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Dennis Manning

A message from Headmaster Dennis Manning, sent June 4, 2020.

Dear Norfolk Academy Family,

I closed our end of year faculty meetings this week by surveying a challenging national backdrop — a pandemic and self-isolation for 2 1/2 months, an economic contraction of historic severity, and 40 million souls relegated to the ranks of the unemployed. I have been thinking for some time how long our daunting challenges will persist.

Suddenly those concerns, I told the faculty, have retreated. A white police officer kneeling on the neck of a black man, George Floyd, and pressing the life out of him, has leapt into our national consciousness. This reprehensible act has also loosed a torrent of emotion, anger, and pain borne of generational racism, injustice, and deprivation. We have seen images of peaceful protest that are a stirring demonstration of our First Amendment right of peaceable assembly, and, harrowingly, images of violence, destruction, and looting that unite all of us in revulsion. George Floyd’s killing is the most recent example of inhumanity against black people in a nation still haunted by slavery and its consequences.

Norfolk Academy, like most American institutions of such longevity, has a complex history. An 1863 lithograph on display in the Massey Center shows our school building in downtown Norfolk having been seized and occupied by Union troops, re-purposed as a hospital. We do not have much in the way of 18th or even 19th century archival material. In a better-documented 20th century chapter, Norfolk Academy did not integrate until several years after Massive Resistance and the desegregation of the Norfolk public school system. There is no revising this history. We need to continue to summon a determination to do better by and for all, but particularly for our black students, alumni, and community members.

In the past few days I have heard from several of our students and alumni. While realizing that I am an imperfect messenger, I want you to know we are united with you. While we acknowledge that not all of us can really share your pain, we do share your resolve to help lead our community, our region, our state, and our nation to a better place. One of our graduates reminded me: our school’s mission calls us “to prepare students to become ultimately useful and responsible citizens of a democracy... [and that we must] strive to make them aware of their role in creating a just society.”

Our mandate could not be clearer. We must help our students understand the history that underpins these events, the ways they can make a difference as citizens, and their powerful ability to create a just society. These aspirations stem directly from our school’s mission – it has ever been our purpose to prepare children with an active social consciousness and conscience, and a deep, abiding love of their fellow man. But there is more in front of us, more to accomplish. Our school’s mission has never seemed more important or critical.

As adults we will not wait for the next generation to address these challenges. We are listening, we are learning, and we are acting with renewed conviction. We will intensify and sharpen one of the central focuses of our recently launched Strategic Plan that calls on us to advance an appreciation of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the life, programs, and curriculum of our school. In the days and weeks ahead, we will turn to our student diversity groups, our student and faculty leaders, and our school counselors and librarians to secure their help and input — ways we might serve our students and faculty during this challenging time, advance their understanding, provide them support. We will work with our long-standing partner, Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, and we will reach out to other community groups to continue to educate ourselves. These actions, and others to come, reflect our determination to stand with and support every person of color in our community.

I invoke the same words I used to close our final faculty meeting, words we might think of as a benediction Martin Luther King Jr. left us: “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

You have our pledge that we will never accept a “starless midnight of racism.” We will hold fast to “unarmed truth” and to “unconditional love” — let those be our final words and exemplars for every child, every student in our care.

With love, respect, and reverence,

Dennis G. Manning


  • Diversity
Power List
  • Alumni News
Mike Connors

Several members of the Norfolk Academy family, including alumni and trustees, were honored in this year's Inside Business Power List.

The annual list highlights those who contribute to the Hampton Roads community's strength. This year's list focused on people helping the region deal with coronavirus - Gov. Ralph Northam was the top choice. This edition also gave special attention to the leaders of local agencies that promote regionalism. 

The list includes the following alumni and current Trustees:

  • Scott Adams '84. He joined CBRE in 1988 as a financial analyst, and navigated an acquisition in 2018 by Colliers International to be named its Virginia president in 2019, Inside Business noted. His volunteer efforts include service as national board chairman of The Honor Foundation and chairman of Old Dominion University’s Veteran Support Services Committee.
  • Trustee Lawrence Bernert III '81. A principal and portfolio manager for Wilbanks Smith & Thomas Asset Management, he is active as a board member for the Employees’ Retirement System of the city of Norfolk, where he chairs its investment committee. He also serves as the board chair of the Children’s Health Foundation, which supports the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters. 
  • C. Torrey Breeden '93. He joined The Breeden Co., a family firm in real estate development, in 1998, after graduating from the University of Virginia. Now an executive vice president, he is involved in land acquisition and development of new communities across the Southeast. He also serves on the executive management team, which is responsible for the vision of the company. 
  • Paul Hirschbiel '71. He is vice chairman of a company he originally invested in, The Memory Center in Virginia Beach. The magazine noted that he serves on multiple boards for startup businesses, children and disadvantaged families, and has received the Darden Award for Regional Leadership, recognition from the Virginia General Assembly, and membership in the Strome Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame, among other honors.
  • Chuck McPhillips '78. A member of Kaufman & Canoles, he is a business law attorney and the executive vice president of practice management. He also serves on boards in the arts, education, and economic development and business, and is currently president of the Greater Norfolk Corp.
  • Trustee Rony Thomas. President and CEO of LifeNet Health, which is a nonprofit global leader in regenerative medicine and the world’s largest provider of allograft bio-implants and organs for transplantation, Inside Business noted. The organization was recently recognized for its skilled biotechnology and biomedical workforce development programs as a Top 125 for 2020 by Training Magazine.

