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Rawson named Phillips Exeter interim principal

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 22. 2018 9:25PM

EXETER — Trustees at Phillips Exeter Academy announced this week they have hired an interim principal to replace Lisa MacFarlane, who is returning to the University of New Hampshire after three years at the helm of the school.

Phillips Exeter Academy officials issued a release this week announcing Bill Rawson will become interim principal at the end of the school year.

“I am delighted that Bill has accepted the position, and the Trustees are eager to work with Bill on the next stage of Exeter’s future,” said Tony Downer, president of the school’s Board of Trustees, in a statement. “His leadership experience at other schools, paired with his passion for, and understanding of, Exeter are a combination that will enable the community to come together and to continue to advance the good and important work underway at our school.”

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to immerse myself in the community and move the school forward over these next two years,” said Rawson in a statement. “My experience at Exeter as a student, made possible thanks to the benefit of financial aid, was transformational; and I’m committed to ensuring access to academic excellence for others as well.”

According to a release issued by the school, Rawson practiced law at the international law firm of Latham & Watkins out of its Washington, D.C, office, where he climbed the ranks from associate attorney to partner from 1982-2014.

In addition to co-founding and chairing the firm’s environmental department in Washington, he served on several firm management committees, including recruiting, finance, and associate career development and training.

Before joining Latham, Rawson clerked for a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Before beginning his law career, Rawson spent two years as an admissions officer at PEA, where he lived on campus, advised students and coached JV and varsity lacrosse. Since that time, he has volunteered in nearly every capacity, from leading class reunions to serving as trustee from 2004-16.

Rawson has been a trustee of the E.L. Haynes Public Charter School since 2012 and a member of the board of directors for the Environmental Law Institute since 2010. He was a member of the Stanford Law School Board of Visitors from 2005-11.

MacFarlane served during a turbulent time for the prep school that has endured many controversies over allegations of sexual harassment or assault by past or present staff and students.

Last spring, Arthur Peekel, the school’s former admissions officer, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old student in 1973.

Peekel, 74, of Palatine, Ill., was given a one-year suspended jail term and was made to register as a sex offender for the next 10 years.

County prosecutors last year agreed to drop sex assault charges against a former student.

Chukwudi Ikpeazu was arrested in June 2016 after an ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct involving faculty and students and criticisms of the school’s handling of incidents, some from decades ago.

Phillips Exeter officials said the school’s minister had met with Ikpeazu and urged him as an act of penance to bake bread for the teen victim for the rest of the school year. The victim said this only led to more trauma for her.

MacFarlane is credited with creating the new position of director of student wellbeing and working with the Preventions Innovations Research Center to come up with the first comprehensive sexual and relationship violence education and prevention program for secondary schools.

Rawson earned a B.A. in American Studies from Amherst College, and his law degree at Stanford Law School. According to school officials, he and his wife Mary will soon relocate to the New Hampshire area from Washington, D.C., for a July 1 start date.

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