Interim Middle School Director Tommy Hudgins re-joined the Norfolk Academy community over the summer; he attended the Academy as a student, and he served as a teacher, coach, and administrator at NA for more than two decades, before departing to serve in an array of roles, including headmaster, at independent schools around the country.
Mr. Hudgins earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Washington & Lee University, where he was Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa, and a four-year letterman in baseball. He also earned an M.S. degree in educational administration from Old Dominion University. He joined NA immediately after college and served in numerous positions, including Director of the Upper School and Assistant Headmaster. After launching from NA in 1998, he served as Headmaster in several schools, including the Heritage School in Georgia, Westchester Country Day School in North Carolina, and Carlisle School in Virginia. He also served as Interim Head of School at Salisbury Academy in North Carolina and Assistant Headmaster for Institutional Advancement at the Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga.
In a recent interview, he shared some of his ideas about teaching, learning, and his excitement about returning to where his career began:
Why did you want to return to Norfolk Academy?
It is home. And, as much as I appreciated the quality of the institution when I worked for Mr. Massey and Mr. Tucker, I appreciate it even more today. Having spent time at independent schools in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, California, and another part of this state, I can say unequivocally that there is no finer school in the country.
What are you most excited about for this school year?
I am excited about reconnecting with members of the NA family I knew during my previous tenure. Many of my former students are now parents at the school, and there are still faculty members at the school with whom I worked in the '80s and '90s. But I am MOST excited (as I always am) about the opportunity to work with eager students and talented faculty to move everyone forward.
What are some of your favorite middle school memories?
I never attended a Middle School. I spent grades 7-9 as a student at NA. Back then, grades 6 and 7 were in the Lower School, and grades 8 and 9 were in the Tunstall (Boys) Division. So I was always worried about the juniors and seniors. Still, I have fond memories of my teacher/coaches.
What helpful lessons for teachers have you learned over the years?
Be sure your students (and their parents) know that you are on their side.
When planning a lesson, always plan for more than you think you can accomplish.
Try to listen as much as you talk.
What's the best thing about the start of the school year?
Fresh faces, fresh attitudes. It's always exciting to turn the page and begin writing a new chapter.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching.” --- John Wooden, legendary former UCLA basketball coach
"Remember who you are." --- Mufasa, from The Lion King
Last books read?
A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings --- George R. R. Martin
Gates of Fire --- Steven Pressfield
Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates --- Brian Kilmeade
I know this sounds incredibly pedestrian, but I don't think there's anything I enjoy more than a well-prepared burger. I like mine with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, and cheese. The best I've ever had was at the Tremont Tavern while I lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee. To those who just cannot accept that answer, I would say simply, "Oysters --- any way they come."
What do you like to do in your free time?
Play golf, read, follow college and professional sports, and walk on the beach
What’s a fun fact about you that students might find surprising?
Students would no doubt be surprised that I was a radio disc jockey when I was in college. Those who know me a little better would probably have a hard time believing I have made two holes-in-one during my golf "career" --- and they came 42 years apart.