Insightful John Marshall Leads Holland Hall

Contributing Writer


KYLIE MCMAINS for GTR Newspapers

Lifelong educator John D. Marshall has been busy at work for weeks as Holland Hall’s recently-appointed Head of School in preparation for the first semester.
Marshall, his wife Rebecca, a neuropsychologist, and their children Luke, Kate and Will, are thrilled to be part of both the Tulsa and Holland Hall community. Marshall says, “We’re very happy to be in Tulsa. It’s a wonderful city, and it’s great for kids.”

Marshall is enthusiastic as he describes Tulsa. “It’s a wonderful blend of three parts of the country. Tulsa has the gregariousness and friendliness of the Southeast, the earnestness and grounded-ness of the Midwest, and the pioneering spirit of the Southwest.” Marshall is equally enthusiastic about his position as Holland Hall’s Head of School, and his passion for education is obvious.

Prior to moving to Tulsa, Marshall was most recently Head of School at Rabun Gap Nacoochee School, an independent private college preparatory boarding schools.
During Marshall’s seven year Rabun Gap tenure from 2004-2011, the school made significant advances and improvements in vital areas including enrollment (which grew more than 50 percent). The school also made a significant increase in student and scores, competitive athletics with teams winning conference championships, alumni relations, student support services, board development and annual giving.

When asked why he decided to make the move from Rabun Gap, Marshall says, “It was a decision that I made after a great amount of reflection and consideration. I was ready to move on in my career, to find a professional leadership opportunity, and make a great school even greater by advancing it to a new level of excellence.”

Marshall gave one year’s notice at Rabun Gap and started to look at different schools around the country. He says he was most drawn to Holland Hall because of its quality, the understatement and humility of the community, and its commitment to educating and equipping students with crucial skills, as well as knowledge. “It’s essential to prepare students with the necessary skills to deal with the rapidly changing culture in which we live,” says Marshall. He emphasizes the importance of communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration. “These ‘4 Cs’ are critical to students’ success in school and beyond,” he says.

Marshall describes Holland Hall’s faculty as outstanding. “The faculty are tremendously knowledgeable and superbly equipped to provide our students with the knowledge and skills they need to achieve great things as they move on with their education, and into their careers.”

Core learning takes place in the classroom, with small classes (an 8:1 student/teacher ratio), and the teacher offering expert guidance and resources to expand the students’ learning potential. “There are traditional aspects to our curriculum that we embrace, and there are components that are non-traditional,” Marshall explains. When asked for an example he says, “For instance, we view standardized testing with somewhat of a skeptical eye. There is a pitfall to having a curriculum focused only on standardized tests, and focusing only on Advanced Placement (AP).”

Marshall says, “At Holland Hall, we provide learning support to facilitate students’ different learning styles. We’re a balance between tradition and innovation, and we provide a developmentally appropriate curriculum.” This is important, he says, because the pedagogical style required for a 10-year-old is quite different that for a 17-year-old.

Marshall alludes to Howard Gardner’s concept of multiple intelligences. “It’s important to realize that students are gifted and talented in such a wide range of ways, and as educators, we have the responsibility to nurture these gifts so each student can thrive.”

The emphasis at Holland Hall, Marshall says, is on the whole child. “We’re not contracting our curriculum to college boards, and many colleges applaud this. We are steeping our students in the ‘4 Cs’ which well-prepares them to successfully manage and experience what life has to offer.” The effectiveness of this approach is apparent when one considers that 100 percent of Holland Hall’s graduates go on to colleges such as Brown University, Harvard, Rice, Vanderbilt and other very competitive universities across the nation.

Impressively, the 2010 senior class (78 students) was offered over $5 million in college scholarships, produced five National Merit Finalists, six National Merit Semi-Finalists, two National Merit Commended and one National Hispanic Finalist.

Marshall is well-prepared to guide Holland Hall’s ongoing progress to the established position of one of the strongest schools in the country. In fact, it’s a role that he seems to have been prepared for all of his life. “I grew up on a university campus and been part of the academic world for most of my life,” he says. No doubt this has fueled his interest in, and passion for education. “I enjoy everything about it, from fundraising, to the joy of reading to a class of kindergartners, to marketing and admissions, teaching, and stewarding the organization’s growth,” he says.

Stewarding Holland Hall’s growth is a collaborative process organized around what Marshall calls a “listen and learn” culture. “We have a long-term vision that we’re working towards and I’m thrilled to be able to be a part of the process” Marshall says. “Holland Hall, and Tulsa are both wonderful places for me and my family to call home.”

For more information about Holland Hall School visit

Updated 08-30-2011

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