Amid preparations for Thanksgiving break, Blair community members took time to express heartfelt thanks to Head of School Chris Fortunato for his dedication to the Blair family and for all he has accomplished during his seven-plus years at the School. Mr. Fortunato will end his Blair tenure at the end of December and return with his family to their New England roots next year, when he will become Head of School at Thayer Academy in Massachusetts. In the meantime, School Meeting on November 20 offered the perfect opportunity for faculty and students to share a moment of gratitude with the departing Head of School.
The Senior Class Council created a special video for Mr. Fortunato and his wife, Blair’s coordinator of health education Erin Fortunato. Set to the Blair Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of the “Star Wars” theme, a nod to Mr. Fortunato’s well-known love of all things “Star Wars,” the video captured well wishes from Blair family members all over campus. In addition, several vocalists serenaded Mr. and Mrs. Fortunato with “The House at Pooh Corner,” acknowledging Mr. Fortunato’s favorite literary character, Winnie the Pooh.
As Head of School since 2013, Mr. Fortunato has focused on leadership, communication and service, and partnered with faculty, Trustees, alumni, parents, staff members and friends of the School on numerous forward-thinking initiatives designed to position Blair students for success. These initiatives include building projects that enhance every facet of school life, such Lakeside Hall and Kathryn Hall, the modern upper-school dormitories that opened 2015, and the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration, the technology rich and highly adaptable home to Blair’s fine arts and technology departments, Society of Skeptics lectures, and myriad programs across the curriculum.
Concurrent with the 2017 construction of the Chiang-Elghanayan Center, Weber Hall was repurposed for the teaching of mathematics, and two years later, at the start of the 2019-2020 school year, the Blair community celebrated the reopening of the fully renovated Bogle Science Center. Blair enhanced its top-notch athletic facilities during Mr. Fortunato’s tenure, as well, with the 2018 completion of the J. Li Golf Training Center and seasonal winter sports complex.
Over the past seven years, a slate of enriching new programs and opportunities has complemented these dynamic campus facilities. Chief among these programs is Blair LEADS, the School’s cross-curricular leadership training initiative that helps students develop a suite of leadership skills through their participation in The Blair Leadership Stories Project, hands-on project work and community service endeavors that have taken them from Blairstown to points around the world. Mr. Fortunato also led the way in establishing Head of School and alumni roundtable discussions, an evening seminar series, the research fellows program, Blair’s annual Day of Service and more, all of which have served to broaden students’ horizons and foster the deep and meaningful relationships that are at the heart of the Blair experience.
During Mr. Fortunato’s tenure, Blair’s admission and fundraising efforts achieved record-setting results. On the admission front, the number of applications increased each year as families across the globe came to know the School and appreciate all that it offers its students. Financial support for Blair was strong, as well, with the endowment growing from $75 million in 2013 to $104 million in 2020, and the School recording its two best fundraising years ever in 2015-2016 and 2019-2020, with a total of $11.3 and $11 million contributed, respectively.
In 2018, Mr. Fortunato helped to launch Blair’s 2018-2025 Strategic Plan, which charts an ambitious course to amplify the School’s “all in” culture and commitment well into the future. And, amid all of this important work, he has continually championed to students the importance of remaining optimistic, building bridges, expressing kindness, and remembering—as Christopher Robinson said to Winnie the Pooh—“you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and more loved than you will ever know.”
The Blair community wishes Mr. and Mrs. Fortunato and their children, Matt and Katie, all the best in their exciting next chapter!