Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight

March 10, 2004:

Duffy became headmaster of the Lawrenceville School in July. (Photo: The Lawrenceville School)

Going back to school
Liz Duffy ’88 is first woman to lead Lawrenceville School

Elizabeth Duffy ’88 has held top positions at nonprofit educational organizations, including the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and most recently the Illinois-based Ball Foundation. But her favorite job was her first one — as administrator for the Student Volunteers Council — that is, until she took over in July as the 12th headmaster of the Lawrenceville School, a preparatory school a short drive from Princeton.

“I love working with students,” says Duffy, who was eager to return to a campus setting, given her own college experiences. One of the perks of her job at Lawrenceville is attending classes. She has sat in on at least two dozen, on subjects ranging from calculus, to the American West, to world religions.

Lawrenceville enrolls about 800 high school students. Duffy, a molecular biology major at Princeton who later earned an M.B.A. and master’s in education from Stanford, says Lawrenceville must address “the enormous pressure students and faculty are under these days.” Faculty members, she explains, are expected to be excellent teachers and coaches, and to be involved in the residential life of the school. Students, says Duffy, must manage their hectic, competitive lives — and not only strive for top grades but also stand out in extracurricular activities.

Another challenge, she says, will be balancing Lawrenceville’s commitment to legacies and to diversity. “The more selective you become, the harder it is to balance those values,” says Duffy, who has written two books: Crafting A Class: College Admissions and Financial Aid, 1955—1999 (1997) and, with former Princeton president William G. Bowen *58, The Charitable Nonprofits (1994).

While she logs many hours with faculty and students, Duffy’s husband, John Gutman ’83, a 1979 graduate of Lawrenceville, takes care of their two children — Lucy, 3, and Ted, 1— as he has done since they were born.

A University trustee, board member of Project 55, and cofounder of the Princeton Women’s Network, Duffy realizes that she follows “in the footsteps of some pretty remarkable people” at the helm of Lawrenceville. “That’s a little humbling,” she says.

By K.F.G.