Head of School Dr. Margarita Curtis recently returned from her first trip to India. Young alumnus, Rahul Mehra ’03, who lives and works in Mumbai, helped facilitate the visit, as Dr. Curtis hopes to establish relationships with Indian secondary schools and publicize the full Deerfield scholarship available to one Indian student. This competitive scholarship was made possible by alumnus Reza Ali ’87 and will be awarded to a student on the basis of a student’s academic standards and contributions to co-curricular programs.
Dr. Curtis met with the heads of some of Mumbai and Delhi’s premier schools, visited with top administrators of the recently founded Ashoka University in Delhi, and attended the XVII Global Connections Seminar hosted by Daly College, a secondary school in Indore.
“It is my hope that my face-to-face interactions and discussions with distinguished Indian educators, as well as the availability of this scholarship, will allow us to gain a stronger presence in the country, which is the second most populous nation in the world, and the largest democracy,” Dr. Curtis said. She noted that currently, DA receives “few applications from India. For historical reasons, Indian students apply almost exclusively to boarding schools in the UK.”
Ms. Pamela Safford, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, elaborated, “Because this is a new initiative, in the current year we are both promoting this opportunity within schools as well as developing a process by which we will ultimately identify, assess and select scholarship candidates. Dr. Curtis’s trip is well-timed, therefore, as we expect that she will have learned a lot about the ‘appetite’ for such an opportunity, as well as, perhaps, about possible future candidates.”
Dr. Curtis participated in the Indian Global Connections Seminar from January 12-19, a conference she has also attended in Thailand, South Africa, and Colombia, where she focused on “Peace Education within Faith Diversity.” The seminar encourages school leaders worldwide to develop global consciousness and to promote international cooperation in their schools. Dr. Curtis is following the lead of Eric Widmer, her predecessor, who played a major role in the establishment of the organization and attended some of the earlier seminars.
In the past, Dr. Curtis has visited several Asian countries, including Korea and China, where she travels annually in order to speak with alumni and to raise funds. Reflecting on what made he trip to India unique, Dr. Curtis noted, “The most striking feature, as I have traveled through the South and the North, including a week-long train trip through the state of Rajasthan, is the enormous cultural, religious and linguistic diversity of the country—22 official languages and more than a thousand dialects are spoken in India, so English is the Lingua Franca of the country,” she said. “As you drive through different cities, it is not unusual to see a mosque next to a Hindu temple or a Christian church, and everyone I spoke with, from cab drivers, museum guides to educators took pride in this diversity.”
In addition to her week long trip through the country, Dr. Curtis visited the house where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1947, a trip she described as especially meaningful. “Gandhi’s principle of nonviolence and peaceful resistance—powerful instruments in the struggle for social justice, and the liberation of India from British rule—reminded me of the impact of this philosophy on another world leader, Dr. King,” she said.