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Empowering Teachers: 
a Tribute to Bill Wharton

In June of 2021, after twenty-one years as Headmaster and thirty-six at the school, Bill Wharton concluded his time at Commonwealth. Following the announcement of Bill’s retirement, Commonwealth’s Board of Trustees made personal, additional gifts to The Power of a Vision in tribute to Bill. Those gifts, totaling over $500,000, helped the campaign reach and surpass $10 million dollars. 

Bill was a teacher for twenty years—fifteen of them at Commonwealth—before he became Headmaster in 2000. A lifelong learner and forever a student at heart, Bill established the John Hughes Fund for Professional Development in 2001. The Fund, named after the first teacher founder Charles Merrill hired, provides summer and sabbatical grants for faculty to refresh existing or create new classes, to attend conferences and workshops, and to pursue their intellectual passions. Since the Fund’s establishment, 58 teachers have used Hughes grants to pursue 190 projects. 47 new classes have been created, including Physics electives on thermodynamics, waves, and the theory of relativity; Spanish classes focused on female writers and the immigrant experience; English classes redesigned to include more works by gender and racially diverse authors; and the school’s first-ever interdisciplinary and team-taught class, The Science of Art and Materials.


Capturing the strength and caliber of our teachers in a single gesture proves nearly impossible. In establishing the John Hughes Fund for Professional Development, Bill codified the school’s support for its teachers’ independent exploration. The Hughes Fund and all it inspires constitute a major, lasting part of Bill’s legacy.

“The Hughes program reflects our trust in giving teachers the freedom to shape their own growth, confident that the enthusiasm generated by the creation of a course, the study of a topic, or even the pursuit of a serious avocation will keep their teaching fresh and engaging.”

— Bill Wharton


In the twenty years since the fund was established in 2021, over $500,000 was granted through the Hughes program. Each year, the Fund was replenished through gifts to The Commonwealth Fund, the school’s annual fund. In honor of Bill’s tenure and commitment to Commonwealth, and with the generous support from our community, we have endowed and renamed it the Hughes/Wharton Fund for Teachers. 

To learn more about The Power of a Vision, contact Alisha Elliott '01, Director of Advancement.

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