Darryl J. Ford Receives Leadership in Service to Friends Education Award
“What we have in Quaker schools, we need to gift it to the world."
The power of Quaker education came full circle on April 20th when Friends Council on Education presented its Leadership in Service to Friends Education Award to Dr. Darryl J. Ford, head of William Penn Charter School. Dr. Ford is a Friends school graduate who went on to become a renowned and respected educator and leader in Quaker school circles and beyond.
Friends Council on Education, the national association of 78 Quaker schools, honored Ford for his exemplary commitment to Quaker education and Quaker schools as well as his tremendous leadership and impact in the broader realm of education.
In addition to serving as head of Penn Charter for 26 years, Ford has played a noteworthy leadership role in the independent school world, serving on at least 16 local, regional, and national Boards. He had the honor of serving on President Obama’s National Board for Education Sciences.
The Leadership in Service to Friends Education Award also honors Ford’s service to Friends Council on Education where he served on the Board for eight years, held the role of Board chair (clerk) twice and served on multiple occasions as a panelist, speaker, Leadership Institute partner, fundraiser, and as a gatherer and implementer of strategic ideas.
“As a graduate of Friends Select School you embodied Quaker education at a very young age. As head of the William Penn Charter School, you stepped into and have magnificently carried forward the legacy of 334 years of leadership and service in Quaker education,” said Dr. Irene McHenry, former executive director of Friends Council, who presented the award to Ford.
Just as important as his many accomplishments and broad influence, Ford was recognized for his grounded presence, his mentorship, his honesty, humility, humor and his unrivaled generosity, dignity and grace.
Ford’s experience in Quaker education began at Friends Select School in Philadelphia where as a young student he sat in Meeting for Worship in the Meetinghouse at 15th and Race Streets once a week for eight years. On the eve of his retirement as head of William Penn Charter School, Ford received the Friends Council Leadership in Service to Friends Education Award in the very same room.
After receiving the award, Ford shared his reflections on why the world needs Quaker education.
“What we have in Quaker schools, we need to gift it to the world,” Ford. “The world needs what we have. The quality of our instruction. Our understanding of peace. The dignity we afford to each person. Mindfulness, silent reflection, worship… what we have in Quaker schools we need to give it away, the world needs it now.”
Ford called on Friends schools to offer and extend a curriculum of conscience. “This is about building communities in our schools that understand and attack the world’s most pressing needs by explicitly teaching about these critical issues. Issues such as equal rights, quality education, clean water, climate, human trafficking, and close to my mind right now in the city of Philadelphia and the world, gun violence. What can we do to be explicit, to raise up this curriculum of conscience? What more can we do so that our students develop an appropriate outrage to act to address these issues?”
Friends education offers what Ford calls “The Quaker Edge.” Ford explained, “Recognizing the light in others and searching for the light in the world as a means to remain hopeful. To me this is our QuakerEdge. We have lots of great schools out there but we are the only sector that explicitly starts with ‘there is that of God inside each person.’ Quaker schools by our nature are hopeful. We need to remain hopeful and be a light in the world that faces so many challenges.”
“Let’s find a way to keep making Quaker schools our best hope for the world,” said Ford.
Photo credit for the photo gallery: Michelle Smith for Amit Gabai Photography