Justin Robertson

Mr. Hughes’s familiarity with LM students was powerful, and showed me that he really, truly cared about his students and their futures.


Having just graduated this year, I am still continually reflecting on my high school experience. I am grateful and do not take it lightly that I now have the opportunity to share my thoughts on Principal Sean Hughes, a highly praised, regarded, and beloved leader of Lower Merion High School who provided a safe and supportive learning space for thousands of students at an important time in their development. Upon reflection, I wish I had gotten a chance to get to know Mr. Hughes better. The interactions I had with him were pretty sparse and limited. But even so, I was able to grasp a sense of his strong, supportive character that had unlimited bounds. I believe that Mr. Hughes and his spirit of embracing all students served—and always will serve—to guide, support, and unite the LM community. With this in mind, I will turn to why I remember Principal Hughes as living, walking proof of the slogan he embraced that guides us all: “Character Counts.”

In my experience with Mr. Hughes, he always showed a sincere and deep devotion to supporting LM students as individuals with distinct identities, passions, and futures. He recognized and embraced student achievement from the first year to the last, handing out awards in the auditorium during assemblies and diplomas at Arnold Field during graduation. Leading up to my graduation, however, he was supportive in a one-on-one setting as well.

With all of the newly added responsibilities of reopening and running a school during a pandemic, he still took time to meet with me via Zoom and write me a letter of recommendation for college. In his response to my recommendation letter request, he mentioned that he was already “very familiar with me as an incredible student and person” and that he was proud of me. This was a surprise to me and I thought to myself, “Why would a school principal care about a little old me?” With the large number of students Mr. Hughes has interacted with over the years, I had no way of knowing whether or not in a principal’s eyes I was thought of as just another small drop in a large pool of high school students. From just his short email, however, he showed me that every student has a big voice and an important identity that must be nurtured and shared.

Through his words and generosity, I was able to get a glimpse of Mr. Hughes’s character. He was someone who supported and embraced people not just for their accomplishments, but also for their unique identity. He was someone that showed his support and love to people no matter how little he had interacted with them previously. He was someone who showed respect for students as people and as individual decision-makers. Mr. Hughes’s familiarity with LM students was powerful, and showed me that he really, truly cared about his students and their futures.

Reflecting upon the bigger picture behind Mr. Hughes’s actions, I have also realized that what I originally thought of as a little interaction with Mr. Hughes has had a large impact on me. For starters, he is a major part of the reason why I am able to write this piece from the dorm room of a top institution of higher learning. But more importantly, the experience I have had with Mr. Hughes is representative of the larger significance of his actions within the LM community. Something that I hope others can take away from this reflection is that no matter how limited an interaction between two people may be, it always reflects character. Mr. Hughes has shown me that character is essential for inspiring and supporting as well as learning and serving, which is the basis for another motto that he passionately supported: “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.”

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