Sitting Down with Berkshire’s Head of School: Pieter Mulder

William Warlick ’20

Hello, my name is William Warlick. A few weeks into the school year I took some time to sit down with Berkshire School’s Head of School, Pieter Mulder. We had a great chat about what he is doing and the future of the school — where we were, where we are, and where we’re going.


Green and Gray: Mr. Mulder, I know that you are often busy, but what do you love to do in your free time?

Pieter Mulder: I love to be outside I would like to be outside more but when I’m outside I spend a lot of my time trail running or biking on the great southern Berkshire country roads. I also spend a lot of time chasing our young son around, taking him to his sports games and practices. I believe our school is blessed with such a beautiful setting, and I like to take advantage of that. 

G&G: I saw you at the chess club yesterday playing a tight game against Mike Lewishall, in what other ways do you keep in touch with the student body?

PM: The chess club is not only a place I like to stay in touch with students, but it is also something I really enjoy during Wednesday night dinners. I applaud the excellent work of Matthew McGlinksy to get people involved in such a great game.

 Outside of chess, I really enjoy my weekly Monday morning breakfast with our two Head Prefects, our two All School Presidents, and our two Sixth Form Class Presidents: Giang, Manny, Gigi, Nate, Aimi, and Dan. While this is one of the more formal ways I keep in touch with the student body, I also particularly enjoy bouncing around classes, especially our art classrooms, AMSR lab, and engineering spaces. 

You can also find me out with the student body supporting our athletics. Yesterday I was out on the fields and watched our girls’ JV field hockey send Deerfield home unhappy with a 4-1 win for the first time in a long time. On most mornings, I welcome the student body into Berkshire Hall, just as I did this morning. I try to be a presence across campus, be it during the weekend or in the dining hall. I try to reach out to connect with students because I think we are that type of school. 

G&G: What new challenges do you face as a head of school that you didn’t at the beginning of your career at Berkshire?

PM: While many concerns as a head of school stay the same, I think school in the past decade has had to tackle a whole new set of issues. A big one is the challenges of welcoming, in an intentional and inclusive way, students and adults from all over the world; helping us all to live well together even as the rest of the world beyond Berkshire seems to be making it harder for us to do that well here. It is a challenge here at Berkshire, but something I think we are excited to take on, primarily when our students lead it. Living well together is an important challenge each year, but when done well it is our greatest strength as a school. 

Among other challenges facing the school, the world is asking all of our students to specialize. You and your friends are asked to pick your interest and passions at an earlier and earlier age, and I wish you had a little longer to explore before defining yourself. Some of this is related to generational pressure around the college process. So I think our efforts to allow you to be excellent but also to define yourself in broadly-defined ways is an important challenge. 

G&G: Kind, Brave, and Bold; you wanted these words as one’s students to remember throughout the year, what drew you to them?

PM: The simplicity is what drew them to me. I hoped to deliver a message that was easily understood by all and a message that could transcend Berkshire so that it is not only limited to our time at Berkshire but speaks to what it means to be a good human. 

Looking back to my time at Berkshire, it seems that the moments when we aren’t at our best is when we are not these three words when weren’t kind, or when we have been safe but not brave. I have always liked the word bold. I believe it fits the Berkshire community. We are full of people with all sorts of talents, experiences, and perspectives; they should think of themselves as ambitious, daring, creative, and passionate people. 

Finally, I like to think of kindness as the most important virtue, because when students are kind to each other, everyone feels it. When people act as themselves, when they are their best selves, kindness, bravery, and boldness all seem to fall into place. 

2019 marks the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Berkshire. What does coeducation mean to you? 

PM: It means gender equality at Berkshire. Berkshire today is much different compared to 1969; we need to remember that while there has been a lot of work done since then, a lot remains in 2019. The work is, in some cases, the same, in some instances, very different. I hope as we move forward, we can all engage with the difficult questions we are now tasked with answering if we are to be our strongest school and community. 


Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity