Hugh Mayo '14

Nicole Sheldon

It isn’t often that a ninth grade student is interested in choosing the best academic programs for his own high school education.  Hugh Mayo was that very student.  Hugh went to a small Catholic middle school, and while his other classmates usually chose the Catholic high school associated with that middle school, Hugh was looking for a high school with a robust variety of Advanced Placement (AP) class options, and “the best academic programs in the city.” 

Hugh visited a number of high schools, and felt he connected with the people most at Minnehaha.  On the day of his shadow visit, he remembers feeling “at home” as he had lunch with the students. He was involved with many activities at MA, including the debate team and the alpine ski team.  It’s hard for him to choose the teachers who made the most impact on him.  “If I said every teacher who made an impact on me, I would probably list the entire staff.”  He remembers two teachers in particular who went out of their way to help him.  Mr. Hoffner would engage him in conversations outside of class about topics in philosophy.  Mrs. Westrem would often give him supplemental readings based on his interests.  “Teachers were really willing to work with me as a student. This is not common at every school.” 

MA Has An Excellent Culture

After MA, Hugh went on to college at Harvard.  “When I compared MA to other advanced high schools, I appreciated that MA always felt like a ‘normal’ high school. My peers at college told stories of their schools being pressure cookers with overly-intense curriculums and competition among classmates. I never felt that way at MA.  Despite being a top-level high school, what made it truly special was that the culture was very down to earth.  That was something that I really appreciated, especially compared to the experiences of other people I knew. MA has an excellent culture, or what I would call an excellent focus on student well-being.”

Hugh graduated from Harvard with a degree in Visual and Environmental Studies. This major encompasses film studies, film production, studio arts, and photography, along with environmental studies (the history of landscape and design). While studying the humanities in college, he realized how important it is to have broad knowledge across a number of disciplines: you need to read and write well, you need to have a familiarity with other cultures and languages, you need a historical mindset, and you need an acute eye that is able to look at cultural and artistic objects, which is an entirely different skill than being able to read a text well.  “I was able to develop those broad skills with a number of teachers and a number of classes at MA.  I felt that the school emphasized all disciplines equally.” 

After graduating from Harvard, Hugh went on to study at Georgetown Law. Why law school? He was very devoted to academic scholarship in college and originally wanted to become a professor. A transitional point for him was when he realized that grad school, the humanities, and the culture of academia probably was not the best fit for him, because to do a humanities PhD would take about 7-8 years.  “I didn’t feel that I wanted to wait quite that long.”   Law school is only 3 years, and many lawyers also teach as adjunct or full-time faculty.  If he went to law school, it would be flexible and allow him to do a lot of different things if, at the end of the day, he decided not to be an attorney. “My interests tend to evolve over time. I can’t say exactly where I will end up in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, it is all evolving right now.” 

Feeling Grateful

Hugh recently toured the newly rebuilt Upper School.  He thinks it is one of the most beautiful campuses he has seen anywhere-- of any school and any level of education.  “MA now has the facilities that match their level of academic excellence. I am sure the culture will only be better for everything the school has been through and where it is going. The faculty and administration are the core of what keeps MA strong—they inspire a certain commitment, and everyone sticks around for the excellent culture. I am eternally grateful for my time at Minnehaha.”  

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