Thank You, Bill

As colleagues and friends, former students and parents, reflect on Bill Wharton’s time at Commonwealth, the overwhelming theme is gratitude. (Well, gratitude and Latin.) We invite you to revisit his storied tenure through the eyes of these community members here, as we share their memories and well wishes. And we hope you leave a tribute of your own.
When Bill Wharton came to Commonwealth, I was suddenly not alone but rather a member of a real Classics Department of two. That fact became a metaphor in my mind for Bill’s quietly expanding presence at school. With him among us, the school seemed larger, like him growing in skill and strength. Judith Keenan spotted his gifts and gave him steadily increasing responsibility until, when she retired, no other candidate for Head of School stood a chance. Bill has guided and strengthened the school for twenty years—a remarkable tenure in these stressful times—amazingly unflappable, consistently hopeful. Because of his leadership, Commonwealth, now sixty-three years old, has a firm and admirable place among private schools. Thank you, dear Bill, for coming and staying—for making what CM called his “funny little school” into a strong institution with wide-open arms.

Polly Chatfield P '71, '79, Former Teacher


Judith Keenan, Head of School from 1990–2000, and Bill

When a young Bill Wharton came to Commonwealth in 1985 to teach Latin and Ancient History, he was so earnest and courteous in manner and conservative in appearance that a few wise-guy students referred to him ironically (and affectionately) as “Wild Bill.” Soon he was having fun with the easy assumptions about his straight-arrow persona. The peanut butter and jelly sandwiches he ate happily for lunch every day of elementary and high school figured in a number of his recess announcements. Over the years, as Bill added various other responsibilities to his teaching, he proved to be a terrific administrator: organized, clear, efficient, and respectful of others’ perspectives. He kept up with the relentless daily stuff without losing his focus on larger goals. When Bill was Headmaster and I was Director of Student Life, we worked closely together on some tough situations. We had to balance the needs of individual students, the student body as a whole, and the faculty. Bill’s steady temperament and scrupulous fairness proved invaluable in weighing these distinct concerns. The respectful consideration that marked him from his arrival is not just a manner; it is an essential quality. Bill brought both practicality and vision to the job of Headmaster. His wide-ranging intellectual curiosity has informed his teaching, his talks to the whole school, and his recruitment of an astonishing array of speakers for assemblies—like Bishop Desmond Tutu and Samantha Power. He has been deeply mindful of the spirit of the school Charles Merrill created, and, I think, understood himself to be privileged to protect and nurture that spirit.

Kate Bluestein P‘90, Former Teacher of English

I have always appreciated Bill’s warmth, caring and kindness. It made me feel so welcome every time I saw him—even years later—and he remembered me and said a warm hello and asked after me with genuine care.
Sarah Kolitz ’97
Teaching exclusively on Zoom for months, I came to miss all the “little” things I took for granted about the school day, pre-pandemic. But one of the things I miss most? Popping into Bill’s office to say good morning. Our chats ranged from a quick hello to a consultation about school business to sharing what was going well—and sometimes not so well—with our loved ones. In each conversation, I felt heard, and I also knew to listen. My favorite piece of advice from Bill, offered when, as a new teacher, I asked him how I should respond to a slightly shrill email from (understandably) worried parents, is this: “Answer the email they should have written”—meaning, cut them some slack, give them the benefit of the doubt, be generous. This excellent counsel (which, it turns out, had been offered to Bill as a young teacher) has helped me navigate many delicate situations, and not just of the email variety. Bill’s advice crystallizes for me some of the things I appreciate most about him: he is not mindlessly reactive but mindfully intentional, and he prefers to think the best of people. Given my sometimes snarky East Coast temperament, it might be tempting to chalk this up to “a midwestern thing,” but I feel sure that it also stems, at least in part, from something else Bill has passed on to me: a daily meditation practice. He has been meditating every day since he was a teenager. He reads not just The Economist but also the Bhagavad Gita. And for me, he has come to embody equanimity—calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in difficult situations, of which there are indeed many, when you are a head of school. So, Bill, thank you. Thank you for tending to our bustling, maddening, lovable little community with such thoughtfulness, humility, and patience, and for passing forward advice and habits that will sustain me, and many others, as we carry on where you leave off. I wish you a richly satisfying and well-earned retirement surrounded by those you love.
Mara Dale, Dean of Faculty Hiring and Support, English and Humanities Teacher
I have spent my adult life in Chicago, and Bill grew up in the area. Most times when he would visit his Chicago-area family members, he would invariably check in with me over breakfast, lunch, or coffee. It was a way for me to stay connected with the happenings and evolution of Commonwealth. I will miss his updates, warmth, and enthusiasm.
G. A. Finch ’73