The list includes several other members of our community, including former trustees, parents of alumni and parents of current students. Among those is Kenneth Alexander, who recently won re-election as Mayor of Norfolk, and who delivered our Vespers Message to the Class of 2019.

Please read more from Inside Business, and see the full list and the Power List Emeritus, who includes more members from Norfolk Academy.


  • Alumni
  • Inside Business
Glenn Youngkin
  • Alumni News
Mike Connors

Glenn Youngkin '85 and his wife Suzanne have founded a new nonprofit group called the Virginia Ready Initiative, or VA Ready, which aims to give unemployed workers who complete credential training at a Virginia community college a $1,000 award.

Mr. Youngkin, a Norfolk Academy trustee from 2004 to 2010, is co-CEO of The Carlyle Group investment firm and a member of GO Virginia, a group that combines business leaders and state lawmakers to parcel out funds for programs to grow the economy. 

The Virginian-Pilot highlighted Mr. Youngkin and VA Ready in an article posted to on June 29, 2020. 

  • Alumni
Mike Connors

We have compiled a list of nonfiction books suited for students and adult readers that teach about Black history, current events, and ways to fight racism and injustice. This is one step in our commitment to work for justice, outlined by Headmaster Dennis Manning in his Headmaster's Statement — Creating a Just Society, sent to our community on June 4, and reflected in multiple aspects of the school's strategic plan, Creating a Just Society: Integrity, Leadership, and Pluralism.

The books are recommendations from a variety of sources, including our school librarians and faculty, and authoritative sources outside our school, including the New York Times (a list created by Ibram Kendi), The Virginian-Pilot, Smithsonian Magazine, National Network of Schools in Partnership, Coretta Scott King Book Awards, and Holocaust Center for Humanity.

The books are broken down by appropriate school levels, though some may be suitable for a wider range. Some for younger children are poetry or picture books based on current and historical events. The links provide reviews, interviews, and additional information about the authors and books. 

Books with asterisks are available as e-books from the Batten Library Sora Collection. Although the library is closed because of the pandemic, Middle and Upper School students may log in with their school email addresses to access these titles.

Upper School and Adult

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander*  

How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America by Moustafa Bayoumi*

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates*

Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People by Ben Crump (Attorney representing the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery) 

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson

Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon

Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman Jr. (Pulitzer Prize winner)

Stony the Road by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

Blindspot by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald*

Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey*

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi*

The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America by Khalil Gibran Muhammad

So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo

An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz*

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein*

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, a collection edited by Jesmyn Ward

Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race. Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us by Ben Watson (who spoke at NA in 2019; nephew of Elbert Watson)

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson*

Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections From an Angry White Male by Tim Wise

Middle School

We Are Not Yet Equal by Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden*

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, adapted by Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza*

Loving vs. Virginia by Lucinda Dyer

Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley

A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 by Claire Hartfield

Claudette Colvin by Phillip Hoose

Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston

Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and the Black American Dream by Blair Imani

This Book Is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell

Breaking Through by Francisco Jiménez

Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Lowery

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

Lower School

What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander

Resist: 35 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose Up Against Tyranny and Injustice by Veronica Chambers

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Mixed, A Colorful Story by Arree Chung

Enough! 20 Protesters Who Changed America by Emily Easton

Teammates by Peter Golenbock

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Not My Idea:  A Book About Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi

Let's Talk about Race by Julius Lester 

The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson

As Good as Anybody: Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel's Amazing March Toward Freedom by Richard Michelson

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African-Americans by Kadir Nelson

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman

People by Peter Spier

Who Was Rosa Parks? by Yona Zeldis McDonough

We have previously published a list of online resources about racism and Creating a Just Society. Explore those resources.

  • Creating a Just Society
  • Diversity
Mike Connors

Even before our 2019-20 school year ended, we established a Reopening Task Force, comprising, among others, top medical and health experts, to help us chart the best course for 2020-21.

That year begins Wednesday, August 26. It is our belief that the vast majority of the year will be spent in classes, on campus, while paying close attention to best practices established by public health agencies.

We are modeling different scenarios for the opening and operating of school, as well as for changes during the year that may alter our operating condition, but we must ultimately rely on, and be guided by, the Virginia Department of Health and the governor’s decisions.

Summer events: 

  • July 26: Tentative on-campus Graduation for the Class of 2020, if conditions allow.
  • August 10: Start of varsity football practices, if conditions allow. 
  • August 13: All other varsity sports begin practices.
  • August 17-26: Junior varsity and Middle School sports begin practices.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has caused us to cancel all six weeks of on-campus Summer at the Academy events. Please visit our website periodically, as we explore other potential summer offerings for our families.

We will continue to send updates through emails, our social media channels, and this page, to keep you apprised of developments as conditions evolve. Headmaster Dennis Manning most recently sent a letter to families on June 29, which can be read below. 

Please also visit our Distance Learning page, to learn more about that model, which we employed throughout the spring after the governor closed all state campuses.