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Legacy of Leadership

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Honoring Alan Sparrow

After an extraordinary 28 years at Rowland Hall, “headlearner” Alan Sparrow is putting the finishing touches on his career. As a tribute to Alan, we’ve established the Alan C. Sparrow Scholarship.

Alan arrived at our school in 1992, deeply committed to excellence in education, and he will leave us with a legacy of leadership that has nurtured our community across generations. As learners, educators, families, alumni, and staff, we’re eternally grateful for his service.

Four Key Highlights of Alan’s 28-Year Career

Grown our faculty and staff professional development fund to invest in our teachers.

Increased the school’s financial aid budget, greatly improving diversity at the school.

Prioritized building a diverse and inclusive community where everyone is welcome.

Put Rowland Hall well on the way to uniting back on one campus for the first time since 1984.

Honor Alan With a Gift

The Alan C. Sparrow Scholarship is an endowed fund that will offer the gift of a Rowland Hall education to a deserving student or students, annually. Alan is a great believer in creating a path where there is seemingly no access. This fund will make a Rowland Hall education a reality for students in need.

Give Now

Alan Through the Years

Alan Sparrow as a young boy.
Alan Sparrow as a young boy.
Alan Sparrow in graduation cap and gown in 1968.
Alan Sparrow with a surfboard.
Alan Sparrow in his Brown soccer uniform.
Alan Sparrow headshot.
Alan Sparrow teaching in 1978.
Alan Sparrow in coach mode.
Alan Sparrow hiking.
Alan Sparrow with Roary the lion and young students.
Alan Sparrow playing basketball with young students.
Alan Sparrow eating with young students.
Alan Sparrow with young students.
Alan Sparrow reading to young students.
Alan Sparrow in funny family portrait.
Alan Sparrow hiking.
Alan Sparrow on a boat.

Save the Date

All-Community Celebration Honoring Retiring Head of School Alan Sparrow
6–9 pm Friday, April 24, 2020
McCarthey Campus Field House
Details Coming Soon

Stories About Our Retiring Head of School

Smiling kids wearing sock puppets on hands

On Friday, May 5, Lower School students quietly gathered on the quad, armed with sock puppets they had made, and waited to greet Alan Sparrow. It was a role reversal—he loves to welcome young students with puppets every morning—but one that had been secretly planned for weeks. They waited for Alan to walk out the doors of the lobby, and then they burst into a chorus of "Happy Birthday."

However, the fact that May 5 is Alan's birthday was incidental to the real reason for the celebration. Students, faculty, staff, and Board of Trustees Chair Jennifer Price-Wallin came together to honor Alan's 25 years of service to Rowland Hall, and declare May 5 as Alan Sparrow Day. Photo boards displayed images of Alan throughout his life, marking significant events, as well as evolving fashion trends and hairstyles. In addition to the morning gathering at the Lower School, students on the Lincoln Street Campus celebrated at lunchtime with pizza and live music. Both events included remarks from school leaders about the contributions Alan has made during his tenure as head of school.

Alan was both surprised and moved by the day and said it's the students that give him energy and make the job rewarding. "I don't like to think of it as coming to work every day," he said. "I come to school every day." For Rowland Hall's head learner, that sounds just about right.


Rhoda Sparrow

“And your old granny can sit on a pin!”

This unlikely line from The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, a humorous retelling of the classic fable, spurred a treasured tradition shared by Rowland Hall Head of School Alan Sparrow; his late mother, Rhoda Sparrow; the class of 2013; and most third, fourth, and fifth graders since 2003.

Alan became head of school at Rowland Hall in 1992, and since then has read The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs to nearly every third- through fifth-grade class as a way to get to know students. In the book, the narrator wolf claims innocence—he merely visited the pigs to borrow sugar for his granny’s birthday cake. Toward the end of the story, the third pig rebuffs the wolf and yells the line: “And your old granny can sit on a pin!”

At this point, Alan hams it up (pun intended) with the students. The children laugh at the “pin” line and—fully committed to the wolf character—Alan feigns fury. As the book reads: “Now I’m usually a pretty calm fellow. But when somebody talks about my granny like that, I go a little crazy.” Alan jumps up and down and hoots and hollers at the kids, and they’re in stitches.

Something special happened after Alan read the book to one third-grade class in 2003. After cracking up at the expense of the wolf’s granny, the children wanted to call the head of school’s “granny”—or in this case, Alan's mother—to apologize. So Alan called his mom and explained the story to her. The kids apologized, and Mrs. Sparrow accepted their apology. Scout Swenson ’13, one of the students in that class, remembers joking to Mrs. Sparrow that she and her classmates gave Alan a detention.

From this silly interaction, a heartwarming tradition was born. After nearly every 3 Little Pigs reading that followed the one in 2003, Alan called his mom with the third, fourth, and fifth graders. And Scout and an evolving group of her class of 2013 peers called Mrs. Sparrow every year around the holidays to wish her a merry Christmas and happy birthday—New Year’s Day, for Mrs. Sparrow. Deepening her ties to the class of 2013, Mrs. Sparrow even talked via speakerphone at their fifth-grade, eighth-grade, and twelfth-grade graduations. During the ceremonies, Mrs. Sparrow would always congratulate the class and say how much she appreciated their chats over the years, recalled Scout, now a senior at the University of Southern California majoring in international relations. “It was a great experience for us to bookend our relationship at Rowland Hall,” the young alumna reflected.

Rhoda Sparrow, 101, passed away February 5, 2017, at her home in Bellport, New York. She was a “strong, independent woman,” who lived a full life—she was a devoted wife, loving mother, Harvard-educated biologist, librarian, master gardener, and more, as profiled in her obituary. Though Mrs. Sparrow is gone, she’ll endure in the memories of hundreds of Rowland Hall alumni who experienced her funny, charismatic, and easygoing personality, as described by Scout.

The fact that a jocular, impromptu phone call turned into a 15-year tradition speaks to the uniqueness of Rowland Hall, Scout added. “It’s so special to have an experience like that,” she said. “Things like that are what I think make a community for the students.”

The consistent communication meant a lot to Mrs. Sparrow, too. Last year when she turned 100, then-fourth-grader Alex Yamaguchi and Maxwell Sueoka ’16 illustrated 3 Little Pigs-themed birthday cards signed by hundreds of students. “My mom, who was more and more homebound, really appreciated the contact with the kids,” Alan said. The phone calls also furthered Alan's reputation for being a down-to-earth “head learner”—he liked reading the story and calling his mom to show students he’d joke with them, and that ultimately, school is supposed to be fun.

Since Rhoda Sparrow passed away, Alan Sparrow has received an outpouring of sympathy and support. “I can't tell you how much my kids always enjoyed your mom's phone calls,” one parent wrote. “She meant a lot to me as well as the Rowland Hall community,” a young alumni emailed. And in one card, another parent expressed simple, poignant gratitude: “Thank you for sharing her with our children.”


You Belong at Rowland Hall