Michael Gary, who grew up in a low-income housing development in Connecticut and credits his successful career in education with attending a private, college-prep school, has been tapped to become the next head of the Friends Select School in Center City.

Gary, currently the admissions director at Phillips Exeter Academy, a New Hampshire day and boarding school, will take the helm of Friends Select on July 1. He succeeds Rose Hagan, who is stepping down in June after leading the Quaker school for 21 years.

Friends Select, a college-prep day school, has 560 students from prekindergarten through 12th grade.

John Chin, president of the Friends Select board, said the school community was thrilled to have Gary, 52, join it.

"Michael's passion for children and for education, and his ability to articulate that vision, was evident to all during his on-campus visit," Chin said in a statement. "Not only is he committed to the college-preparatory mission of the school, he also comprehends the importance of strong city and global connections to the future of Friends Select."

Gary has more than 26 years' experience as an administrator and teacher at private schools, including the Peddie School in Hightstown, N.J. He graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. with a degree in economics and holds a master's degree in administration and social policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Raised by a single mother in a low-income housing development in New Haven, Conn., Gary recalled:

"My neighborhood was the neighborhood Yale students were warned to stay away from."

For high school, Gary attended the Pomfret School, a college-prep day and boarding school. He said his experience at Pomfret shaped his later success in college and life.

Gary said he was excited to join Friends Select "because of its long and rich history of teaching critical thinking while modeling Quaker values of peace, equality and integrity."

He said the school's mission "not only to provide an excellent education but to help students find their light within" remains as relevant today as when the school was founded. Friends Select traces its roots to 1689. Annual tuition ranges from $22,290 for prekindergarten to $32,740 for high school.

In addition to serving on the board of trustees at the Pomfret School, Gary is a member of the Secondary School Admission Test Board, a nonprofit that develops private school admissions tests, and chairs its testing committee. He is also the founder and president of Inner City Lacrosse, a nonprofit program in Connecticut that connects local youth with university players.

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@marwooda