Three former Heads of School with Bill; (left to right) Charles Chatfield, Judith Keenan, and Charles E. Merrill, Jr.

When I was a junior at Commonwealth, I had the unexpected privilege of being the only student in AP Vergil. The logical solution to this scheduling “problem” was a tutorial in Mr. Wharton’s office. Three times a week, I sat on the plush antique couch, reading epic poetry and sipping tea. There was an ornate fireplace in front of me, a fresco above my head, and a stained-glass window behind the massive desk to my left. (This episode has done nothing to disabuse post-Commonwealth friends of the conviction that I went to Hogwarts. Connoisseurs of contemporary fantasy will doubtless agree that Commonwealth is actually far more like Brakebills. But I digress.) In between unpacking chiasmas, golden lines, and ablative absolutes, Mr. Wharton told stories about his own academic career. He also had an impressive knack for deploying Vergil outside of class. At Skate into Vacation that winter, he grinned at me and exclaimed “Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit!” (Perhaps someday, it will cheer us to remember even these things; Aeneid I:203) before we wobbled out onto the ice. I can’t quite believe that happened more than fifteen years ago—that, in fact, I’m twice the age I was then, and Mr. Wharton is retiring after being at Commonwealth for slightly longer than I’ve been alive. I wasn’t ready for it, but someday has come. And, indeed, meminisse iuvat.
Joanna Rifkin ’05
Bill and I decided to make an effort to get to know Charles Merrill better and make him feel more a part of the school. We landed on going out to lunch with him about once a month, always to the same dark basement Italian restaurant about a block from the school. Charles always insisted on paying, using a credit card for which, he said, he never received a bill. Bill in his usual personable, approachable way disarmed Charles. They would exchange war stories, though I was aware that Bill chose stories that were more amusing than substantive. Charles did not offer advice, though he was wont to say, “It is better to be feared than loved.” We all chuckled at that. The meals were lighthearted, but I could see after a while that Charles became subtly impressed with Bill’s effectiveness and deferred to his leadership of the school.
Patricia Sharaf P'97, Director of Development 1997-2006

As a mom of a ninth grader, Matthew Rich, around 1990, I was worried sick about my son's lack of interest and skill in reading. He landed in your Ancient History course and started reading the Odyssey and that completely turned him around, an astounding awakening! Thank you and all good wishes to you.

Ellen Rich P'94

I can never adequately express my gratitude to you in particular, but also to all the other amazing educators under your tenure at Commonwealth, including Farhad Riahi.

My son, Duncan, went from a kid who was told he should “stay away from math because he had no aptitude for it” to someone who leads a team of 25 engineers, putting satellites into space to study a multitude of problems, including climate change, population movements, deforestation, as well as to provide intelligence for large disaster operations.

Duncan will be also be awarded his Ph.D. in Aero/Astro Engineering from Stanford this April Fool’s Day—4 days before his 30th birthday.

What an amazing launch pad you created at Commonwealth!

Anne Eddy P'09

A few years ago, Bill was given four tickets to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. The game in question happened to be scheduled on a Wednesday in the early evening after the Board had gathered for one of our meetings. 

Bill had invited three of us trustees ahead of time to accompany him to the game; I was fortunate to be one of these invitees, and the only woman. 

After a brief glass of wine and a bite of cheese and crackers in Bill’s office, the four of us set off for Fenway Park, walking down Commonwealth Avenue. This was going to be my very first visit ever to Fenway Park after more than forty years living in the Boston area!

