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BU Academy has a new headmaster

James Berkman hopes to build on a classical curriculum

James Berkman will lead BU Academy beginning this summer.

James Berkman has been head of school at the Hawken School, a country day school in Cleveland, Ohio, for the past eight years. But lately, the 50-year-old Harvard-educated administrator says, he feels like a high school senior himself. That’s because Berkman will soon be heading off to an exciting university in a large Eastern city. As of July 1, he will take over as the headmaster of Boston University Academy (BUA).

 “You hate to leave a place you love,” he says. “But you get excited about the next stage.”

Douglas Sears, dean of the School of Education and the chair of the search committee for a new BUA headmaster, says he admires the mix of talents that Berkman will bring to his new job. “Jim Berkman brings to the academy a wide-ranging intellect, a well-earned reputation for integrity, and an outgoing personality,” Sears says. “We believe that these qualities, combined with his substantial experience, will allow him to lead the academy to even higher levels of achievement.”

A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard College, Berkman earned a master’s degree in early modern European history from Oxford University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. After practicing law for several years, he says, he realized that he had another calling.

“I stepped off a cliff and landed as an English teacher,” he says. “This is the combination of people and service and intellect I was hoping to find in law or history.”

At Hawken, Berkman helped introduce foreign language classes and financial aid programs at the elementary school, raise faculty salaries, and forge partnerships with major Cleveland-area institutions. At BU Academy, he says, he hopes to make the school a national model. He would also like to build on a classical curriculum, expose students to a wider range of topics, increase fundraising, and help recruit students of more diverse backgrounds.

The new headmaster sees advantages to working in the smaller environment of BU Academy. It was difficult to know all of Hawken’s 950 students, he says, but here he will oversee the education of about 160 students.

So far, he says, he has enjoyed getting to know members of the BU community. “They were just an interesting, vibrant, thoughtful group of people who got me really excited,” he says. “Talking Henry James is not an easy way to win friends or influence people, but these people actually wanted to talk about him.” Berkman describes the students he met as “interesting, yeasty, and exciting.”

Founded in 1993, BU Academy is a coeducational college preparatory day school for grades 8 to 12, located on the Boston University campus, but operating independently. The school’s enrollment at present is 156, and it employs 20 faculty members. The current headmaster, James Tracy, announced in January that he would resign effective July 1, after serving six years. He will assume the headmaster position at Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass.