Dr. Culbert Interview


Photo courtesy of Anna Meyer ’17

What does being a headmaster entail? What do you see as the most challenging part of your job?

Although it does say headmaster on my door, my title is “head of school”. A head master is generally seen as male, and I really do not like the female version which is “headmistress” – Therefore, I am the head of school.

I am essentially in charge of everything. It has two sides to it. There’s the school aspect and
what’s nice about being the headmaster is also being the head teacher. There’s the whole
sort of being in charge of the education and the moral development of the students here.

At the same time, this is a small business and there is a budget every year. There are all sorts of outside contractors, projects going on, relationships with parents, alumni, trustees, with the fellow community, and it is my job to oversee all of that. In other words, to be the CEO of the loomis corporation. I additionally report to the board of trustees who have the fiduciary responsibility, as they approve our budgets and our major projects – so basically I do a lot of juggling!


What would you say is the hardest part of your job?

Keeping all of the balls up in the air at the same time! There is so much happening and just finding time in the day to do everything because it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing all of the business sides of things and then losing the student side. Similarly, you want to do the student fun stuff and you don’t take care of that – but it’s finding a balance. I try to do what I can when I am on campus and try to be visible – but you can’t do everything. My day goes one meeting after another.


What drew you to loomis?

I was working at Dartmouth College as the Chief of Staff for the president there and I loved it. My husband still teaches at Dartmouth and they phoned me up to ask if i’d be interested in making the move. Previously, I had taught at history at Exeter in the beginning of my career when I came out of graduate school. I loved it and the school was a wonderful place to begin my teaching career. Therefore, I was familiar with prep schools and their models. I was particularly drawn to Loomis for a number of things. One, I loved the commitment to financial aid because this school has financial aid in its DNA and it really cares about it and that was just very obvious right from the get-go – that that was a huge part of what this school does. Two, I was very impressed with the quality of the faculty. The faculty here have a commitment to their fields which I think is really extraordinary. I think it’s very obvious that they take not just teaching, but the life of a mind seriously and I wanted to be a part of a community that cares about academics. The third thing that attracted me is that this is a beautiful place to be! It’s gorgeous, I feel very lucky. Every time I walk my dogs on the meadows it’s like, “wow, isn’t this beautiful?”


Do you like the dining hall food?

So then you went right to the jugular – do I like dining hall food? And the answer is of course I like the dining hall food! I think they work very hard and are committed to their job. I really enjoy the chicken tenders and I think they do soups very well (curry soup in particular).


What is your favorite Loomis tradition?

I really enjoy rubbing the noses. I think that’s very unique to our school. It is always fun seeing students partake in that on their way to classes and seeing all of the shiny noses! I am hoping the community will start doing that to the pelican. I think it would be really cool if it had a really nice, shiny beak.


Where do you see Loomis in the next 5-10 years?

I think that we are a tremendous school and have been really fortunate in attracting strong students. For me at least, when I think back to what the founders were trying to do when they designed this school – it is an amazing thing that comes out of tragedy – that the founders lost their children and yet decided to set up this school. They really pour their whole hearts and fortune into this school and so it is a very precious resource. When you admit students you want to be sure they’re going to be taking advantage of the education here and then with hopes, that the student contributes back to the school. The best school is a two way process – students make us better and we hope to make students better. I hope that over the next 5 to 10 years that we continue to be able to attract those kinds of students. We’ve been very lucky, we’ve seen tremendous increases in applications to the school. I’d hate to see our school lose the culture we have here. We have very rigorous academics, but we are also a community that cares deeply about one another.


Favorite spot on campus?

I think it would have to be the chapel. It is the place where seniors have their class meetings and It is a very peaceful and calm space. What’s especially beautiful is the windows. The original glass and special waves that you look through during the different seasons have a very beautiful effect. It’s a lovely space, especially during concerts where you can sit to and listen to music while staring at the glass.


What’s your favorite show to binge watch?

We are living in the golden age of television! I loved watching The Sopranos. I loved Breaking Bad. I loved Game of Thrones, and I’m currently watching the Man in the High Castle.


What is your favorite item from the SNUG?

I don’t buy anything at the SNUG. I’ve never had anything – but I love the bookstore.


Choose five people from history or present day you’d like to invite to a small dinner party:

I would invite: Tina Fey, Dorris Kerns Goodwin (she wrote on LBJ and baseball and tells fantastic stories), Kate Atkinson because she is currently my go-to author (she wrote Life After Life) , Jane Austin because I love her wicked sense of humor and great attention to detail about people, and Abigail Adams because she was feisty and was very involved in the founding of this country. I also love her strong opinions. I think it would be a good mix of fun conversation!


What class do you teach and why is that the one class you chose to teach?

I’m a civil war nut! The course I teach is centered on the American Civil War, as I believe much of what happens today comes from the Civil War. Issues regarding race, state’s rights, the government, and I feel that the history is very interesting. If history was about good people doing good things or bad people doing bad things, it would not be nearly as interesting as good people doing bad things or bad people doing good things. I think that’s essentially what you have with the Civil War. It is so fascinating and the issues are really complicated and fun to discuss. I also that teaching a class gives me the opportunity to interact directly with students.