This winter, Headmaster Emeritus Tom Northrup was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at the “other” Hill School in Pottstown PA. In a wide-ranging video interview on the school’s website, Tom reflects on the lessons he learned as captain of the school’s basketball season in 1964, when he led the team to an undefeated season, a feat that has not been accomplished since. He also talks about how his high school experience prepared him for leading the basketball team at the University of Pennsylvania. Most significantly, he connects his athletic background with life lessons that have guided his success and have become woven into the culture of our Hill School, which he led for 29 years.
“The gift that sports give us is far more than the games you play,” Tom tells Doug Beaver ’73, president of the Hill Basketball Association. “It’s the teamwork and work ethic. It’s the focus on accomplishing a goal. It’s the friendships.” Throughout the interview, Tom graciously transforms the honor of his award to appreciation for his coaches, teammates, teachers, and family. In Tom’s opinion, he is more the beneficiary of the team’s success than its cause, and he speaks about the benefits of his athletic career in teaching him to persevere and never give up.
“Being Head of a school is just coaching a different team,” Tom says. Leading basketball teams taught him to respect everyone he works with, to set challenges appropriately, and to combine high expectations with support. Building a successful community means recognizing individual talents and interests, connecting and uniting people with a common goal. This is the context in which children learn to care and work hard.
“I haven’t seen a child who doesn’t deserve to have adults believe in him.” Tom Northrup’s belief in those on his “team” has shaped Hill School’s culture and community just as it led his high school and college teams to victories.
The entire interview can be seen here.