Exeter taps Bill Rawson '71 as interim principal

Former trustee will lead Academy during search for 16th principal.

May 21, 2018
Exeter's Interim principal Bill Rawson

The Trustees of Phillips Exeter Academy announced Monday that they have chosen Bill Rawson as the school’s interim principal. Rawson succeeds Lisa MacFarlane, who announced in February that she’s returning to the University of New Hampshire after three years as Exeter’s principal. 

“I am delighted that Bill has accepted the position, and the Trustees are eager to work with Bill on the next stage of Exeter’s future,” said Tony Downer, president of the Trustees. “His leadership experience at other schools, paired with his passion for, and understanding of, Exeter are a combination that will enable the community to come together and to continue to advance the good and important work underway at our school.”

Rawson said, “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to immerse myself in the community and move the school forward over these next two years. My experience at Exeter as a student, made possible thanks to the benefit of financial aid, was transformational; and I’m committed to ensuring access to academic excellence for others as well.”

Rawson practiced law at the international law firm of Latham & Watkins in the Washington, D.C, office, where he progressed in responsibility from associate attorney to partner from 1982-2014. In addition to co-founding and chairing the firm’s environmental department in Washington, he served on several firm management committees, including recruiting, finance, and associate career development and training. While there he was a frequent lecturer and author on environmental and health and safety topics. Prior to joining Latham, Rawson clerked for a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  

Before beginning his law career, Rawson spent two years as an admissions officer at PEA, where he lived on campus, advised students and coached JV and varsity lacrosse. Since that time, he has volunteered in nearly every capacity from leading class reunions to serving as trustee from 2004-16. 

Rawson has been a trustee of the E.L. Haynes Public Charter School since 2012, including chairing the board through a transition from a founding head to an interim head to a successor head. He has been a member of the board of directors for the Environmental Law Institute since 2010, and he was a member of the Stanford Law School Board of Visitors from 2005-11.

Rawson earned a B.A. in American Studies from Amherst College, and his law degree at Stanford Law School.