On Wednesday, September 14, 2022, Felicia Wilks was formally invested by the Board of Trustees as the 15th Head of School at The Spence School. The ceremony included student group performances, words of praise in remarks by guest speakers, a formal charge by the Board of Trustees, and remarks by Wilks, accepting her new role as the entrusted leader of the School.
President of the Board of Trustees Bill Jacob welcomed community members from all corners of Spence to the Church of the Heavenly Rest: students, faculty, staff, the Board of Trustees, friends and members of the Wilks’ family. “In particular, I welcome Felicia Wilks’ family. I know this is a proud day; we share in your joy as we welcome you to the Spence family,” shared Jacob.
Former Heads of School Arlene Gibson and Bodie Brizendine were also in attendance, and after recognizing them for their years of service, Jacob elaborated on the Board’s selection of Wilks.
"With our full community involved in a robust national search, we landed our choice candidate. We saw in Felicia a passionate educator who would build on this legacy of leadership with authenticity, utmost care and bold vision. We appreciate that as our first Black Head of School, Felicia brings a new, rich perspective to leading our school and our community. Her deep insights and lived experience align with Spence’s values and mission. As a graduate of an all-girls’ school, a lifelong scholar and educator, and as an independent school leader, she has lived the words of our mission: purpose, passion and perspective.”
Elon Johnson, Senior Creative Executive and Head of Development at Tyler Perry Studios, and close friend of Wilks, remarked on the new Head’s personality, calling her “a superb leader who champions the pursuit of personal and professional success.” Johnson offered more on her friend’s character, describing her as having “an effervescent heart and scholarly mind, bursting with an unparalleled vision and an unprecedented plan that will breathe new life into the culture of Spence—further enhancing the great foundation this school stands on.”
Head of School for The Cambridge School of Weston, friend and former colleague of Wilks, Lise Charlier spoke on Wilks’ time at Friends School of Baltimore (FSB), where she began teaching in 2004. “Each member of the FSB community who engaged with Felicia, or Ms. Wilks, was inspired by her empathy for others, her commitment to reaching every student, and her unparalleled passion for teaching a wide range of texts, perspectives, and writing styles.”
Floral sculptures installed by alum and parent Irini Arakas '93 adorned the railings and altar of the church, and performances by three student groups were among the highlights of the ceremony: “Friendship Canon” from the Middle School Choir, “One Voice” by the Upper School Choir, and a school favorite, “Skinnamarink” by Grade 4, during which everyone joyfully joined in.
Jacob, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, recited the charge to Wilks: be a vigilant steward of the School; a champion of Spence student voices and inquiry; a leader of faculty, staff and administration; and to amplify the spirit of the School motto.
After accepting the charge, Wilks addressed the students—from the Lower Schoolers seated in the front, to the seniors watching from the balcony. “Students, you are at the heart of everything that happens at this school. Thank you for being here and for raising your voices in song as a part of this ceremony. You are the very essence of our legacy and I am honored to begin the next chapter of this school’s distinguished history with you.”
She spoke on her deep connection with her mother, her aunt and her daughters, signifying the importance of sisterhood and her education in an all-girls’ school, its role in lifting up and empowering female voices. “A lot has changed since Miss Spence’s pioneering advocacy for girls and women. And yet, we still see the effects of gender inequality and inaccurate stereotypes about what girls and women can and cannot do. It is an extraordinary privilege to come back to a girls’ school, and the educational tradition that made me who I am today. A tradition that harnesses the power of girls and women to lead with purpose and to pursue intellectual challenges throughout their lives.”
“We will need to continue to be nimble and responsive in our approach,” said Wilks in a response to a charge by the Trustees, “and we must continue to ask good questions and give our students abundant opportunities to ask and answer the questions that matter most to them. It is our mission to equip them with the creative and critical skills they need to lead beyond our campus. Because, as our motto says, Not for school, but for life we learn.”
Throughout its entirety, the ceremony provided members of the Spence community with opportunities to reflect on the critical importance of an all-girls’ education, and celebrate the abundance of energy and excitement Spence’s new Head of School brings with her.