Dr. Bohlin Speaks at Accepted Students’ Night


Dr. Karen Bohlin, Head of School

Head of School Dr. Bohlin greeted newly-accepted students and parents recently. Dr. Bohlin shared her speech with permission:

Let me begin with some reflections from a young alumna I saw recently at our auction. Laura graduated from Montrose and the University of Notre Dame, completed her law degree at Boston University, and just passed the bar:

“It’s amazing the impact of Montrose, even on women who were students there for only a short time. I don’t know what it is about Montrose. I am very grateful for my law degree, but I will never give my law school money, no matter how successful I become. If I ever make a fortune, I will give my millions to Montrose. It says something about a place when you are there for just a couple of years, but years later the people who were part of that experience are still your best friends and mentors.”

Tonight I want speak about “what it is about Montrose” – in short, to focus in a little more on the unique value proposition that connects Laura and so many others to Montrose long after they graduate.

There is an enormous gap in what middle and secondary schools can provide and what university faculty and professional employers are looking for in educated candidates. The literature in leadership research, business and higher education journals continue to underscore this gap.

University professors and employers tell us that in a world of transactional relationships and experiences they meet young people who are talented but emotionally fragile. They are tech savvy but unable to show empathy. They present an impressive online persona, yet show themselves to be unreflective and unable to deliberate thoughtfully. They are bright but fearful of making mistakes.

Montrose strives to close the gap between readiness for academic tests and readiness for the tests of life. What we do here is not transactional – it’s transformational. We help girls to become agile – not fragile. And we do this intentionally. Our time with your daughters is short and our aim is high. We know girls are called to greatness. Not to mediocrity, “not to comfort,” as Pope Benedict put it, “but to greatness, to good.”

The spirit of Opus Dei is all about discovering greatness in the ordinary – study, work, social life, activities – aiming high for the glory of God. Your daughters are called to navigate uncharted territories and new challenges in our changing world. While our academic program, led by first-rate educators, improves every year, what gives our students and graduates the jumpstart they need to succeed in the classroom, the university campus, the workplace, the board room, and life – is the total Montrose experience.

To illustrate what I mean by total Montrose experience, I want to call your attention to the the images and words at the heart of our seal and the heart of our mission: Veritas: To pursue the truth fosters greatness of mind – intellectual tenacity, carefulness, fair-mindedness, and curiosity. Pursuing the truth fosters our agility as thinkers and problem solvers. It also helps us to remain open to the insights yielded by faith and reason, not one without the other.

Here your daughter will discover how these two legitimate and complementary sources of knowledge expand her horizons and help her explore the fullness of the truth. Libertas: Freedom is a great ideal and a much misunderstood one. At Montrose, we help girls develop the agency and strength of character they need to choose well, under stress or pressure and when no one else is looking. Education in freedom is about developing greatness of character – self-knowledge, honesty, courage, self-mastery, responsibility, and good judgment. Caritas: Greatness of heart is about learning to lead and serve, to show empathy, compassion, gratitude and humility. Greatness of heart reminds us that we are part of something larger than ourselves, and we are called to contribute and give back in our school community and as citizens of world. Your daughters will be reminded often, “You are unique, unrepeatable and called by God. You are here for a purpose. Discover your life project.”

We are here to position your daughter for academic success in any setting. But more importantly, we fortify her and affirm her dignity, because what we care about most is who she is and the kind of person she becomes. The synergy of these three strengths – greatness of mind, heart and character – calibrates the life compass our graduates take into the world with them. This life compass sets them apart from their peers on college campuses and enables them to navigate challenges, learn from mistakes, surmount obstacles and pursue ambitious goals. Girls need now, more than ever, intellectual agility, greatness of mind; emotional agility, greatness of heart; and mature agency, greatness of character, to use their freedom well so they are not just carried along by impulse, fads or trends.

One of our older alumnae who recently met with our juniors and seniors shared the following with me, and I think her note captures nicely the power of this life compass. “The values and relationships I gained at Montrose in some ways led me to journalism. Journalism, at its core, is about constantly being out of your depth and comfort zone, truly listening to others and becoming less quick to judge. It is about pushing yourself to be fair to those you might not agree with. “It’s hard seeing the lack of civility in today’s political arena, but I think young women leaders like the ones you are educating will be a huge part of the solution.”

I can tell you with confidence that they are a part of the solution.  At Montrose, we value parents as the first and most important educators in their daughters’ lives. We don’t invite you in to teach chemistry, but we do work with you to help you help your daughter make the most of her time here and become the best version of herself.

I’d like to close with some advice for parents from Dr. Leonard Sax. Sax is a clinical psychologist and one of the world’s leading researchers on single sex education. I spent about 14 hours with him in Washington, DC last Friday, and I was struck by two of his simple but profound observations: 1) Robust empirical findings show that the strongest predictors of good lifelong outcomes – health, success in school, professional success, wealth, happiness – more than any other predictor are virtue and character development. He cites University of Chicago Professor James Heckman’s longitudinal research, which shows that grades and test scores are a poor predictor of long-term success. 2) Choice of school, Sax insists, is one of the most important choices a parent can make, because it has everything to do with a child’s long-term happiness. Children and teenagers, he argues, do not have the experience or the competence to make that choice.

As you consider Montrose, we know you have an important decision before you and many worthy choices. We certainly hope you choose Montrose. We also know you have the wisdom you need to make the decision that is best for your daughter and family. Know that you can count on our prayers as you make that decision.