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Al Romano Pays Tribute to Former Headmaster John Hanly

A hallmark of former Headmaster John Hany's 13-year tenure at Pingry (1987-2000) was a dedication to promoting ethical behavior, so when he announced his retirement, a group of donors established the John Hanly Lecture Series on Ethics and Morality to continue that legacy. Every school year for the past two decades, a guest speaker has visited Pingry to discuss their perspective on ethics and the difficult considerations often required in ethical decision making. And along with ethics, Mr. Hanly championed the arts—the Drama, Music, and Visual Arts Departments expanded exponentially during his years at the helm.

At the first lecture since Mr. Hanly passed away in August, Head of School Matt Levinson summarized Mr. Hanly's legacy and noted that "he would have been particularly proud of Almost, Maine, the show that took place in the outdoor amphitheater recently." On the topic of the Honor Code, he reflected: "When I started at Pingry and was reading about the School's history, one of the things that struck me was Mr. Hanly's decision to create the Honor Board in the mid-1990s. He really wanted to shift the responsibility and ownership of the Honor Code to the students, and having a student-run Honor Board was a way to do that. He believed in putting an awesome responsibility on your shoulders."

It was appropriate that this year's lecture merged ethics and the arts. The "guest" speaker was former Drama Department Chair Al Romano, who taught at Pingry for 29 years, from 1988-2017, and had enjoyed a decades-long collaboration with Mr. Hanly. They had previously worked together at Trinity School in Manhattan, where Mr. Hanly was an administrator and Mr. Romano was an English teacher and administrator with a strong desire to lead a drama program. When Mr. Hanly joined Pingry and wanted to start a drama program, he soon brought Mr. Romano with him.

In his remarks—presented by video from his home in Pennsylvania, thanks to Music Teacher Sean McAnally who drove there to make the recording—Mr. Romano paid tribute to Mr. Hanly. He described a humble leader who forged personal connections with students, believed in acts of kindness (which often took the form of personal notes sent to members of the community), delivered inspiring speeches, made time for an annual holiday reading to the student body of Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales, and even took the step of admitting a personal failure in front of the whole school.

"To him, character education was as important as academic education," Mr. Romano said.

At the intersection of ethics and drama, Mr. Hanly and Mr. Romano agreed on the value of theater: "participating in the stories of others . . . He defended the staging of plays which required the School to examine its beliefs, its prejudices—plays that might make us uncomfortable." At the similar intersection of ethics and athletics, Mr. Romano said that Mr. Hanly believed that sports also provide an opportunity for character education, "speaking out strongly when a team or its fans failed to exhibit basic sportsmanship." Also appropriate for a presentation by a drama teacher, Mr. Romano concluded his remarks by reading the finale of A Child's Christmas in Wales.

Community reflections of Mr. Hanly were read by members of the Honor Board and Middle School Student Government. Themes included Mr. Hanly's emphasis on honorable behavior when watching sports; making teachers feel proud of their work; and his examples of kindness, respectfulness, and honor. (Presenters: Brian Fahey '25, Sebastian Jin '26, Sam Nkansah '26, Chloe Huang '26, Josie Alston '21, Meghan Durkin '21, Olivia Telemaque '22, Rhea Kapur '21, Jack Martin '22, and Assistant Head of School Dr. Delvin Dinkins.)

Pictured, top: Former Drama Department Chair Al Romano delivering remarks about former Headmaster John Hanly by video.

Pictured, bottom: Students read reflections about Mr. Hanly that were submitted by alumni and current and former faculty.

Contact: Greg Waxberg '96, Communications Writer, Editor of The Pingry Review