Academy Leadership

Welcome From the President

Interim President Amy Nixon of Shady Side Academy, Private School in PittsburghWelcome to Shady Side Academy! One of the oldest independent schools in Western Pennsylvania, Shady Side enrolls more than 1,000 students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12 on four unique campuses. Our mission, to challenge students to think expansively, act ethically and lead responsibly, drives our curricular and co-curricular efforts at our schools. The heart and soul of any great school is the teaching faculty, and Shady Side teachers are dedicated to the craft of teaching, passionate about working with children and young adults, and committed to the idea that learning is truly a collaborative endeavor.

In partnership with parents, we strive to build supportive learning communities where students will be adaptive, resourceful, innovative and independent learners. We embrace the differences within our community and know that this diversity adds to the richness and depth of the overall learning experience. We also encourage our students to be risk takers, whether in the classroom, on the playing field or on the stage. We want to nudge students out of their comfort zones in order to expand the number of zones in which they are truly comfortable.

As the world becomes smaller and more interconnected, we aim to provide our students with the knowledge and skills to comprehend its complexity and to think about it insightfully. Each day our teachers discover new ways to bring the world into our classrooms, and we have worked hard to expand opportunities for our students to experience distant places firsthand. We encourage students to analyze old assumptions critically, as they consider solutions to current and future problems and challenges. Our goal is that Shady Side students will be engaged, thoughtful and compassionate citizens of any community in which they live.

At Shady Side we also place a very strong emphasis on the development of character and instill in students our five Guiding Principles of Honesty, Kindness, Responsibility, Respect and Safety. Legendary SSA athletic director Cap Palmer’s captured this spirit best in an exhortation to his players almost 100 years ago, which still rings true today, whether talking about athletic contests, academic pursuits or life in general: “Honor the game thou playest, for he who playest the game straight and hard wins even when he loses.”

It is a great pleasure to invite you to explore our community. We hope that you will be able to visit our campuses in person. I would be happy to meet you when you do.

Sincerely,

Bartley P. Griffith Jr. '93
Academy President

Bart Griffith's Bio

Bartley P. "Bart" Griffith Jr. '93 became president of Shady Side Academy on July 1, 2019, and is only the second alumnus to lead the school.

Prior to Shady Side, Griffith was the assistant head of Gilman School, an independent K-12 day school for boys in Baltimore, Md., from 2015 to 2019. There, he oversaw academic affairs, assisted with the overall operations of the school, and worked closely with the headmaster, board of trustees and senior leadership team to fulfill the school's mission in the areas of strategic planning, institutional advancement, board engagement, enrollment and financial aid, program innovation, professional development, recruitment and hiring, and global experience. Griffith established Gilman's 2018 Strategic Plan as part of a six-member Board Strategic Planning Committee and chaired its 2018 Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools (AIMS) self-study and accreditation.

From 2017-2019, Griffith also served as a dean and faculty member of the Penn GSE Independent School Teaching Residency, providing programmatic leadership for a collaboration between the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education and 10 of the country's leading independent schools. The program supports early-career educators through theory and practice, enabling them to receive a master's degree in education from Penn, complete a two-year fellowship at a partner school, and develop as future program leaders in independent schools.

Prior to Gilman, Griffith held a variety of positions over 15 years at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Ga., including K-12 English Department chair, dean of students, and varsity football and girls' lacrosse coach. From 2013 to 2015, he designed and directed Atlanta 2.0: The Urban Design Fellowship, a three-week summer collaborative between Westminster and the Lovett School that challenged students to consider the impact of land use, public space and urban design on Atlanta's community and economy. The program won a Stephen P. Robinson Collaboration Grant from the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS) in 2015.

Griffith was named a STAR Teacher by the Professional Association for Georgia Educators in 2000, received a Merrill Award for Teaching Excellence from the Westminster Schools in 2002, named Assistant Lacrosse Coach of the Year by the Georgia High School Association in 2004, and recognized by the Stanford University Teacher Tribute Initiative for "Excellence in Teaching" in 2011. The students at Westminster dedicated the school's yearbook to him in 2004.

Griffith holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from Bucknell University, where he played football, a master's degree in teaching of English from Columbia University and a master's degree in English from Middlebury College, with coursework at Lincoln College, Oxford University (U.K.). He is a member of the advisory board of The Glasgow Group, which provides professional development for educators in the areas of leadership, cultural competency and strategic initiatives.

Griffith is a native of the Pittsburgh area, having grown up in Squirrel Hill and Fox Chapel, and attended Shady Side Academy for grades 6-12, graduating in 1993. During his time at Shady Side, he was varsity football captain, an editor of the Shady Side News and recipient of the President's Prize. As an alumnus, he was an engaged member of the SSA Board of Visitors from 2007 to 2019. He and his wife, Danica, have two children: a daughter, Colette '28, and a son, Cannon '30.