We got there, found our seats, and soon enough, the game began. I watched with enthusiasm, although short on knowledge of all the maneuverings. I ate the obligatory hot dog and drank a small glass of beer, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. And then it started to rain: a sprinkling, at first, which soon turned into a New England downpour. The players valiantly attempted to continue, but before long the game was called. 

The announcement was made that the game would continue in an undetermined amount of time after the rain subsided. The two other trustees decided to stick it out--and as it turned out had a wait of almost three hours! Bill and I decided we would leave, not knowing how long the interlude would be. 

It was impossible to find a taxi but Bill suddenly saw a rickshaw powered by a young man on a bicycle, which he successfully hailed. We climbed in, the rain drenching us in spite of the little canopy, and laughed about this adventure while simultaneously worrying about what an ordeal this was for our young "driver."  We proceeded to have a hilarious ride back to Commonwealth, where Bill's car was parked, and then he was kind enough to give me a ride back to where I was staying. 

I fondly remember this day when I discovered that Bill, whom I had known for many years in his serious role as an academic and as headmaster, had a gleeful love for baseball. That remains my first and only baseball game and I’m happy it was with Bill Wharton and two fellow Commonwealth trustees.

Mary Paci P'77 '83
Thank you for your commitment to the school and for your caring for all the students. Charles Merrill and you were a wonderful team and I feel privileged to have known you in my high school years!
Maxine L. Franklin Charlton ‘63
Commonwealth School has thrived under your stewardship and has maintained its legacy of rigorous scholarship and excellence. I wish all the best for the next phase of your life.
Bernat Rosner, Member of Merrill family
By the time Bill became the head of Commonwealth, he had acquired firsthand an understanding of all the wheels and cogs that make the entire institution run by taking on just about all the major jobs in the school. Beginning as a first-rate teacher of Ancient History and Latin, he went on to become an adept director of admissions as well as college placement. He was never an administrator who set down policy from on high that wasn’t informed by the actual experience of teachers—he was a general who knew what was going on in the trenches. He had a good mind for financial complexities that were far beyond my grasp. But one of the things I admired most about him was that even when he had matters of great magnitude on his mind, he would roll up his sleeves and deal with whatever ornery small problems of daily life came his way. I have seen him more than once heading upstairs from his office, plunger in hand, to fix the temperamental plumbing. He approached such jobs always with resourceful practicality and unfailing good humor. This was his attitude as well to helping a colleague in need. One of my fondest memories of Bill extends back about a couple of decades when I I was driving up to Hancock in our old car with my young son Sam strapped into his carseat in the back. We had driven about half an hour on Route 2 when the car slowed down and soon, even if I floored it, wouldn’t go faster than fifteen miles an hour. Shaken, wondering if I could get back home, I turned around and, cars whizzing past me, inched my way in the breakdown lane, my son heartbroken because he thought he would never get to Hancock. When I got home and phoned the Merrill farm to apologize for not making it to Hancock, I was relieved to hear Bill’s voice on the other end. The first day at Hancock is taxing, and I was sure that he was extraordinarily busy dealing with last-minute emergencies. But without a moment’s hesitation he promised to get in his car right away and drive all the way back to Boston and bring us to Hancock—which he did. I have been grateful to Bill many times for this kind of generous reflex to lend a hand and make things right—and to do that as if it was no big deal. I feel lucky to have been his colleague and friend for over 35 years.
Judith Siporin, Former Teacher of English and Art History
It is easy enough to picture the official Bill Wharton, behind a stack of paperwork on his desk or fielding announcements at recess. That's who he was most of the time: Man Working. But it's more fun to recall the less predictable moments: Bill playing himself in a Hancock sketch or making his famous "Skate into Vacation" gesture to launch the Winter Break. Best of all, though, was that balmy afternoon at Camp Winona when Bill, poised on water skis, showed off his form to an awed school, then took the helm for those students brave enough to follow. That was a Head of School.
Brent Whelan P’01, P’03, P’07, Former Teacher of English
Commonwealth was the best learning environment I have ever experienced (I have since studied at MIT, Stanford, and Carnegie Mellon), and I think that Mr. Wharton's leadership made this possible. He encouraged every student to reach their full potential by setting an example for faculty and staff in how to show confidence in every person and insisting on a high standard of academic rigor for the entire school. Mr. Wharton wanted every student, teacher, and staff member to be respected and embraced, and he made this happen by modeling such behavior every day. I look to Mr. Wharton as an example for the kind of leader I want to be.
Irene Kaplow ’06
As Hancock Czar for many years, I always appreciated Bill’s willingness to lead an activity during the weekends. But it was only after several years that I came more fully to appreciate Bill’s favorite, popular, annual activity: building an Adirondack chair. Kids who perhaps may not have been drawn to a more “intellectual” activity, like reading Othello or playing Chinese board games, jumped at the chance to build something with their bare hands and to wield carpenters’ tools. The activity also gave them a shot at working closely with the Head, interacting with him on another level. It was, in fact, a democratic process, or perhaps, more to Bill’s liking, a Socratic dialog in wood. After several years of these carpentry sessions—once the chairs were completed, painted, and assembled in a line along the edge of Moose Pond—I began to see this annual endeavor more broadly, as a metaphor. Bill was leaving his benevolent mark on Camp Winona, and on the school—one that we could all see and share. Bill brought about myriad enduring, loved improvements at Commonwealth, for all to enjoy. The hours of reading, chatting, knitting, and listening to the loons in his chairs along the lake, while waiting for the dinner bell: Bill can rightly take credit for all that that represents.
Bob Vollrath, Former Teacher of French

