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  • Head of School Search

Head of School Search Announcement

Dear Rivers Community,

We are thrilled to announce that earlier this week the Board of Trustees unanimously supported the recommendation by the Head of School Search Committee to appoint Ryan S. Dahlem as Rivers’s ninth head of school, beginning on July 1, 2023. 

Ryan stood out as a top candidate through a rigorous search that attracted many highly qualified applicants. Very early in the process, it became clear that Ryan is an inspiring, visionary leader with a keen understanding of multiple facets of independent school management and leadership—as well as a compassionate, thoughtful educator who, as he put it in his initial application, holds an “abiding belief in the transformative power of education and a deep commitment to the promise, care and growth of young people.” Ryan’s visit to campus on September 8 and 9 left us even more convinced that he is a strong fit for Rivers and that he is uniquely positioned to lead our school into its next chapter.

“Ryan is a highly qualified leader who embodies all of the ideals of Excellence with Humanity and who, above all else, places students at the center of his work. He has a proven track record of leadership and management in a complex educational setting. Because of the competitive landscape for strong head of school candidates, we had to move quickly. I have the utmost confidence in Ryan, and I cannot wait to see what the future brings for Rivers under Ryan’s leadership.” 

—Harley Lank P’21, Board President & Search Committee Member

Since 2016, Ryan has served as assistant head of school at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, a PK – Grade 12 school of 1,240 students in San Juan Capistrano, CA. At St. Margaret’s, where he arrived in 2006, Ryan has held leadership roles across the academic and administrative sides of the school, serving for four years as director of admission and financial aid and six years as upper school assistant principal. In his current position, Ryan works closely with the Board of Trustees and leads strategic plan implementation across the school. He created a unique student-centered Innovation Strategy that is rooted in design thinking and has been recognized nationally in the world of independent schools. Through this approach, Ryan successfully led a schoolwide schedule redesign, implementation of innovative new course offerings, a reimagined Service Learning program, a faculty innovation grant program and the creation of a Director of Equity and Inclusion position. Ryan also served as interim mathematics department chair and taught psychology, AP statistics, and entrepreneurship. Prior to joining St. Margaret’s, Ryan served as associate director of admission at Stanford University, where he oversaw admission for Stanford athletics and partnered with Stanford’s math faculty to recruit students with extraordinary mathematics talent. Previously, Ryan was a tenured mathematics teacher at University High School in Irvine, CA, where he also coached varsity wrestling.  Ryan began his teaching career at nearby Fenway High School in Boston. 

Ryan graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor's degree in psychology and from the Harvard Graduate School of Education with a master’s degree in teaching and curriculum, and he has served as an author and presenter for the National Association of Independent Schools. He is a trained musician and avid mountaineer who has climbed the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. 

"I was initially drawn to The Rivers School for its mission, core values, and tradition of Excellence with Humanity that resonates so deeply with my own educational philosophy.  When I visited campus, I saw these aspirations coming to life through reflective Senior Speeches, empowered student voices in the classroom, and a spirited Red and White competition.  Immediately, I knew this was a very special place.  With an extraordinary faculty, visionary Board of Trustees, dedicated parent community and, most importantly, a curious and vibrant student body, Rivers was the clear choice for me and my family.  I am honored, humbled, and inspired to build on the tremendous momentum at Rivers and lead the school into the next exciting chapter of its accomplished history."

—Ryan S. Dahlem

Ryan and his wife, Anne, have three children: Peter (age 18), Ella (16), and Colin (8). Anne also has extensive experience in the independent school world: She currently serves as the director of communications and marketing at St. Margaret’s, a role she has held since 2007. She and Ryan share a commitment to being part of school life that will be invaluable here at Rivers. There will be many opportunities to connect with the Dahlem family in the weeks and months ahead. I know you will join me in offering them a very warm welcome to the Rivers community.

This announcement may come as a surprise to some, arriving as it does in the midst of planned visits from finalist candidates and before our process was originally scheduled to conclude. Last weekend, Ryan received an offer from another school, and we were faced with a challenge: lose Ryan as a leading candidate in our search, or hire him. At Rivers, we have never shied away from nimble thinking or decisive action.  With the firm conviction that we had found our next leader, the search committee recommended Ryan to the Board, the Board unanimously appointed him, and we concluded our search earlier than anticipated.

We are thrilled to share this news with you and delighted to know that, from a nationwide search process characterized by an unprecedented level of competition, Rivers was the top choice for Ryan and his family. To all the parents, alumni, faculty, students, and trustees, past and present, who supported and participated in the process, we are grateful to you for highlighting what makes this school exceptional. Finally, we especially want to thank the members of the Head of School Search Committee for their dedication and tireless efforts to ensure the best possible outcome for Rivers.


Alan D. Rose, Jr. ’87 
Search Committee Chair & Trustee

Harley J. Lank P’21
President, Board of Trustees

Search Committee

List of 9 items.

