After graduating from Harvard College, where he studied History & Literature and wrote for The Harvard Crimson, James “Jamie” Piltch ’13, son of former longtime Head of School Steve Piltch and longtime English teacher Sunny Greenberg, set out on a three-month road trip. Covering roughly 9,000 miles, Piltch traveled to 25 states and spoke with more than 200 people. Inspired by his senior thesis on the history of civics education in Boston during the Great Depression, he sought to discover what it means—to the American people—to be an upstanding citizen.
“I was so taken with this idea of civics and citizenship,” Piltch recalls. “I really just tried to understand how people thought about their duty to the country, to one another, toward creating a better society.”
Working alongside a literary agent, Piltch’s findings quickly found their way into a book proposal, which was never picked up by a publisher (“it turns out that no one really wants to hear what a 23-year-old has to say about how to make the country a better place,” he jokes) but was later fashioned into articles for The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer. A repurposed version of his thesis appeared in The Boston Globe.
After serving as right-hand man to David Gergen, Professor of Public Service and Founding Director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School, and Michael Smerconish, award-winning host of The Michael Smerconish Program and Smerconish, Piltch planned to attend Yale Law School this coming year to study the laws that relate to “the structural barriers that prevent people from having the chance to engage politically so that I can work to remove those barriers.” The historic significance of the upcoming election, however, led him to defer law school admission for a year and take up his current post on Kentucky Democratic Senate hopeful Amy McGrath’s team, working toward a more just and equitable society—one that begins with more thoughtful, committed, open-minded, and ethical leaders.
Despite how far Piltch has come, both personally and professionally, all roads invariably lead back to The Shipley School.
“I really, really loved that interdisciplinary way of thinking that I thought was fundamental to everything that Shipley preached and practiced,” he says, crediting Upper School Coordinator of Teacher Development Josh Berberian, former Director of College Counseling Janet Kobosky, and former Upper School English, history, and interdisciplinary teacher Emily Pickering with fostering a love of asking questions as well as a desire to understand what makes people tick and what makes society move. “The way they made me think about the world in interconnected ways was definitely the foundation for a lot of what drove me to where I am.”