Thank you, Bill! After a tumultuous middle school application experience, you invited Muhammad into Commonwealth with open arms. We found you to be kind, supportive, calm, reassuring, and encouraging. Muhammad has flourished in his time at Commonwealth. Thank you for your support, kindness, and dedication. We wish you the best in your next journey.

Family of Muhammad Abdur-Rahman '22

Bill has been a superb Headmaster of Commonwealth and has helped to prepare almost four decades of Commonwealth students for our ever-changing country and society. He has been an inspiration, and we are so happy that our son attended the school under his caring and watchful eye. We are very grateful for his dedication and amazing work. We hope that now he has more time for his family and new grandchild and the ability to enjoy at least a little bit of free time!
Hilary Bacon Gabrieli P’20
In his first year at Commonwealth, Bill was given the task of teaching our ninth-grade course in Ancient History. He was well equipped for this interesting job and went at it with an energy that impressed us all. What pleasure he took in bringing to life those long-ago times! Students noticed, and liked, the way the resonance of his voice sought to wake up their minds. He leaned forward, he gripped his book (they said) so tightly it seemed as if he could rip it in half. Would it seem, then, surprising that Bill began to assign his ninth graders sixty pages or so of Homer's Odyssey to read every night? But then, of course, it was not a surprise that our kids found such greatness could just be too much to ask for, crammed in with the everyday doings and needs of school. They began to complain. Teachers got phone calls. Could it be that something was going wrong? At Parents Night that fall, long lines of them were seen waiting to talk to Bill. My son John had been in that class, in that first year. He's been a teacher himself for some years now in a grade school in North Carolina, looking back sometimes to his Commonwealth days––and as he and I got to talking about those old times, he recalled Bill's Ancient History class. Things he'd admired for years. Bill's scholarship. With what force he spoke. How his voice used to resonate an unstoppable call to leave smallness behind. John lit up, as he spoke. "That ninth-grade course?" he said. "I'm telling you, that's the best-taught class in a high school I've ever known!"

