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Upper School: Grades 9–12
Welcome to Rowland Hall's independent private high school, where we encourage students to choose their challenges and become their best selves.
I am honored to be a member of Rowland Hall’s administrative team, as well as a parent of two students. You will discover here, as I have, a supportive community that balances academic excellence with whole-child development and a commitment to inclusion, sustainability, and civic engagement.
Rowland Hall’s outstanding faculty engages students in myriad authentic learning experiences every day. There are many opportunities for individual growth, in-depth study, and learning beyond the classroom through our rigorous, college preparatory curriculum, dynamic electives, and extensive co-curricular offerings. I look forward to working with you and your student to chart an engaging course and a challenging process of personal development, enrichment, and achievement. I invite you to join us today.
At this year's fifth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade graduation ceremonies, student speakers shared funny, reflective, and inspiring stories.
Seniors Maddy Frech and Zach Benton (pictured above), as well as Senior Celebration speaker Chiara Kim, expressed their gratitude for the positive ways the Rowland Hall community shaped their lives. Eighth graders Tessa Bartlett, Jojo Park, and Ainsley Moore reflected on the importance of friendship through their middle-school years, and several fifth-grade students thanked their teachers, family, and friends for creating a supportive and engaging learning environment in the Lower School—especially during a pandemic.
We have posted their speeches here for you to enjoy.
Though the pandemic affected their plans for events, summer internships, study abroad opportunities, and athletic competitions, these students still found ways to learn, to connect, and to share joy.
The class of 2021 is a diverse and talented group of young adults. During their time at Rowland Hall, they have grown academically and personally by embracing challenges, pursuing their passions, and committing to productive, responsible, and thoughtful lives. They’ve also shown impressive resilience, particularly during their junior and senior years, which were greatly altered by COVID-19. Though the pandemic affected their plans for events, summer internships, study abroad opportunities, and athletic competitions, these students still found ways to learn, to connect, and to share joy.
Members of this class took opportunities to expand their learning. They explored careers through internships—both in person and virtually—at organizations like Better Days 2020, McNeill Von Maack, the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office, the University of Utah, and Utah Spine Medicine. They attended programs at The School of the New York Times and the National Security Agency, studied abroad in England and Ireland, and immersed themselves in languages and cultures in China and the Dominican Republic. They expanded their studies at the college level, enrolling in courses like numbers theory, 1700s American civilization, and introduction to architecture, and they partnered with Rowland Hall teachers to craft independent study courses when COVID-19 canceled classes. The class of 2021 also includes several students recognized for their academic prowess. The group boasts several top-tier debaters, including six individual state champions, three national qualifiers, two Academic All-Americans, and the captains who led the team to its first overall 3A State title in school history. Multiple young women in this class received Aspirations in Computing awards from the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Another took home first prize in the Federal Bar Association’s 2020 civics essay contest.
This class has no shortage of artists bringing beauty to the world.
This class has no shortage of artists bringing beauty to the world. Its musicians include a winner of the American Protégé International Competition of Romantic Music, a principal violinist for the Utah All-State Orchestra and the Utah Youth Orchestra, and a pianist who earned several superior rankings from the National Federation of Music Clubs. One actor is a member of University of Utah Youth Theatre’s Conservatory, and one dancer attends Ballet West Academy. A promising writer honed her skills at a Brown University creative nonfiction writing program, while others wrote editorials on topics like homelessness reform, the importance of grieving lives lost to coronavirus, and the number of women in leadership, all of which were published in The Salt Lake Tribune.
Winged Lion seniors led our athletics program to top-five finishes in the Deseret News’ 2A All-Sports Awards each year of their Upper School careers. They captured 28 Region and nine State titles as teams, and four individual Region and State championships. Five seniors were named All-State, with one awarded 3A Swimmer of the Year; four earned All-Region honors; and one was selected to play in a postseason All-Star game. Fifteen Academic All-State and 25 Academic All-Region honorees led their teams to top-three GPA rankings among 2A schools over the past four years. All three seniors in Rowmark Ski Academy finished this season with career-best performances, including 10 Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) top-20 and two FIS top-10 finishes. In addition to school sports, this group pursued diverse athletics interests: they participated in rowing, figure skating, and club soccer. One is a national-championship-winning equestrian. Two are ski mountaineers, one of whom competed with the US National Team at the World Championships and Youth Olympic Games, and another who is a member of the Canadian National Ski Mountaineering Team.
