New Faculty/Staff Q&A: Meet Chris Fortunato

To get to know our new faculty and staff a little better, we asked them to answer a few questions from the Proust Questionnaire — the famous set of questions that Vanity Fair asks celebrities on its back page. Today, we learn a little more about Head of School Chris Fortunato P ‘26, ‘28. A New Jersey native and the Academy’s ninth head of school, Fortunato earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard College, a law degree from Harvard Law School, and a master’s degree in social work from Boston University. He and his wife, Erin, have two children, Matt ‘26 and Katie ‘28, who both attend the Middle School. 

To see a video of Chris’s answers, click here

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

I think there’s no such thing as perfect happiness, and I think there are many unhappy people who’ve been seeking perfect happiness for far too long in their lives. I think that I'm more interested in finding meaning and fulfillment, and I find that through caring for others, which brings me a stronger sense of purpose and happiness. I think sometimes we get, again, too hung up on the idea of what happiness has to be, and we're often disappointed when we don't achieve some unrealistic ideal of happiness. And there are courses taught and books written all about this. I think people should be looking for connection and meaning and fulfillment as opposed to happiness. 

Which talent would you most like to have? 

I’m a musician and have been since I was four years old. And I can play different instruments, piano and saxophone in particular. And I can sing, but I don't sing well. So I'm always appreciative and envious when I’m in the presence of those who have either naturally or well-practiced excellent voices. So, at some point in my life, I would love to have a better, more melodic voice. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I've been privileged to be a part of different organizations and entities where we've achieved a lot, and whether it's buildings built or money raised or achievements that you can tick off in bullet points, I think, ultimately, the most important achievement to me is staying true to who I am when it's really hard. I think about how I look at my kids at night and look them in the eye and put them to bed hoping that they will be able to be authentically who they are. And so in moments of challenge and crisis — and I've had my share of those throughout my life and my career — being able to stay true to who I am and what I believe in when those moments happen, that, more than any one singular achievement that might be easy to put on a resume, resonates the most. 

Who are your heroes in real life?

I don't have a set list of the famous or infamous people who might be on people's lists of heroes. I've worked with students for a lot of years in a lot of different contexts. And I think about a lot of the students who didn't have the supports and resources and relationships to live the better lives that they aspired to. And yet they were able to be resilient and persevere and get through. And some of those students who I knew when they were 13 or 14 years old, who are now in their thirties, who have just overcome more adversity through more difficult stories than I can even relate, I look at those students and say, “You're at a far better place in some ways than I ever imagined you could be.” And that's a bit of a testament to the people who helped them out, but, honestly, it's heroic to me to think about where those kids have gone in their lives when so many things were working against them.

Where would you most like to live? 

So, at this time in my life, the place I'd most like to live is on Hobart Avenue, adjacent to Thayer's campus. My family and I are very excited about being where we are for many, many years to come. Later in life when I think about what retirement looks like, I could envision retiring to the English countryside. I spent a lot of time in Oxford and outside of that area studying as a student. It's my favorite place to be, and post pandemic I'm hoping to get back and see beautiful, green, rolling hills and eventually the English coast. 

Thayer Academy Head of School Chris Fortunato

Head of School Chris Fortunato P '26, '28


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