2021–2022 Recipients of Endowed Chairs, Teaching Awards Announced
As the 2021–2022 academic year began at Mercersburg Academy, Acting Head of School Quentin McDowell P ’25 announced the recipients of three newly appointed endowed teaching chairs and the inaugural holder of a newly established teaching chair, as well as this year’s recipients of the annual Ammerman Distinguished Teaching Award and Zern Excellence in Teaching Award.
James Brinson has been named the inaugural recipient of the Bess Simon Teaching Chair, Andy Schroer P ’07, ’08 is the new holder of the Robert R. Black (1925) Chair, Kristen Pixler now holds the Palmer Chair for the Fine Arts, and David Grady P ’16, ’22, ’25 was named the Mary Keeler Lawrence Distinguished Teaching Chair. Doug Smith P ’23, ’24 is the 2021-2022 recipient of the Ammerman Distinguished Teaching Award for Religious and Interdisciplinary Studies, while Dan Walker P ’19, ’23 is this year’s Zern Excellence in Teaching Award recipient.
Bess Simon Teaching Chair
Brinson was appointed Mercersburg’s school organist in 2003 and became the school carillonneur in 2009. He also directs Magalia (the school’s female a cappella group), Octet (the school’s male a cappella group), and the Chapel music program, and is assistant director of the Chorale. Brinson is highly experienced in choral arts, organ performance, and music history. A graduate with distinction of both Union Theological Seminary’s School of Sacred Music and Rhodes College, he is a member of the American Guild of Organists and the American Choral Directors Association and an associate member of the Guild of Carillonneurs of North America. Jim previously worked at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and School in Winter Haven, FL, and at St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis, TN, where he served as a music staff member and organist and choirmaster at Church of the Holy Communion. He has also taught music history and organ performance at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, FL. Brinson is an adviser and dorm faculty member in Swank Hall; he and his wife, Doree (who retired as a staff member in the school’s library), lived in Swank for several years and now reside in a townhouse on campus.
The chair was established to recognize a member of the arts department by Board of Regents President Emeritus Deborah Simon ’74 and honors the memory of her mother, Bess.
Andy Schroer P ’07, ’08
Robert R. Black (1925) Chair
Schroer grew up in Norwich, NY, and studied mathematics and computer science at Cornell University, where he was a quarterback on the varsity football team and received a bachelor’s degree, and earned a master’s degree in mathematics from Shippensburg University. He taught in the Perth Central and Norwich City schools in New York before joining the Mercersburg mathematics faculty in 1986. Schroer serves as head coach of Mercersburg’s boys’ thirds basketball team and an assistant coach for the golf team. He previously coached varsity football (winning four straight Mid-Atlantic Conference championships as head coach from 1996 to 1999), track & field, and JV boys’ basketball. Schroer is an adviser and dorm faculty member affiliated with Main Hall, and is the father of two Mercersburg graduates, Samantha ’07 and Alex ’08.
The chair was established by members of the Class of 1938 in honor of Black, a former faculty member who served the Academy for more than 40 years.
Palmer Chair for the Fine Arts
Pixler teaches digital art and photography as well as CommArts: The Art and Business of Graphic Design (a Springboard capstone course available to seniors). She is also the head coach for Mercersburg’s girls’ varsity soccer team, works with Mercersburg Outdoor Education, and is an adviser to Blue Review, the school’s student literary-arts publication. Pixler came to Mercersburg from Harrisburg Area Community College, where she was an adjunct professor of web design, and owned a photo and design studio based in nearby Chambersburg. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University and a master of fine arts from Virginia Commonwealth University, both with an emphasis on photography. Pixler and her husband, Matthew, live off campus; Kristen is an adviser and dorm faculty member in Fowle Hall.
The Palmer Chair was established by Andrea and Jack Palmer, parents of Matthew Palmer ’96 and Jonathan Palmer ’99, to encourage and build upon the imaginative teaching of the arts at Mercersburg—in particular, the importance of creative thinking and communication skills.
David Grady P ’16, ’22, ’25
Mary Keeler Lawrence Distinguished Teaching Chair
Grady came to Mercersburg in 1994 to serve as the school’s director of educational technologies, and moved to the mathematics classroom full time in 1998. He is also Mercersburg’s head indoor track & field coach and head boys’ cross country coach, and previously served as head coach of the school’s outdoor track & field teams. Grady earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Bucknell University and a master’s degree in educational media and instructional design from the University of North Carolina. He lived in Main Hall for 18 years as a residential faculty member; he finds working with students in the residential setting particularly fulfilling. Grady and his wife, Hope, stay busy with their four children, including alum Christopher ’16 and current students Sarah ’22 and Mary ’25. They are also involved in spreading awareness about childhood cancer, having lost their daughter, Lauren, to brain cancer.
The Lawrence Distinguished Teaching Chair was established with a gift from Mary Keeler Lawrence, mother of John Lawrence ’58, to honor teaching excellence in any discipline and to encourage outstanding teachers to remain at Mercersburg.
Doug Smith P ’23, ’24
Ammerman Distinguished Teaching Award for Religious and Interdisciplinary Studies
Smith is Mercersburg’s school archivist, a grade dean for the Class of 2025, and the head varsity golf coach. He previously served as dormitory dean in Keil Hail and has taught a Springboard capstone course (Parallel Histories) and a Mercersburg Intensive course (Black Film Directors from the U.S.); he has also coached soccer and basketball at the school.
Smith has coached at Mercersburg since 2008 and joined the faculty in 2012. He played soccer at Benedictine University at Springfield in Illinois before transferring to Virginia Commonwealth University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history. His wife, Jennifer Miller Smith ’97, is a Mercersburg alum and the dean of academics; the Smiths have two children, Cole ’23 and Nora ’24.
The award was established by Andrew Ammerman ’68 and his mother, the late Josephine Ammerman, to bring recognition to a member of the faculty who has demonstrated outstanding pedagogy in challenging Mercersburg students to address the spiritual, moral, ethical, and artistic dimensions of their lives, or to bring recognition to special religion scholars-in-residence who may be engaged from time to time to accomplish the same purpose.
Dan Walker P ’19, ’23
Zern Excellence in Teaching Award
Walker has served on the Mercersburg faculty since 2003; he teaches history and is a grade dean for the school’s Class of 2024. Prior to his grade dean role, he spent 16 years as Mercersburg’s head football coach. As a historian, Walker is fascinated with the intertwining of geography with human activity; United States history is his main interest. He was an All-Patriot League football player at Colgate University, where he was named the team’s most valuable defensive player and earned a bachelor’s degree in geography. Walker has worked and coached at Hamilton College, King’s College, and Frostburg State University (from which he earned a master’s of education).
Walker and his wife, Nikki (a member of the science faculty and the school’s head outdoor track & field coach), have two children, Colby ’19 (who plays soccer at the Catholic University of America) and Holden ’23.
The award was established by Judy and Allen Zern ’61 for annual presentation to a faculty member or members, with special consideration given to teachers in the math or science department.
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