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Fourteen Years: Jonathan G. Brougham Reflects on His Time at The Hun School

After graduating Columbia Law School, Head of School Jon Brougham was immediately hired by a large, prestigious firm. By all accounts, he was on the path to becoming a successful lawyer. After spending two years logging very long hours while pouring over tax laws, he realized he wasn’t fulfilled, or content. “I had to ask myself, what did I really enjoy doing?” He thought back to his days as a summer camp counselor. “I remembered enjoying those days so much. I liked being with the kids — playing sports, spending time with them, etc.” He realized that while he might not be able to return to the summers of his youth, he could indeed return to the setting. He promptly left the law and turned to teaching history at his alma mater, Thayer Academy.

Mr. Brougham’s passion for the past brought history alive for his students at Thayer but his leadership abilities soon caught the attention of others. He served as upper school head of two schools, Kentucky Country Day School and Collegiate School in Virginia, before seeing an opening at The Hun School. “I came up to Hun to take a look at the campus and it immediately felt right and felt like home.”

Hun’s beautiful campus aside, Mr. Brougham was charmed by Hun’s personality. “It was clear right from the beginning that everyone was really proud of the School. There wasn’t any arrogance — it was just a friendly place where people were happy to be.”

Mr. Brougham accepted the position in 2009, becoming the tenth Head of School. It’s a role he has relished ever since. “I have always felt fortunate to be here,” he says.

In his inimitable style, Mr. Brougham did not arrive with blueprints for drastic changes to the School. Instead, he listened and considered the interests of all involved parties, from faculty and students to parents and alumni before making any decisions. Though his trademark humility disallows him from taking credit for any of Hun’s advances over the last fourteen years, his contributions to the School are immeasurable. Whether it’s the addition of new campus landmarks like the Wilf Family Global Commons or Breen Performing Arts Center or the myriad of academic advancements, Hun is decidedly a better place because of Jon Brougham.

As most quiet leaders do, he is quick to credit his colleagues. “If I have done anything at Hun, it’s because I assembled a truly great Administrative Team,” he says. The dynamic, collaborative spirit that is a hallmark of a Hun education extends to the administration, too. “I really enjoy the teamwork and collegiality of the administration and faculty here,” he says.

Celebrating Mr. Brougham, Welcoming Mr. Bronk


Those colleagues also inspire the only piece of advice Mr. Brougham has for the incoming Head, Bart Bronk. While he believes Mr. Bronk will find his own success at Hun, he does exhort him to appreciate what’s here. “Respect the quality of the people that are part of this place and the relations that make this place so special.”

Asked what he’s proudest of during his time at Hun and Mr. Brougham, ever the teacher, heads straight for the classroom. “I’m really proud of the way we teach here at Hun. It’s innovative, active, and really in touch with the real world. Our curriculum and programs are exceptional.”

He’s also proud of the advances in technology and steps Hun has taken toward creating a more inclusive and diverse community. “I’m so glad that we have kept Hun being Hun, but we’ve also stirred it up a bit and helped it grow into a more creative and innovative place.”

During his fourteen years of service, Mr. Brougham has also led the School through challenging times, including the loss of students and faculty members, and of course, Covid-19. Mr. Brougham is widely praised for his leadership during those difficult times and for his dedication to reopening the School as soon as possible. It’s a time he won’t forget. “It’s easy to forget that in the beginning, we were all very afraid — teachers, students, parents, etc. We were truly in uncharted territory.”

When Mr. Brougham retires in June, it’s not just his office that he’ll leave behind — he’s also leaving his family’s home. He and his wife, Carolyn, along with their two sons, Sam Brougham and Benjamin Brougham ’13, have always resided on campus; first in Mason House, and most recently, in Johnson House. The vibrancy of a boarding school is something he admits that he’ll miss. “Whether it’s Homecoming or a Diwali celebration, there’s just this happy bubble of noise when you’re at a school. You can’t replace that anywhere.”

Mr. Brougham's Retirement Party


He will also miss his colleagues and that same team that he respects and admires so greatly. “When you work really hard at something important, you’re in the trenches together and you really build a bond,” he says.

For someone who hasn’t had much free time since graduating college, he looks forward to retirement even if he doesn’t already have it all mapped out. “I’ve bought three or four books on transitioning into retirement,” he shares before laughing, “and I haven’t read a page in any of them.” Still, for now he plans to move to Plymouth, Massachusetts to a family home where he spent his childhood, and the very summers that inspired his path to The Hun School.