This class has left their mark on Rowland Hall: they founded clubs like Mental Health Educators, created safe spaces for peers including the LatinX affinity group and the Queer-Straight Alliance, and helped drive necessary conversations via the student Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee.
This class has left their mark on Rowland Hall: they founded clubs like Mental Health Educators, created safe spaces for peers including the LatinX affinity group and the Queer-Straight Alliance, and helped drive necessary conversations via the student Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee. They’ve devoted countless hours to the larger community, supporting causes like Black Lives Matter and March for Our Lives, and volunteering for organizations including Circles Salt Lake, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Mission Math, the National Charity League, People's Health Clinic, Salt Lake Peer Court, the Sunnyvale Community Center, YouthCity Government, and YWCA Utah.
Many students held down jobs while in school, working as servers, referees, lifeguards, swim instructors, and babysitters; a couple entrepreneurs even started their own companies. And while balancing school, service, and work, these students spent time on passion projects, whether that meant joining the American Regions Mathematics League, examining area histories and geology with the National Outdoor Leadership School, earning a private pilot's license, or giving a TED Talk on microplastics for TEDxParkCity.
The future is bright for the 65 seniors in this graduating class. Our graduates earned admission to 131 different colleges and universities, and 74% of them received at least one merit scholarship to attend college. A few have chosen to take a gap year to work or pursue personal interests. Whatever their next steps, we know these experiences will serve as stepping stones on their journeys to living lives of purpose and impact.
Congratulations to the class of 2021. You have achieved many great things, and we are eager to watch you continue to change the world for the better.
Despite its pandemic-related challenges, 2020–2021 was a banner year for the Rowland Hall debate team, which embraced the sport's virtual format to excel in both individual and team events—including the state tournament, where they won the title of 3A Speech & Debate Champions for the first time in the school’s history.
“It's been a historically challenging year for all schools, but we turned it into a historically successful one,” said coach Mike Shackelford.
Rowland Hall competed virtually in more than 40 local and national events in 2020–2021—more than double the events in a non-pandemic year—including the Utah Debate Coaches Association tournament, the most prestigious local regular-season tournament, in November, where the team won the sweepstakes award for the top school, and the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) state tournament in March, where the team won the championship title.
Debating at the state tournament was a great opportunity to bond as a team after a year of separation, and winning the championship wouldn't have been possible without the dedication from each member.—Emery Bahna, class of 2022
Earning the state trophy is an especially impressive feat for Rowland Hall, a small school that plays up one classification level and has, in previous years, been unable to assemble a large enough team to be in the running for the state title, due to tournament timing, travel, and other event-related challenges. Team size matters at state because while all students compete for individual titles, their performances also count toward a school’s overall score: students who place in the top 25% of an event earn their schools five points (a “Superior” rating), and points descend until the bottom 25%, which earns no points. While Rowland Hall has long won individual championships, its previous rosters of 12 to 15 students meant the team had to take zeros in categories they didn't enter. Thanks to this year’s virtual format, however, which made it easier to participate, they could finally set their sights on the championship.
“The whole team came together to conduct research, participate in practice debates, and share information about our opponents,” said junior Emery Bahna, who, with junior Mahit Dagar, took first place in the UHSAA Public Forum event. “Debating at the state tournament was a great opportunity to bond as a team after a year of separation, and winning the championship wouldn't have been possible without the dedication from each member.”
Mike agreed, noting that he views that dedication as the students’ way to balance a year in which they were unable to enjoy normal aspects of debate, like socials, bus rides, and even being in the same room during final rounds to root for each other. “There was a real commitment to achieve something collectively,” he said.
This they did, together earning a final tournament score of 122 points. Second-place school Providence Hall, the 2020 state champion, finished with 74 points.
