Personal attention has long been one of the hallmarks of a Wardlaw+Hartridge education. It’s an important strength of small schools like ours. Students know their teachers and, perhaps more importantly, teachers know their students. These connections lead to relationships that help guide our students, not only during their W+H years but often long after they graduate, attend college and embark on successful careers. Many of our students genuinely appreciate these connections, not only while they are here on campus, but also later in life as alumni who come back to visit us.
Imam Khalid Latif, a W+H graduate from the Class of 2000, spent the day here on April 14 for the Upper School Symposium as a keynote speaker and panelist. Imam Latif is one of our most accomplished graduates and a recent recipient of the W+H Distinguished Alumnus Award. He is the Executive Director and Chaplain for the Islamic Center at New York University. In 2005, Latif was appointed the first Muslim chaplain at NYU. In 2006, he was appointed the first Muslim chaplain at Princeton University. His accomplishments and accolades are too vast to list in this blog post – Google him if you want to learn more.
Several times during his contributions on the morning panel and keynote address in the afternoon, Iman Latif mentioned how fortunate he felt to have been educated at Wardlaw+Hartridge and how it set him up for future success. He offered words of motivation to the students in the audience and challenged them to take advantage of their similar educational privilege and be active participants in the solution: “When you graduate from this place, you take your degree and you go and change that kind of foolishness. You can hear stories all day but if you treat them just as stories, you’re going to sit back and be a part of the problem.”
Iman Latif clearly believes in the Wardlaw+Hartridge education, but his warm feelings for our school go beyond the fact that he has become an enormous success in life. Walking through the halls with him during Symposium Day, I had the pleasure of watching him reunite with several former teachers. Latif met with Gerard Gonnella ’89, our current Director of Admission and Financial Aid, who taught him history in the late 1990s. He ran into Jim Howard, who has been teaching mathematics for more than 40 years at our school, and Tanda Tucker, a Middle School art teacher for more than two decades. Finally, Latif reconnected with Lower School veteran teacher Ellen Ritz as he was departing campus. Latif and his two older siblings were W+H lifers.
Clearly, the personal attention Latif received during his years as a student made an impact on him. He dropped dozens of names of teachers and classmates throughout the day as we walked past the science labs, art displays and athletic fields.
At the conclusion of his keynote, Iman Latif generously offered to help any W+H students who needed assistance and provided permission to contact him via email. This personal connection will be a valuable resource for students wishing to pursue it.