On August 15th, Dr. Carrie Steakley was officially installed as the Head of School for Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. Dr. Steakley was selected after an extensive national search led by a committee of board members, parent leadership and faculty representatives. The search process was thoughtful and the transition seamless. With a pandemic as a backdrop, the installation was humble yet meaningful and powerful.
In a pre-recorded message for Dr. Steakley’s installation, Reverend Katherine McQuiston Bush reminded event attendees of the power and strength of love. Reverend Bush, who is the Chaplain at St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis, also advised that to lead with love requires courage, respect, mercy and grace. After working closely with Dr. Steakley for nearly 10 years, Reverend Bush said these qualities are what defines Episcopal’s new Head of School. We encourage you to watch Reverend Bush's message below.
Dr. Steakley begins her tenure as Head of School in unusual circumstances. However, she is prepared for the challenges ahead. With a quiet strength, she told attendees she feels inspired by the leaders of her former school as she takes on this new role. A look at that story can be an inspiration for us all. St. Mary’s was founded in 1847. In 1873 a group of Episcopal nuns began operating the school with a goal of providing a rigorous academic experience for girls. In the summer of 1878, the Memphis area experienced a yellow fever epidemic that impacted thousands and resulted in the relocation of a majority of the city’s residents. Sister Constance and her companions remained at the school to care for the sick and dying. They are remembered in St. Mary’s and Memphis lore for their commitment and sacrifice on behalf of their students and the community. More than 100 years later, Dr. Steakley now takes the reins of Episcopal as the school and the community deal with COVID-19. At the first staff meeting of the school year, which was conducted online, Dr. Steakley told the St. Mary’s story with pride and asked faculty and staff – How do we want history to remember us? How will our decisions bless future generations?
A Head of School is traditionally installed before a standing-room-only crowd. The entire student body is often invited to participate, with student musicians and vocalists adding their talents to the celebration. Dr. Steakley’s installation had only a small number of attendees due to health and safety protocols. Attendees wore face coverings and practiced social distancing. However, the face coverings and the distance did not diminish the sense of hope, joy, peace and most importantly love.
Those attending the installation will remember the occasion and the sense of community that reverberated through the Lewis Memorial Chapel of the Good Shepherd. The experience may have been somewhat different from those in the past, but attendees felt blessed to be present. There was a realization that while 2020 is filled with uncertainty, it is also an opportunity for new beginnings, innovation and collaboration. With her family by her side, Dr. Steakley will also ensure that there is love, joy and grace.
Thank you to The Rt. Rev’d Morris K. Thompson, Jr., Bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana, The Rev’d Katherine McQuiston Bush, Chaplain St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis, The Rev’d Chris Duncan, Rector St. James Episcopal Church, The Rev’d Bryan Owen, Rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, The Rev’d Kirkland “Skully” Knight, Chaplain (The Episcopal School of Baton Rouge) and Board Chair Chris Kiesel ’92 for joining Dr. Steakley in this celebration.
Welcome to Episcopal, Dr. Steakley! We invite you to share a message of congratulations with Dr. Steakley in the comments below.