Joy Hurd didn’t just teach when he taught Greek and Latin at St. Peter’s High School in New York City—and then Latin, English, and ancient history at St. Bernard’s School in Manhattan, New York.
The current head of school at Lake Forest Country Day School (LFCDS) also kept the number of his students’ neck strains at zero.
“The last thing I wanted, as a teacher, was a student of mine looking up, way up, to me as if I were on some kind of pedestal,” says the 36-year-old Hurd, LFCDS’s head of school since July 2018.
Hurd’s approach to teaching mirrored that of one of his major influences, the late Greg “Doc” Knittel, who was Hurd’s Latin II and Ancient Greece teacher at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland.
“He never took himself seriously, and even though he was an erudite man, he wore his erudition lightly,” says Hurd, who grew up in Fairview Park, Ohio. “I always admired that about him. He made the world of classics, with its esoteric language, fun and worthy of study. ‘Doc’ made me see Latin as a gateway to more learning.”
The word “pandemic” comes from the Greek “pan” (meaning “all”) and “demos” (meaning people or population). The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020—about a month after Joy and his wife, Emily, became firsttime parents with the birth of daughter Eleanor—forced Hurd to devour literature that Knittel had never assigned.
“I had to become an avid consumer of pandemic-related articles and guidelines to addressing it as an educator when the world turned upside down,” Hurd recalls. “Nothing had prepared me for such a task. But I’m a task-driven person, and I welcomed the challenge.
“All along, during last spring’s commitment to remote learning and as we prepared to reopen the school for in-person learning last summer, our mission was front and center.”
The school’s mission statement: “Inspired teaching, academic rigor, attention to individual needs, a commitment to responsible citizenship—these principles infuse every aspect of life at Lake Forest Country Day School and define our dedication to producing students of strong character with a passion for learning.”
Approximately 400 students (co-educational, independent pre-kindergarten through eighth grade), from more than 35 communities throughout the North Shore and beyond, attend LFCDS, which opened its doors for the first time in 1888.
Only 25 students, at the time of this interview in mid-April, had opted to continue learning remotely.
“We’re hoping, by the start of the 2021-2022 school year, the pandemic will have lightened to a point where we’ll be able to return safely to our pre-pandemic model,” Hurd says. “Throughout the pandemic we learned—everybody, not just those at our school—that we’re more resilient that we’d imagined. We’re proud of the success we had in 2020- 2021; we forged ahead. And our faculty and staff plan to build on that success and strengthen relationships with our students.
“Building relationships with students,” he adds, “is the key to the foundation of an educational setting.”
Joy Seth Hurd IV earned his A.B. (atrium baccalaureus) in the Classics at Harvard College and his master’s degree in private school leadership from Teachers College at Columbia University. Following teaching stints at St. Peter’s and St. Bernard’s, he served at Riverdale Country School in New York as a Latin teacher and as assistant director of Middle and Upper School Admissions.
Hurd was the director of Upper School (grades 7-9) at The Buckley School in New York City from 2014-2018.
“I’ve grown in a lot of ways as a leader at Lake Forest Country Day School, one being the best way to handle a challenge—calmly,” Hurd says. “It’s much easier to solve problems when you’re calm. Worrying won’t get you anywhere. I’ve enjoyed the growth; it’s been a good professional evolution.”
An easy, seemingly safe question to ask a leader, in any field, is, “What’s your vision?” Hurd has had to field that query countless times in his professional career.
“People always want to know that,” he says.
“Yes, one’s vision is certainly important, but it’s not if that person is surrounded by committed, passionate colleagues. My answer to that question, every time, is, ‘The vision needsto be a shared one.’”
A football field, give or take the distance of a first down, separates Hurd’s Lake Forest house and his head-of-school chair on campus. The man likes to walk to work, but running is his favorite type of exercise; shortly after moving from Manhattan to Lake Forest three years ago, he doubled—to two—the number of his career marathons after surviving Chicago’s 26.2-mile course.
“I totally disconnect when I run in my free time,” Hurd says. “No music. No podcasts. I come up with a lot of ideas. I problem-solve. Running gives me my most valuable thinking time. After a run I usually rush to a pad of paper at home and write down the ideas.”
Next to that pad? A book, probably. Hurd consumes more books than competitive eater Joey Chestnut inhales hot dogs. He’s reading Annals of the Former World, by John McPhee. The book—the 1999 Pulitzer Prize winner for General Nonfiction—presents a geological history of North America.
Lake Forest Country Day School’s landscape, meanwhile, continues to provide fertile ground for eager students under the attentive guidance of Hurd, the faculty, and the staff.
“All of us want our students to learn and become the best versions of themselves,” Hurd says. “The students entrust us to their care, and we receive tremendous support from our engaged parents and alumni.”
Lake Forest Country Day School, 847-234- 2350, is located at 145 South Green Bay Road, Lake Forest. For more information visit lfcds. org.