Eric Davis P’89, P’90, P’08

As an alumna and trustee, I have known Bill for many years and have always cherished our friendship. I am particularly grateful for his understanding and sympathy during my father's final years. My family and I will never forget his moving tribute at my father's memorial service. CEM called Bill “the best administrator the school ever had.” Thank you, Bill. I wish you the very best with your next adventure.
Amy Merrill ’64, Trustee
I have found Bill to be a nice human being, responsive and always approachable. Wishing him the very best in his next endeavor.
Roy DeBerry ‘66
Bill Wharton arrived at Commonwealth when our class (’87) already felt like we had figured the place out. He faced a lot of very smart and confident students in our Latin class. At first it seemed like we would eat him alive. But he worked and worked. Not only to teach us, but to connect with us. He became someone to trust and turn to. His humility and passion for the subject—and for his new school—won over our cynical hearts. He quickly became a part of the firmament of this amazing school and deepened those contributions over many years long after our class left. We will forever be grateful for his teaching, for his wisdom, for his kindness, and for his leadership.
Jeremy Creelan ’87
Both our sons went to Commonwealth and always had the greatest respect for their Headmaster. They saw him as an intelligent, fair, thoughtful, forward-looking leader and teacher. These are exceptional opinions of an adult by two adolescents. What really put it over the top for our younger son was seeing Mr. Wharton waterskiing on a warm spring Hancock weekend. He gave the slack-jawed students on the shore a small smile and wave of his hand as he zoomed by, ultimately cool. Many years later, that story is still recounted when our son and his classmates get together. Mr. Wharton has left a multifaceted, warm, well-respected mark on our sons—and us. Thank you, Bill.
Mary Hennings P’03, P’09 

Danaë Wharton and Bill

The first day back to school after the summer during the pandemic, seeing Bill standing in front of the school was a psychological relief. He always has his students in mind, and their interests are his top priority. We are honored to enjoy his leadership during the last two years of his career at Commonwealth. Bill, may you enjoy your retirement. We wish you a long and healthy life!
Meijun Xu P’23
I have no idea if Mr. Wharton would remember my dismissal of ethics as a pointless exercise, back in 2003. Well, it's been a while, and a lot has changed, and I'm currently working on a Ph.D. and an M.Div. looking at military ethics, chaplaincy, and the future of warfare. I guess he had more of an impact on my career than either of us might have expected back then! One of the best conversations we had, before I went off to college, involved a discussion of “On Bullshit,” and the difference between influencing what someone believes and influencing what they do (as someone who went on to research military deception, that was an important lesson). It was the first time I felt like a real intellectual peer with an adult; he engaged with me on an issue I was fascinated with—the truth and when it matters—and he talked with me, not down to me. When I encountered Joel Shapiro (Class of 1960-something) as my professor in my master’s program, I could honestly tell him that Commonwealth was the best education I'd had so far. No Bullshit.
Jenny Oberholtzer ’07
It helps to be lucky: handsome, commanding height, great voice, and most of all a really smart wife. It helps to be prepared: philosophy, history, political instincts. It helps to be really good at the job: for the most part, it is an impossible position—no one is school head for anywhere near this long. Be gentle with the replacement.
Dane Morgan P’82, P’88, Former Teacher of Science and Math

It was Vergil who led Dante through the Inferno; Mr. Wharton led me through Vergil. That Latin IV class may have been my favorite at Commonwealth. Mr. Wharton's drawing our attention to Vergil's attention to sound (as when he slowed down the scene by ending the line with the rare double spondee "circumspexit"  to signal Sinon's sly looking around at the Trojans to see if he'd tricked them) and his palpable love of the text brought it to life for this Latin student; he let that text be mine, for all of my shaky command of grammar. Timeo Daneos et Dona Ferentes, but the gifts Mr. Wharton gave are with me still nearly thirty years later. Maybe when we round those thirty years I will in my head start calling him Bill rather than Mr. Wharton... but in the meantime, Mr. Wharton: thank you for hiring me for the best job I can imagine; for years of conversations, book recommendations, and for so many excellent assemblies, and for Vergil.

Melissa Glenn Haber '87, P'15, P'19, History Teacher


Dear Bill, your personality was a big part of the 'essence' of Commonwealth School! So glad you were Headmaster when Asha and Alok were there. We will always remember you fondly, as will so many of your graduates I'm sure. Wishing you peace, good health and happiness in the years ahead. Thank you for everything.

Jyoti Ramakrishna P'19, P'20


From On Writing Well, to speaking truth to power, to living with intention, I'm lucky to count myself among your many grateful students and colleagues. I hope you enjoy more free time and have every happiness on your new adventure.

