On June 30, after nearly forty years of service as a teacher, coach and mentor, Headmaster John Schmick will retire from Gilman School. Known for his humility, the creation of the Gilman Five, and dedication to the school, Schmick has been a keystone of the Gilman community throughout the past few decades.
“Gilman is a key element of my life,” says Schmick, who graduated from the North Baltimore all-boys private school in 1967 and returned to teach after both serving in the National Guard and graduating from the University of Pennsylvania.
During his teaching career, Schmick, whose favorite books include “Hamlet” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” taught English and poetry. He also became known for “Roger the Elf,” a fictitious, yet profound character who would lyrically dismiss the school for winter break with a poem using the names of every student in the senior class. According to Schmick, the highlight of his career has been “having students, initially, learn to appreciate all forms of English literature.”
Throughout his tenure, Schmick has been in many different leadership roles: He has served as dean of students, director of admissions, head of the upper school, and since 2007, headmaster. When asked about the most significant achievement Gilman has made during his time at the school, Schmick highlighted Gilman’s commitment to the “racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity of its student body.” Schmick also noted the “development of a strong program in the fine arts and the performing arts” as another important accomplishment during his time at the school.
The most significant part of Schmick’s legacy, however, is the Gilman Five, a quintet of words (Honor, Integrity, Respect, Humility, Excellence) that symbolizes the values all Gilman students should strive to follow. Created at the beginning of Schmick’s term as headmaster, the Gilman Five, with the aid of signs and posters, are now ubiquitous throughout the campus.
When asked what aspects of Gilman would change in the future, Schmick replied, “I think what you’re going to see is continued advancements in educational technology, more collaboration among students, and more project-based assessments. I also think you’ll see an encouragement of entrepreneurship, where students can bring their ideas to fruition with the help of the faculty.”
Although he will no longer serve as headmaster, Schmick will continue to contribute to the Gilman community. Schmick also had glowing words for Gilman’s next Headmaster, Henry Smyth, lauding Smyth as “absolutely the right man for the position, someone who will take the school far and do a terrific job.”
For Schmick, however, leaving the school as Headmaster is certainly a bittersweet moment. He says, “On leaving Gilman I feel so many emotions. Although I am excited about what the next chapter will be, I am sorry to be leaving this place which has been home to me for so long – 39 years as an employee and 47 years as an employee and student. I shall miss the many friends and colleagues that I leave behind, but most of all I shall miss the wonderful world of the boys in which I have been so graciously included all these years. I really do believe that magic happens at Gilman, and I have been privileged to be a part of it.”
Ethan Park is a Baltimore Fishbowl student intern and a sophomore at Gilman School.
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