The Legacy of Dr. Bohlin


(Credit: Adam Richins)

Headmistress Dr. Karen Bohlin exits Montrose after 18 years. Students honored her with a poetry event and editors-in-chief interviewed her to gather her thoughts about the Montrose community.

The 2020-2021 school year has come to an end. As a school, we have prepared to say goodbye to our graduating senior class by honoring their academic, athletic, and leadership accomplishments. However this year, along with the outgoing Montrose Class of 2021, we say goodbye to our headmistress, Dr. Bohlin. On Wednesday June 9, the school gathered to honor Dr. Bohlin in a form that would be most valuable to her, through poetry. A student from each grade stood in front of the podium to share the poem of their choice with Dr. Bohlin and the school. Following the ceremony, we sat down with Dr. Bohlin and her colleagues to recount their thoughts of her time at Montrose and to discuss the legacy she will leave behind.

Mrs. O’Brien: “Determined. Loyal. Unwavering”

For 18 years, beloved Head of School Dr. Bohlin has provided students with the support and spirit they need to truly grow in heart, mind, and character. Dr. Bohlin has truly built her legacy through her gift for storytelling, determined spirit, and — most of all — her deep love for this school and its students. Montrose students can all instantly recall memories of Dr. Bohlin’s speech on the first days of school, her love for poetry, and her smiling face while she passes in the hallways. The Looking Glass has always valued Dr. Bohlin’s contribution to the student newspaper, whether through her unyielding support, her interviews, or her spirit. 

Mrs. Whitlock: “Innovator. Constant supporter. Bighearted”

Everyone knows how much our faculty plays a role in a Montrose experience. Dr. Bohlin has been both a friend and mentor to her faculty throughout her time at our school. Assistant to the Head of School Mrs. O’Brien said: “She puts in 100% in everything that she does. When one project or event ends, it’s not the end for her. She’s always thinking of the next thing. And I think that’s a great role to take — not only as a head of school but also to inspire others. Because Montrose School is about pursuing greatness by becoming a better version of yourself and by serving others, Dr. Bohlin models for us what she’s always striving to do.” 

Dr. Bohlin also reflected on her relationship with Montrose staff as she remembered the work involved in both opening up fully in-person and staying safe in the middle of a global pandemic. “They’re true friends. We have really, really great times together. But seeing how everyone collaborated over the course of these eighteen months was something unlike I’ve ever seen in my leadership as head of school. It was a collaboration of younger and older sharing expertise and wisdom, a collaboration of departments helping other departments, a collaboration of helping people stay inspired and energetic because they had children at home or someone in their family with Covid, it was all sorts of ‘we’re not gonna let technology, circumstances, the challenges break our spirit’. And so there was a constant willingness to laugh, to befriend, to support — and that’s what made the work endurable.” The relationship between our teachers, faculty, and head of school was an integral part of the success we had with fully in-person learning this year. 

Not only has Dr. Bohlin made life-lasting relationships with the staff at Montrose, but also its students. The recent poem recitations truly encapsulated the bond between students and their head that will continue to last even after her time at Montrose. We interviewed Dr. Bohlin after the student poetry sharing and gift event, and Dr. Bohlin said: “There’s so much authenticity among Montrose students. When I hear Montrose students tell their story, whether it’s at a microphone or with a visitor or just in class, I just can’t get over how ambitious — this noble ambition — to learn a lot and to be engaged in the classroom, engaged in school spirit. Montrose Maverick students know that they’re marked, that they have a purpose. There’s this sense of fire and drive, this sense of mission.” The idea of purpose and drive at Montrose will be part of Dr. Bohlin’s legacy for years to come.

Mrs. Elrod: “Visionary. Muse. Hippie”

When asked about what legacy she would like to leave behind, Dr. Bohlin commented: “The life lesson is to pause and really reflect on what matters and what’s the bigger good we can achieve through any experience.” In elaborating, she connected her response to the Montrose compass and crest. She explained that Montrose girls are educated with a mission to lead and inspire. Dr. Bolhin expressed how much she values the Montrose education and how our purpose as a school caters to forming young girls into women who are ready to tackle real life challenges. She emphasized that the Montrose girls know how to pace themselves and absorb every opportunity around them.

Dr. Bohlin reminds us that Montrose’s symbol is an anchor for the school community. Our symbol highlights three aspects of the Montrose education: veritas, caritas, and libertas

“It’s on our hearts, in the uniform, it’s on the ring, it’s on the flags. It’s a compass — and I am always going to carry it with me as a point of reference.” Dr. Bohlin has always been a pivotal point of Montrose. She has always guided us in times of struggle, which she recounts as times the school has lost young alumnae and students, but also in times of positivity and hope, such as the Montrose move from Natick to Medfield several years ago. 

One of Dr. Bohlin’s anchors at Montrose has been the rising Head of School Mrs. Elrod. When we asked Dr. Bohlin what her message to Mrs. Elrod would be, her face instantly lit up with a smile at the mention of her colleague and friend. She said to the students and staff: “Take good care of Mrs. Elrod. She’s indomitable, feisty, and fun.” To Mrs. Elrod, she said: “Keep Laughing. Keep enjoying this marvelous school community. The years go by quickly so savor each day. Capture those moments that are just so wonderful. It could be the hilarity of something a 6th grader said in class or something really moving that a family member shares with you. Be entrusted with this treasure and gaze at its wonder and remember to have a lot of fun.”

Ms. White: “Inspiring. Thoughtful. Compassionate”

Dr. Bohlin plans to continue her work through storytelling as she expands her love for character education to a broader audience. Although she will no longer be our official head of school, this certainly isn’t the last we’re seeing of her. “I want to spend some time reflecting on, with a lot of gratitude, this last chapter and not to just rush into the next thing. My hope is to take a lot of what I love about my work here, speaking to students and teachers, telling stories, and to write and make those stories accessible to a broader audience in leadership. I want to take writing, speaking, and teaching to the next level, but first, just a time of gratitude and personal reflection.” Dr. Bohlin has been a key part in education for years as she’s helped hundreds of students answer their call to greatness. Each and every one of those students will cherish the mark she has left on our lives for years to come. 

When asked about the type of legacy she hopes to leave behind at Montrose, Dr. Bohlin talked about the most essential character traits she’s taught Montrose students: joy and love. “This is a community of joy and trust where people trust their teachers. Where there’s a lot of joy even amidst hard work. The school community is intentional in keeping that joy vibrant. It’s already here, and I see older students looking out for younger students; I see it in the faculty and I see that love all the time — and you can’t take it for granted. My legacy is that people will want to keep joy vibrant.” She added: “I don’t know what my legacy is yet, we’ll see — my hope is that joyful spirit will continue to stay vibrant.”

Dr. Bohlin, on behalf of all past, present, and future Montrose students, we want to thank you for the love and joy you’ve brought to our school throughout the past 18 years. We look forward to your visits, and we know that you’ll continue to spread that love and joy after you’re gone. We’ll miss you, and we promise to keep Montrose going just as you described it: “Vibrant. Epic-adventure. Joy” 

Erica Brown ‘22 and Spandana Vagwala ‘22, Co Editors-in-Chief,