Sophia S. Meas, Director of College Counseling

As new members to the Commonwealth family, we just want to express our appreciation for the community we have been welcomed into. We love the school’s challenging course work. Students challenge themselves and learn. Thank you, Mr. Wharton, for building up the school and its culture!
Chris Yau P’23
I began at Commonwealth in 2001, in Bill’s second year as Head. We were the first class to know him not as “the new Head,” but simply “the Head.” Like the U.S. Presidency, the office combines two orthogonal roles: Chief Executive, and Head of State. Any fool can see that Bill has been an exceptional Chief Executive—that he has expertly managed the school’s finances, personnel, and strategic vision. But to recognize his achievements as Head of State—as the symbolic and inspirational leader of a bizarre institution full of what Eric Davis once called “voluble, ungovernable young people”—well, that takes a special fool. I nominate myself. In 2002, I launched an oddly persistent email newsletter called “Quote of the Week,” featuring amusing quotes from the school’s biggest personalities. By senior year, the weekly emails had an unlikely star, with a league-leading fifteen nominated quotes: Mr. William Wharton. These quotes paint a vivid (if oddly framed) portrait of the man. Some reveal a self-effacing, self-aware scholar. “I’m a classicist, so I’m not good at anything,” he told a class of seniors who had asked about the origins of his Reading in Ethics course. “And what do you do then? You do philosophy.” In others, he wields the power of his office with a delicate and cutting precision. “I hate to scold you for doing stupid things,” he addressed the student body in March 2004, “but there seems to be an epidemic.” Other times, he tosses off analogies whose profundities I still struggle to grasp. “Baseball is like Catholicism,” he remarked in December 2004. “It’s a spectacle, and everyone is watching.” In some quotes, he wields philosophy in the name of justice. “We have a long tradition in society of dividing life into public and private spheres,” he said once, in response to sophomore couples’ openly pawing one another in the hallways. “There’s a wonderful invention called a door.” You can even catch a glimpse of his strategic gears in motion. “What will happen,” he explained, when the school accidentally admitted an oversized class of forty-four students, “will be this large class moving through the school, the way I see it, like a rat moves through a snake.” It’s not just that Mr. Wharton is funny (though he is). It’s that he inhabited his role with a rare combination of analytic detachment and genuine commitment. He knew what to take seriously (the job, the responsibilities, the school’s future) and what not to (himself). It’s a synthesis I can only call “Obama-esque.” In a graduation speech, my friend Donna described how she had wrestled with what the school meant to her. Its privileges, its excellence, its elitism, its liberalism, its exclusiveness, its complacency, its striving—vices and virtues, all tangled together. I knew the school made an easy home for a Winchester kid like me. Could it also be home for a Dorchester kid like her? She described a conversation in Mr. Wharton’s office, laying out her concerns. Would this authority figure listen to her? Dismiss her? Take it all as a personal attack? “Donna,” he said, “speak truth to power.” More than any other, that’s the Wharton quote that sticks with me. The world has many powerful offices, many stained-glass windows, much antique furniture. I wish the people in all those offices held their privileges as lightly, and their duties as closely, as Bill Wharton does. I wish they all said what comes so naturally to a philosopher like Bill Wharton: Speak truth to me. Maybe philosophy has something to do with goodness after all.
Ben Orlin ’05
I remember the first time I walked into Bill Wharton’s office. I was a young(ish), newly single mother looking for a job, and he had an opening in the development office. I don’t remember what he asked me, but I know we discovered that his wife, Danae, and I had gone to the same high school; that we were both classicists (well, I had taken eight years of Latin; Bill is a true classicist); and that our daughters, Rhea and Sappho, both had ancient Greek names. The important thing is that Bill hired me and changed my life forever. I found a school that was my home for fifteen years, and Bill was a big part of why. He was there when I needed him and always grateful for the work I did with alumni/ae, the Board, and parents. He trusted me with the fiftieth anniversary of the school and let me put on an art show, produce a film, and host a party for 750 people when, if left in his hands, he might have just handed out York Peppermint Patties from the cupboard in his office and called it a day. He gave me more advice than I can remember, but one thing has stuck with me; something he would tell me when I was stressed about work and my daughter was home sick or performing in a mid-day recital I wanted to attend. He said that at the end of my life, I wouldn’t look back and think about a meeting or an email—I would remember my time with her. It’s the type of advice I try to give my staff now, especially during the pandemic. I do know that I will also remember my time at Commonwealth School and what a lovely friend and boss Bill Wharton was to me. Thank you.
