshed with colorful fabrics, unique lighting, river-themed decor, and seasonal plants. 
St. Margaret’s has benefited from her tasteful eye and hospitable outlook as well. Donned with Scottie pillows on freshly painted porches and hanging ferns above every entryway, campus is now a little more welcoming. And she’s not afraid to do a great deal of work herself. On any warm-weathered weekend, you can find Lindy and her husband elbow deep in flowerbeds or busying themselves with yard work and miscellaneous outdoor projects.
“I won’t ask someone to do something that I wouldn’t do myself. I have a flat management style. We are all partners,” she says. “This is where we spend most of our time. This is our home, therefore everybody’s responsibility. Paying attention to and taking care of the details tells people that their experience here matters to us. We want them to say, ‘St. Margaret’s feels warm, cared for, welcoming.’”
St. Margaret’s opened its doors to 139 students and 15 educators from 14 different schools across the state for the Virginia Diversity Network Student Conference in January. Williams volunteered to host this year’s event after attending the conference with a group of faculty and students last year and realizing how fortunate St. Margaret’s is to have a well-rounded community with a strong sense of acceptance. She felt it was the girls’ responsibility to share what they have learned about their cultural differences and the importance of becoming a friendly, global citizen. During the conference, students were encouraged to network with one another, understanding and appreciating each other’s different backgrounds and experiences. In a big way, this event put St. Margaret’s School on the map.
Williams is a true animal lover, having volunteered for rescue groups and at shelters for as long as she can remember. Just last fall, she adopted her third rescue dog, a timid setter mix from the local animal shelter, after a colleague discovered him at the St. Margaret’s Athletic Complex. Lindy visited him during lunch breaks and any free 
moment she could find before giving 
him a home and naming him, Bodhi, which means awakened or enlightenment. In his honor, students and faculty collected pet food, toys and other items to donate to the Essex County Animal Shelter on Valentine’s Day. The drive was wildly successful and formed yet another community relationship ignited by Williams.
With Lindy leading by example, there’s an inescapable feeling of school spirit on campus. Students bleed Blue and Grey – the School’s colors which have formed a long-standing tradition in which the student body, faculty, and staff are divided into the two teams who compete in various academic and athletic competitions each year. St. Margaret’s now also has well-balanced art and athletic programs, both with a hugely supportive and loyal fan base. The entire school community celebrates the many big and small achievements that girls experience in the classroom, on the stage, on the river, in their personal lives, on the playing field, and out in the greater community. The Scottie pride is contagious; you feel it as soon as you 
step onto campus.
Still, the mission at St. Margaret’s remains the same – to educate young women for life and to guide each student to become her best unique self. Who better to steer the ship than the captain herself – Lindy Williams!
St. Margaret’s School actively seeks and admits qualified students of any race, color, religious affiliation, national or ethnic origin. If you would like to learn more about admission or affordability, contact our Admission Office by calling (804) 443-3357, emailing admit@sms.org, or visiting our website at www.sms.org.