“We nearly lapped the field,” said Mike. “The state championship reflected our collective desire and commitment to be a part of something larger than ourselves. Winning state was a product of 25 students rallying for a cause, and each doing their part.”
Below are the top individual championship performances at the UHSAA tournament, which contributed to the state title:
Seniors Sophie Dau and Maddy Frech took first place in Policy, an event in which teams advocate for or against a policy change resolution, for their proposal for criminal justice reform. Three other teams—seniors Auden Bown and Ty Lunde, sophomores Zachary Klein and Micah Sheinberg, and sophomores Ruchi Agarwal and Layla Hijjawi—went undefeated in Policy, giving them a co-championship.
Sophomore Ane Hernandez took first place in the Impromptu Speaking event, which requires debaters to prepare and deliver five-minute speeches on random topics, with only one to two minutes of preparation. Sophomores Anna Hull and Maile Fukushima were also finalists in this event, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.
Junior Samantha Lehman finished in first place in National Extemporaneous Speaking, an event in which debaters are given a domestic affairs question and have 30 minutes to research, write, and deliver seven-minute speeches.
Juniors Emery Bahna and Mahit Dagar took first place in Public Forum, an event that includes short speeches interspersed with three-minute crossfire sections, on the topic of the pros and cons of the Space Force; this dynamic duo also qualified to the national Tournament of Champions and will compete at the National Speech & Debate Tournament in June. Senior Hattie Wall and junior Julia Graham, as well as juniors Ella Houden and Kit Stevens, closed out the top three spots, giving them a co-championship. Juniors Casey Maloy and Lizzie Carlin finished fifth.
Sophomore Maddie Carlin took second place in Student Congress, a competition in which students lead and participate in a simulation where they debate different pieces of national legislation.
Freshman Zac Bahna took third place in Foreign Extemporaneous Speaking, an event in which debaters are given a foreign affairs question and have 30 minutes to research, write, and deliver seven-minute speeches.
Freshman Marina Peng took fifth place in Lincoln-Douglas, a solo debate event in which she spoke on the ethical necessity of universal child care.
Doug Wortham’s reputation preceded him – how could it not?
Even 25 years ago, he was legendary for being the hardest teacher in the Upper School. Before we started, everyone in freshman French had heard the stories from friends or siblings. Even our Middle School French teacher warned us that our lives would become much more...difficile. To say that we were terrified would be an understatement.
Mr. Wortham is that rare teacher who has the highest expectations but is somehow still everyone’s favorite.—Allyson Goldstein Hicks ’02
And most of those stories were true. I worked harder for Doug's classes than for any other teacher or professor since. Indeed, his French program is widely regarded as “one of the most challenging and scholarly" programs available at Rowland Hall, an institution generally renowned for being challenging and scholarly. But what those stories left out was the profound impact that his classes would have on us. In addition to actually learning French, an amazing accomplishment itself, we also learned to think deeply, to engage with difficult topics, to recover from failure, and to live authentically in a challenging and unpredictable world.
For the past 43 years, I imagine that all of Doug’s students (and probably also our parents and caregivers) have wondered how he motivated us to work so hard...and actually like it. My classmate Allyson Goldstein Hicks ’02 commented, “Mr. Wortham is that rare teacher who has the highest expectations but is somehow still everyone’s favorite.”
As an educator now myself, I have also often considered how he managed that feat, and writing this story provided me an opportunity to reflect on my experiences. I also polled my fellow class of 2002 alumni, and together, we pieced together some answers.
First, Doug always treated us with adult-like respect and expected the same in return. “Wortham always treated us not only like students, but also mini-adults, which we hardly were,” wrote Maribeth LeHoux ’02. He took the time to get to know each of us, respected our confidences, and earned our trust and respect in return. “Mr. Wortham had a unique way of seeing the teenage version of yourself, meeting you at that place, and subtly supporting each student to become the best version of themselves,” commented Nicole Pershing ’02. He trusted us with personal stories about his life experiences in the gay community, or that we would not get into trouble when given adult privileges travelling abroad. This was a rare experience for many of us, and it made a lasting impression.