Janetta Stringfellow, Former Director of Development
For almost as long as I can remember, Bill has inhabited the body of the school. When I think of Commonwealth, I think of Bill. They are inseparable. He has been our soul—or at least an essential part of it. For all these years, the school has not just continued; it has thrived. That is a remarkable fact. It is a fact we must celebrate as we celebrate Bill's long presence here. It is a fact that he has enabled. We cannot thank him enough—except by getting better and better, and in new ways. To Bill we say ave atque vale.
Charles Fried P'79, '81, GP'19, '23, Trustee
Bill's inner compass points to goodwill. He approaches the smallest problem to the thorniest crisis with civility, thoughtfulness, and honor. He brings a formidable intellect and a wise heart to Commonwealth School every day. In fact, he aims for wisdom both personally and in every decision he makes at school. When he succeeds, he remains quiet and moves on; when he stumbles, he remains steady as he learns. He has earned the respect of countless students, faculty, and families and the admiration of school leaders across the country. I am profoundly grateful for having worked with him. Happy (and lucky) next chapter, Bill!
Jaquelin Harris, Tutor in English
Bill was an amazing Headmaster who provided guidance and support throughout my years at Commonwealth. I still remember when I joined sophomore year and wanted to launch the Commonwealth Chronicle—how I didn't know what I was doing but asked for a leap of faith (and funding) from the school for the first issue, how I needed to revise my way of approaching students and faculty for help (Bill's advice to not show as many “barbs” has helped me to this day), and how he tolerated my very strong opinions entrenched in the conviction typical of a teenager. I'm forever grateful for his patience and willingness to work with me, and I truly appreciate all of the hard work, dedication, and care that Bill has put into this school for decades.
He created a focused academic environment that also provided freedom and flexibility for kids to explore extracurricular interests. What stands out to me the most though, outside of supporting my personal development, was that Bill led ethics classes, one for freshmen and one for seniors. When I first joined, I found it a nuisance more than anything, albeit with some interesting readings. But looking back, they were probably the most important classes to take. They were not aimed to help in college admissions or to embellish our resumes, but only to help frame our way of thinking as young adults. As alums move on from Commonwealth and start developing our careers, it only becomes more important to remember why we're doing something and the potential conflicting moral implications of our actions. Those classes had us exercise a level of self-reflection that's been incredibly helpful in many aspects outside of school. For everything you taught us, thanks Bill!
Amanda Dai ’15
It speaks volumes to a person’s open-mindedness and acceptance to allow for a student coming from Italy to attend Commonwealth for one year, and then surprise them with their very own graduation from the school. I will always be thankful to Mr. Wharton for believing in me as a student and as a member of the very special community of Commonwealth School. Mr. Wharton, I wish you the very best in your next chapter of life!
Ludovica Ferme ‘06
The formation I received at Commonwealth was crucial to my academic success in college and graduate school—well, I am only in the second year of my Ph.D. program, but so far, so good. The journey that began with discussions in Mr. Wharton's Readings in Ethics class has helped me maintain a steady awareness of the need for epistemological and ontological grounding of the theories we apply, both in our scholarly as well as our personal moral-ethical existences. It is crucial to be able to step back and examine why we believe what we believe, so that we can with certitude work towards the truth and apply it as best we can. This takeaway is worth its proverbial weight in gold, I believe, and I am thankful for the opportunity to have started thinking about such questions under Mr. Wharton's tutelage. I spent only my senior year at Commonwealth, but that one year alone was crucial for getting me started on the path to where I am today. It made me a better scholar, and, much more importantly, a more thoughtful person. For this, Mr. Wharton has my deepest gratitude.
Max Kuhelj Bugaric ‘15