Greens Farms Academy is a PreK-12, coed school in Westport, CT

Peter Esty, Former Head of School, Dies at 83

GFA Head of School Peter Esty

Peter T. Esty, Head of School at Greens Farms Academy from 1998-2003 and an ardent supporter of independent schools and global education, died peacefully on November 15, 2020, in Andover, Mass. He was 83.

“The Greens Farms Academy community is saddened by the passing of Peter Esty,” said Head of School Bob Whelan. “Peter was a talented and joyful educator and leader whose commitment to the school’s mission was unwavering. His legacy is evident in all aspects of GFA today and for that we are grateful.”

Peter Esty

A visionary school leader and pioneer in global education with a deep commitment to social justice, Esty sustained and strengthened GFA’s traditional strengths of teaching and learning while ushering in important changes to reflect broader societal trends. Among his many accomplishments, he introduced the Harkness learning method and established the Horizons GFA program. The Peter T. Esty Walkway adjacent to the front courtyard honors his important and enduring contributions to the school.

Former Board of Trustees President Henry Von Kohorn P ’93, ’96, who hired Esty and worked closely with him, recalled his vibrant personality and strong leadership. “Peter was open, welcoming, and joyful with an unfailing sense of humor. He displayed the courage and confidence to take on difficult issues irrespective of the consequences. The nationwide respect he enjoyed helped to solidify GFA’s reputation within the independent school community,” Von Kohorn said.

Upon his arrival at GFA, Esty’s impact on the community was immediate, as students and faculty were drawn to his enthusiasm for all things GFA. Honoring him in the yearbook, the Class of 2000 wrote, “It seems impossible that someone could achieve this admiration in only two years, and yet, we think of Mr. Peter Esty and know that there are people whose greatness is apparent from the very start. … Thank you for your warmth of spirit, your trust, and your friendship. Thank you for supporting us, and for encouraging us to grow intellectually, artistically, and athletically. Thank you for believing in us as we have always believed in you.”

As the Assistant Head of School during Peter’s tenure, Lynn Laukhuff got a chance to see Esty’s methods firsthand. She emphasized, “He had a dynamic personality, joy when engaged with educators, and was a visionary.” 

Echoing her sentiments, Head of Middle School Drew Meyer said Esty’s abilities as a visionary set the school up for long-term success.  

“I’ve always talked about the way Peter opened GFA to the broader community — knocking down the wall that separates us, if you will,” Meyer said. “He started us on the path of engaging with equity and inclusion in a more purposeful way. He asked questions that continue to influence what we do at GFA.”  

The GFA community extends our condolences to his wife, Happy, and their three children and families. Read the full obituary of Peter T. Esty here. To share your memories of Esty with the GFA community, click here and use password: Esty2020.

GFA Commencement 1999