  • Harley Lank P’21, President of the Board

    Harley is a portfolio manager and president of the High Income & Alternatives division of Fidelity Investments. Harley joined the Rivers board in 2017 and has served as president of the Board since 2018. He and his wife have three children, including a son who graduated from Rivers last year, and live in Weston.
  • Alan Rose ’87, Trustee & Search Committee Chair

    Alan co-founded Rose Law Partners (then Rose & Associates) in 1995. Alan’s practice focuses on civil and criminal trial and appellate litigation in federal and state courts and in arbitration, with an emphasis on commercial litigation, employment litigation, defense of state and federal government and regulatory investigations, and college and university law. Alan served on the Rivers board from 2007 to 2021 and was recently re-elected in June of 2022. He lives in Weston with his wife and two sons.
  • Louise Cummings ’98, Trustee

    Louise is an attorney and community advocate. She has been active in the Alumni Association, has chaired the alumni annual fund, and served on the Enrollment Management, Marketing, and Diversity Committee before joining the Board in 2009. She was Rivers’s first board member from outside the greater Boston area. Louise lives in Delaware with her daughter.
  • Andrea Diaz, Faculty

    History department chair Andrea Diaz joined the Upper School at Rivers in 2010. Andrea teaches world history, US history, and electives in international relations. She also serves as Upper School DEI coordinator. Additionally, Andrea is the assistant coach for the girls’ varsity cross-country team and is a member of the diversity committee. She lives in Natick with her husband and two young children.
  • Sheila Hiatt P’21, ’22, ’24, Trustee

    Sheila is a co-founder and managing partner of Hiatt & Hoke LLP and oversees all of its practice areas. Additionally, she is responsible for managing the day-to-day administrative and operational functions of the firm. Sheila joined the Rivers board in 2019 and serves as a trustee at Dedham Country Day School, where she was president of the Board from 2014 to 2017. Sheila and her husband live in Milton and have three children, two of whom are currently attending Rivers.
  • Krissie Kelleher P’22, ’25, Administrative Faculty

    Krissie serves as associate head of school for development and external relations at Rivers. She started her development career in the Harvard College Fund office before moving to Loomis Chaffee, where she was an integral part of the development team. At Rivers, she oversees a 12-member department responsible for all fundraising, alumni affairs, communications, and external relations. She and her husband live in Wayland and are the parents of two current Rivers students.
  • Ken Stillwell P’23, ’24, Trustee

    Ken is chief operating officer and chief financial officer at Pegasystems, the Cambridge-based provider of business software based. At Pega, he is responsible for finance, investor relations, legal, facilities, information technology, Pega Cloud, global client support, and business operations. Ken has more than 25 years of financial leadership experience in high-growth organizations in the technology sector. Ken lives in Southborough with his wife and two children, both Rivers students, and has been a board member since 2021.
  • Samantha Vandergrift, Faculty

    Sam teaches Middle School math at Rivers; she is also the seventh-grade dean and coaches MS cross country and softball. In 2016, she received the Mida Van Zuylen Dunn Award for Teaching, given yearly at Rivers to teachers who instill in students a love for learning. Sam lives in Natick with her husband and two young children.
  • Peter Walter P’23, ’25, Trustee

    Peter co-founded Trident Capital Group in 2008 to acquire, manage, and redevelop industrial properties in primary and select secondary markets. Previously, he was an advisor and investor with Talisman Capital Partners, a Dublin, Ohio, private equity firm. Peter joined the Rivers board in 2019 and serves as chair of the Development Committee. He is also a member of the board of Tenacre Country Day School and lives in Wellesley with his wife and four children.

Frequently Asked Questions

List of 7 items.

  • What firm is supporting the search process?

    The Board of Trustees has engaged Resource Group 175 (RG175) to partner with The Rivers School on our head of school search. RG175 Senior Consultant Tom Olverson and Managing Partner John Farber will facilitate and support the process of identifying the very best individual to lead Rivers through its next chapter. Tom and John bring a thorough knowledge of the independent school landscape in the Boston area, and we were particularly drawn to the more transparent process they use. We are also confident that Tom Olverson, having served as Head of School at Rivers from 1997-2014, will bring a unique and invaluable depth of perspective to the search.
  • What is the timeline for the search?

    The current plan is to be able to identify a candidate and make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees by October 2022. The new head will assume responsibility on July 1, 2023.
  • What is the role of the Board of Trustees in the search?

    The Board is ultimately responsible for selecting the head of school. The task of conducting the search will be undertaken by a board-designated Search Committee, assisted by advisory committees comprising faculty, alumni, and parents.
  • How were Search Committee members selected?

    Search Committee members have a deep commitment to Rivers and a firm grasp of the school’s history, mission, and approach. They represent a diversity of viewpoints and experience, but they all share a love of the school and a strong desire to help steer the school through this exciting transition.
  • What is the role of the Search Committee?

    Initially, the Search Committee is charged with defining the qualities required of the next head of school. As the process moves forward, they will review candidate files, interview the most viable candidates, speak with multiple references, and make a final recommendation to the Board of Trustees.
  • How will the Search Committee keep the community updated?

    While much of the search process must be kept confidential, we are also committed to transparency and candor. The community will be kept updated through this website, as well as through periodic direct communications from the Board and the Search Committee.
  • How can I help during the search?

    Broad community input will be critical to facilitating a successful leadership transition. All community members will have an opportunity to complete an online survey, and we will be providing forums for faculty, staff, and parents to meet with finalist candidates later in the process. Here are some other ways in which community members can help:
    • Please make sure our search consultants are aware of any individuals whom you would recommend as potentially strong candidates. Please note that in addition to providing the search committee with valuable perspective, the survey also allows for you to suggest potential candidates.
    • Please bring any rumors or speculation directly to the Search Committee to minimize the spreading of any inaccurate information.  
    • Finally, please read carefully any communications from the Search Committee.