Michael Gary had always thought of himself as an excellent student – right up until the moment that the first English paper he turned in after starting at the Pomfret School as an A Better Chance Scholar got handed back. “My teacher wrote more than I did in corrections,” he says of this early encounter with his new school’s demanding standards. “It was a sobering experience.”
Michael learned about A Better Chance while attending the Ulysses S. Grant Program, a program hosted at Yale University for talented middle school students from the public and parochial schools of New Haven, Connecticut. There he heard a presentation from a representative of a boarding school who was there to recruit. He left that presentation knowing two new things: first, that he was going to go away to a boarding school, and second, that there was a program called A Better Chance that would help him get there.
In 1978, Michael began at the Pomfret School as a sophomore. There, starting with the red ink on that first English paper, he developed the skills needed to perform to the standard expected of him – skills he never even realized he needed to learn in his prior educational experience. “I was, in fact, given a better chance,” he says.
After graduating in 1982, Michael went on to study economics at Trinity College of Connecticut. His career began in the Fortune 500 world, first in the marketing department of Aetna Life and Casualty and later as an account executive at KGA Advertising Agency. But after his first child was born, he wanted a position that would allow a better balance between work and family, and he knew from his own experiences that the boarding school world allowed for just that balance. He returned to his alma mater, the Pomfret School, this time as an associate director of admissions and director of multicultural affairs, and earned a Master of Education degree from Harvard University in 1995.
Michael went on to serve as Director of Admissions and as a Teacher of Economics at the Peddie School for six years before becoming Director of Admissions at Phillips Exeter Academy in 2002. In 2016, he was named the Head of the Friends Select School, a historic Quaker pre-K to 12 school in downtown Philadelphia which traces its history back to 1689. He is a regular speaker at conferences of independent schools and currently serves on the boards of Trinity College, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, and Independent Trust, a professional network connecting independent school alumni of color. He previously served on the boards of the Pomfret School and the Association of Boarding Schools.
Michael founded Inner City Lacrosse, a non-profit program that aims to bring the best collegiate lacrosse players together with inner city students to provide personal and academic mentorship through the medium of lacrosse. ICL has programs on the campuses of both Yale University and Trinity College.