Celebrating Nine Transformative Years Under Head of School Ned Parsons

Emotions ran high as more than 400 members of the Rivers School community gathered on May 19 to mark and honor nine years of outstanding leadership under outgoing Head of School Ned Parsons P’17. Ned’s wife, Lisa, was also celebrated for her extraordinary contributions to Rivers. For the festive evening event, held under the tent on the Lank Quadrangle in front of The Revers Center for Science and Visual Arts, trustees, parents, alumni, friends, and members of the professional community came together to express gratitude for Ned’s leadership—and high hopes for the next chapter in the school’s history.
“What we hoped for in Ned’s leadership was the development of an in-depth understanding of Excellence with Humanity and a clear vision that supported our institutional advancement efforts. And Ned certainly delivered,” said Board President Alan D. Rose, Jr. ’87, who shared reflections on the search process that started in 2013. 

Rose recounted how Ned led the transformation of the school’s physical spaces, allowing the Rivers campus to match the quality of its outstanding programs. Ned’s oversight of the $67 million FutureMakers campaign, said Rose, led to the redevelopment of “nearly every inch of the campus where we teach kids and deliver on our core mission.” 

Thus it was only fitting that a special project in Ned’s honor will be added to the long list of recent campus upgrades. Trustee John Foley P’22, ’25 revealed the plans during Friday night’s ceremony: “For all that the Parsons family has done for past, current, and future generations of students and faculty, I am honored to announce that, thus far, we have raised more than $850,000 to renovate and reimagine the Middle School quadrangle in honor of Ned and Lisa Parsons.” 

As attendees viewed a rendering of the new project, Foley continued, “Work will begin next month on the Parsons Quadrangle.” The covered walkways will be removed and the buildings will be made accessible without ramps or steps. Each of the quad buildings—Prince, Haynes, Carlin, and Allen—will have new entryway canopies and landscaping. “When our faculty and students return to campus in September,” said Foley, “they will have another community space where they can meet, conduct outdoor classes, and play.”

Moreover, Foley added, thanks to the generosity of Janet and Steven Correia P'16,'19, '22, a space in the Carlin building, housing the Rivers academic support team and providing space for clubs and other student activities, will be renamed The Parsons Center for Learning, in honor of Ned and Lisa. 

Others also offered heartfelt tributes. Upper School head Melissa Anderson P’25, ’25 recounted her history with Lisa Parsons as rival lacrosse coaches in Connecticut—a friendly rivalry informed by respect and admiration for Lisa as a coach, educator, and individual. Lisa Parsons took to the podium to express her gratitude for all that Rivers has meant to her family. Charlie Parsons ’17 brought down the house with his account of growing up Parsons. Having his father at the helm wasn’t always easy or comfortable, to be sure, but, he concluded, “Next time someone inevitably asks me, ‘What was it like being the son of the headmaster?’ I won’t hesitate. It was awesome, and I couldn’t be prouder to call you my dad.”

The spotlight then turned to Ned himself, who spoke briefly (after poking fun at his own tendency to speak at length). “I don’t know how I got this lucky,” said a visibly moved Ned Parsons. “In this moment, ‘thank you’ is pale and misses the depth of my gratitude. I wish I could find a phrase to convey to you how deep that gratitude runs, but you’ll have to take ‘thank you’ for now.”

Attendees were treated to a video timeline of Ned’s tenure at Rivers. And, because the 
the FutureMakers campaign was so central to Ned’s years here, artist Marsha Dunn was invited back to campus to illustrate the evening in real time, as she did for the opening of the Revers Center in 2020. Guests jotted down memories of Ned on notecards for Dunn to bring to life in her distinctive sketches. 

The entire evening was an outpouring of gratitude and recognition for a head of school who has had an indelible impact on Rivers—an impact that will be felt for generations to come. Melissa Anderson put it succinctly, in a sentiment surely shared by all in attendance: “If your goal was to leave Rivers better than you found it, Ned, you certainly have.”