Macon Finley, Head of School

Macon Finley officially began her tenure as the fifteenth Head of The Ellis School on July 1, 2017. Prior to Ellis, she served as the Assistant Head of School at John Burroughs School in St. Louis, Missouri where she was also the Director of Academics and a Mathematics Teacher. Her recent arrival in Arbuthnot House means not only a new position, community, and culture to assimilate and adapt to—but also a new city. A proud St. Louisan and committed Cardinals fan, Mrs. Finley may not be raising the Jolly Roger just yet, but she is excitedly and enthusiastically exploring all that Ellis, the East End, and Pittsburgh has to offer. From the Gateway City to the Steel City, Mrs. Finley’s Midwest move marks a new chapter for the School as we look towards the second century of all-girls education at Ellis, and we couldn’t be more excited to have her at the helm.
Title:Head of School
Hometown:St. Louis, MO
Education:B.A. Statistics, Princeton University; M.B.A., Stanford University

What attracted you to The Ellis School?
The warmth of the School and the focus on all-girls was very attractive to me from the beginning. Also, the high-quality programs rooted in a strong tradition of academic excellence, and the fact that Ellis is willing to evolve and innovate according to how girls learn best. Ellis feels like a nimble place that is forward thinking without losing its sense of self or its mission.

How did you get into education?
My undergraduate degree is in statistics and I worked in market research before moving into management roles in the corporate world. However, it wasn’t until I was home with my children that I really started considering a place in education. I spent a lot of time volunteering in their school and helping students with mathematics. I absolutely loved it and began teaching high school and middle school mathematics. From there, I had the chance to take on different kinds of roles in education and never looked back.

Coming from a coed school, what excites you most about the all-girls environment at Ellis?
The fact that it is a place where girls really have their voices heard. In the all-girls environment, girls can fully be themselves. Ellis girls find their voice and use that voice to be leaders at the School and in the community. It’s very appealing to me and it is a time in the world when this is particularly important.

What are you most excited about in the city of Pittsburgh?
I’m excited about the spirit of newness in a really grounded, historical city. It’s fascinating to come to Pittsburgh as an outsider. There’s so much going on in the midst of so much tradition, which feels really symbolic to me. The roots of old Pittsburgh mixed with new Pittsburgh. The bike trails, the restaurants, the tech community—it is a really fun time to be coming here. I had never been to Pittsburgh before I interviewed for the position and I am absolutely loving it.

What were you like in high school?
I was a serious student who loved school! I loved my classes but also played sports, ran the literary magazine, and sang in the choir. I was very enthusiastic and happy to do everything.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given, and by whom?
“It’s okay to not always know.” My parents used to tell me that.

How do you spend your free time?
I love to be outside and I’m a huge walker! Right now, I’m getting to know my new neighborhood on foot. My favorite discovery so far is Five Points Bakery in Point Breeze, they have the best croissants in the world! I love food, restaurants, and baking. And of course, I love to spend time with my family. My husband and I have three adult children, a daughter and two sons. I also love music—I play the piano and like to sing.
You mentioned you like to bake, do you have a signature recipe?
Definitely my chocolate chip cookies. I also have a killer chocolate cake recipe.

Where do you most want to travel to, but have never been?
South Africa. I’ve been to many continents, but not Africa and there is so much history there. Socially, environmentally, and culturally, the landscape is so different from ours and I’d love the chance to visit.

What is the last book you read?
Creative Confidence by Tom & David Kelley