In addition, Doug taught us to be prepared for anything—indeed, it was a requisite survival skill for his classes. Whatever we did, the instructions were clear, and we were evaluated fairly. But the day's activity could range from writing a philosophical essay or conjugating verbs until you could no longer hold a pencil, to translating song lyrics, reading a story aloud, or discussing death and religion. Perhaps the most unpredictable activity of all was compétition. In this activity, we had to literally run our answers to the front of the room. Because the first correct answer received the most points, nobody hesitated to throw elbows or even swan-dive across Doug’s desk with their submissions. (Nobody was seriously injured, but I am sure minor bruises were common). “I was always slightly terrified to go to class,” said Maribeth. “It was challenging in a way nothing else was. Even if you studied, how could you ever be prepared?”
Doug also set the bar high and had faith that we would rise to the challenge. I continued French in college, and none of the classes that I took at MIT or Harvard rivaled Doug’s in terms of challenge, rigor, or reward. Allyson, who majored in French, agreed. “Mr. Wortham’s classes were some of the most challenging, fun, and impactful classes I have ever taken,” she wrote. At age 16, we tackled the great classics of French existentialist literature. We unpacked all the layered metaphors of La Peste by Camus and Huis Clos by Sartre. We even had to memorize and perform an entire act of Ionesco’s play Rhinocéros. We weren’t always successful at first, but Doug always offered patient, graceful, compassionate, respectful, clear, and constructive feedback so that we could understand the assignment and his expectations. “Because of my experiences in his class, I knew after a stumble (literal or metaphorical) I could get back up and keep going,” wrote Nicole. “Those challenges brought us together with shared triumphs that forged friendships.”
Perhaps the most important thing about Doug’s classes was that we didn’t just learn French. We learned about politics and governments, religion and philosophy, ethics and morality. We learned how to live authentically. We learned how to respect the worldviews of others, and we developed the courage to speak up in the face of la mauvaise foi.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Doug's courses were deeply relevant to our lives, then and now. We did not just learn how to conjugate verbs, use the subjunctive tense, or memorize vocabulary. We also were tested on colorful slang expressions, pop lyrics, and current events. We traveled to use our language skills in Canada, France, and Belgium. And perhaps the most important thing about Doug’s classes was that we didn’t just learn French. We learned about politics and governments, religion and philosophy, ethics and morality. We learned how to live authentically. We learned how to respect the worldviews of others, and we developed the courage to speak up in the face of la mauvaise foi.
“Doug Wortham is the sort of teacher they depict in movies,” said Bryan Lence ’02. “He expected so much of his students. He taught about different world views, governmental structures, culture, and philosophy. He just happened to teach it all in French.” Vanessa Clayton ’02 added, “I’ve always thought that that class taught us more about life than anything.”
Of course, we also actually got really good at French. “By the time I graduated, I could travel abroad and speak the language, read the language, and feel comfortable,” wrote Bryan. “Twenty years later, I can still read and understand.” Most of us can still recite lyrics to the songs we memorized too. And the other lessons will last a lifetime. Nicole agreed: “My French may have gotten rusty in the last 20 years, but I use the life skills, compassion, and determination that I learned in Doug’s classes every day.”
We also relished passing on those scare stories to our siblings and their friends. Like Mike “Blanquette” Reynolds’ ’02 memories of “writing conjugations until our hands went numb, shaking it out, and then repeating the process for 45 more minutes.” Or Sarah Lappé’s ’02 recollection of “that stylo rouge [red pen] destroying my sentences after I handed my paper in last.” These stories may not be used anymore to heckle future generations of incoming freshmen about the challenges that lie ahead, but I am confident that Doug Wortham will remain a legend at Rowland Hall. My classmates and I all wish Doug the best for his well-earned retirement.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been unable to celebrate our departing colleagues as we customarily would. We are planning an on-campus gathering on Saturday, August 28, to honor those who worked at Rowland Hall for 20 or more years and left the school in 2020 or 2021.