A Legacy Built of Bricks, a Bit of Magic, and a Lot of Love: Honoring 2022 Hamilton Life Achievement Award Recipient Jon Green

March 9, 2022

Jon Green is handed a box from Wheeler Head of School Allison's Gaines Pell at the "Mind Your p's and q's" celebration. Green and Pell are standing at a podium with posters showing Jon Green photos and quotes behind them.
Jon Green receives the Hamilton Life Achievement Award from Wheeler Head of School Allison Gaines Pell.

During this school year–which is his last as Hamilton Director–Green has led the effort to raise $6.9 million so far to strengthen and broaden Hamilton’s reach into the future

There are many fantastic words people use to describe longtime Hamilton School Director Jon Green P’03, P’06, P’11. A few of them–which are repeated at the start of the video below–are “an exceptional leader,” “a gift,” and “a little bit of magic.” Now, we can add “Hamilton Life Achievement Award recipient” to the list.

In a series of events on Friday, March 4, Green was honored as the 2022 recipient–and the 27th overall–of the Hamilton Life Achievement Award, which recognizes people who have used their learning differences to their advantage in accomplishing great things.

The festivities began that morning when Green joined Lower School students for a surprise round of Jon Green bingo. A bit later, he spoke to Hamilton students, faculty, staff, and alumni in Isenberg Auditorium about some of his experiences growing up with attentional variation and how much it has meant to him to be part of the Hamilton community and guide the school’s tremendous growth and impact over the last three decades. He also answered a few questions. When one student asked him if he was happy when he joined Hamilton 30 years ago, Green said he was very happy. “The school was much smaller, and it was exciting to think about what was going to make it a great program,” he said. In response to another student’s question about why he wanted to be a teacher, Green said, “I think teaching kids is the single best way to change the world and make the world a better place.”

Green has been making the world a better place over the course of his career. He has taught students with learning differences, counseled and advised parents, consulted with schools, and administered school programs. At Wheeler, he helped expand the Hamilton program into the Middle and High School years and established a first grade at the school. He and longtime colleague Jeanette Epstein P’03, P’08 also created the Hamilton Institute, which conducts regular reading screenings for children in the community, trains teachers in the summer, and hosts an annual conference. In addition, Green was Co-Founder of the National Independent LD School Network, and he has served as a Trustee for a number of organizations including the International Dyslexia Association, the Rhode Island Branch of IDA, St. Andrew’s School, and The Wolf School.

Jon Green stands at the front of an auditorium speaking to Hamilton students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
Jon Green speaks with Hamilton students, faculty, staff, and alumni during one of the morning events in recognition of the Hamilton Life Achievement Award.

Green had the opportunity to reflect on those meaningful experiences as the Hamilton Life Achievement Award events continued on Friday. In the afternoon, he participated in a Q&A session with the Upper School’s Learning Differences Awareness Club, and in the evening, the Wheeler and Hamilton community came together for the annual “Mind Your p’s and q’s” celebration.

In welcoming everyone to the event, Co-chairs Laina Crowthers P’26, P’28 and Krista Sturtevant P’29 invited all those in attendance to share their adjectives of Green. Descriptors such as “steady” and “dedicated” quickly surfaced from the crowd.

In addition to serving as a celebration of his accomplishments and impact, “p’s and q’s” also offered the opportunity for people to wish Green well–after three decades of his steady and dedicated presence at Hamilton, he is preparing to retire at the end of this school year. Before presenting him with the Hamilton Life Achievement Award, Wheeler’s Head of School Allison Gaines Pell P’23, P’25 spoke of the legacy of love that Mr. Green will leave behind. “Jon has many achievements that will be lauded for years to come, and these easily make him a worthy recipient of the Life Achievement Award,” she said. “His dedication to children, to strengths-based education for students with the specialized cognitive abilities of our Hamilton students, is second to none. But I know – and all of us here tonight know – that the most essential aspect of Jon’s legacy will be the relationships he has built. He is a kindred spirit – and I don’t just mean to me, as a fellow educator inspired by the many types of minds around us, but a kindred spirit to every student, every colleague, every family he encounters. I think that sums up Jon’s life work and life achievement.”

Representing one of those families, Jacky Beshar P’14, whose daughter Scout attended Hamilton, described Mr. Green as a brick. “Our start at Hamilton was, shall we say, ‘rocky,’” she told the audience. “But through it all, Jon Green and his team hung on to Scout and on to us and kept us moving forward. The support we got from Jon in those early years was so significant that one day I stopped at the Providence Art Club where the sidewalk was being renovated and picked up a loose brick. I wrapped it in a ribbon and delivered it to Jon with a note saying ‘Thanks for being one.’ That brick is still on Jon’s bookcase. It is one of his favorite presents and has come to symbolize what Jon has been to scores of families and students through his career at Hamilton.

“When Jon told me this summer that he wanted to spend his last year at Hamilton helping to strengthen and broaden Hamilton’s reach for the future, I was not the least bit surprised.”

Ms. Beshar then announced the impact of that effort, with an incredible $6.9 million having been raised for Hamilton so far this year. The funds will support the growth of the Polaris program, which provides guidance and academic support for students with learning differences in Wheeler’s Upper School; amplify the outreach of the Hamilton Institute; and increase financial aid for Hamilton students by 50% over current funding.

“Your gifts show what we can do when we join together to rally around something we care deeply about,” Ms. Beshar said. “A school like Hamilton simply doesn’t happen without the dedication of a community that wants to see it thrive.”

When accepting the Hamilton Life Achievement Award, Green described that community as a “kingdom,” and he expressed how grateful he was to have had the keys to “the kingdom of these children and adults in our society that think differently” for such a long time. “(They are) a loving group of people to be sure,” he continued. “Yes, I think I understand what many of these kids went through, and truth be told, I saw myself in these children all these years. Kid problems don’t freak us out. We roll up our sleeves and with a band of like-minded teachers, we got to make a huge difference in these young lives. Thank you all for giving my life such purpose and impact. How lucky I am, how lucky we are.”

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