Q&A With Bart Griffith

by Nick Sawicki '19 for the Shady Side News, Fall 2018

Q: What’s changed since you were a student at Shady Side and what’s the same?
A: The student body is more diverse than it was when I attended, making the SSA of today an even richer learning environment. And the performing arts and athletics programs have grown significantly as a result of the Hillman Center construction and the school’s 1994 decision to join the WPIAL. But so much has stayed the same – the campuses remain beautiful, the young people here are still kind and remarkably talented, and, most importantly, the faculty continues to love and commit fully to students. As ever, Shady Side is an inspiring place to be!

Q: Favorite SSA memory?
A: Shady Side was the most enjoyable, transformative experience of my childhood, and so I am lucky to have countless good memories. The one that probably comes to mind most often is our upset of rival Kiski School in what was the final game of my senior football season. Football meant a lot to me in high school, but despite a lot of training and hard work, we did not win many games while I was at Shady Side. On that day, however, against a very strong opponent, with a beautiful snow falling over the whole scene, everything finally came together and my teammates and I inspired one another to perform beyond what we thought was possible. I reflect on that game to this day as an example of how much can be accomplished when people believe in each other and commit to a cause larger than themselves.

Q: What activities were you involved in?
A: I played football and basketball and wrote for the newspaper, serving as an editor my senior year. I was also in a number of clubs, including a fledgling sketch comedy troupe that ultimately produced a SNL-type show we called Tuesday Night Live, which was lots of fun to do and ended up being popular with the student body and faculty. It had some of the same energy as WSSA-TV!

Q: What was the college process like for you at Shady Side?
A: I was not admitted to my first-choice college. At the moment, I remember being very disappointed. But over time I began to appreciate this outcome as a blessing because it offered me unexpected gifts of resilience, humility and perspective. It also helped me to recognize and seize the learning opportunities that so often emerge in wake of a disappointment. And I ended up attending a college that was an absolutely perfect fit for me!

Q: Were SATs or APs a thing that you had to do as a high school student? If so, what did you do back then to prepare?
A: I don’t remember taking any AP exams, but the SATs were definitely something I thought about and prepared for – I actually took an SAT prep course that Mrs. Krauland taught here at SSA in the evenings. And it totally helped!

Q: Was the college admissions process as competitive as it is today?  
A:
With today’s increasingly global applicant pool and new technologies and systems allowing students to apply to seemingly countless schools, the college admissions process is definitely more competitive now than when I was at Shady Side. While I hope students will challenge themselves and aspire to the very best colleges and universities, I remain concerned about the burnout this new competitive reality can cause. For some students and families, the dash can begin as early as elementary school. My advice? Do your best to achieve but also be sure to enjoy your childhood. It’s the only one you will get.

Where did you attend college, what major did you choose and why?
A: Bucknell. I double majored in English and History. I guess I chose to study literature and history because I have always been compelled by stories; they help us to think creatively, know ourselves and others, and raise the good questions that inspire new ways forward. I rely on these skills daily as a teacher and school leader.

Q: Did Shady Side prepare you for college?
A: Undoubtedly. More importantly, Shady Side readied me for a life full of challenge and change. 

Q: What, if anything, would you have changed about your experience at Shady Side?
A: I wish I would have developed relationships with a greater diversity of classmates. I generally got along with everyone but ultimately engaged a relatively small circle of close friends, likely missing out on daily opportunities to know peers who came from different backgrounds from me or had separate interests. So many of these classmates have gone on to significant careers and extraordinarily interesting lives – it is a reminder of the chance we have every day to extend ourselves to exceptional people and build meaningful friendships.

Q: What do you think you’ll change at Shady Side now that you’re the president? Goals/objectives/first project that you feel like tackling? 
A: Before considering any significant school change, I am first looking forward to reacquainting  myself with Shady Side. I want to spend time getting to know students, faculty, and parents and learning more about why people love this school and what they see as its greatest opportunities for the future. In the end, it’s going to be about focusing on the connections in the community that provide a sense of purpose, the friendships and relationships that inspire growth and make it all worthwhile.

Past Academy Leaders

  • William R. Crabbe, Principal, 1883-1913
  • Luther B. Adams, Principal, 1913-1919
  • Harold A. Nomer, Headmaster, 1919-1937
  • Demass E. Barnes, Acting Headmaster, 1937-1938
  • E. Trudeau Thomas, Headmaster, 1938-1941
  • Roger B. Merriman, Headmaster, 1941-1944
  • Clifton O. Page, Acting Headmaster, 1942-1944
  • Erdman Harris, Headmaster, 1944-1953
  • George L. Follansbee '30, Headmaster/President, 1953-1965
  • Edward S. Bradford Jr., Acting President, 1965-1966
  • Samuel S. Greene, President, 1966-1976
  • A. Emerson Johnson III, President, 1976-1988
  • Peter J. Kountz, President, 1988-2001
  • Thomas N. Southard, President, 2001-2010
  • Thomas M. Cangiano, President, 2010-2018
  • Amy B. Nixon, Interim President, 2018-2019
  • Bartley P. Griffith Jr. '93, President, 2019-