In Fords in Four, we ask an alumnus four questions; he shares insights and stories. In this blog post, we interviewed Casey O'Rourke ’05, co-owner of Hopwood School & Camp with his wife, Annie O'Rourke. Casey O'Rourke shares his journey from private equity to education leadership, along with reflections on Haverford lessons and connections. He honors the legacy of his classmate Jordan Baumeister ’05 and recalls his Haverford lacrosse team's 2005 State Championship win.
What lessons or memories from Haverford do you carry with you?
My first day at Haverford School freshman year was very intimidating. The athletes were bigger and faster, the students seemed smarter and more capable—even the preferred style of communication seemed more polished. This ended up being a huge blessing for me because it opened my mind to the possibilities of what I could accomplish.
A big focus of mine was lacrosse. I looked at the people around me who were successful, studied their work ethic, focus and qualities of leadership and I tried to exceed it. A blend of “servant leadership” and “leading by example” seemed to be the best course of action. It can be hard to wake up at 5 a.m., shoot a few hundred shots, attack the weight room and sprint until you collapse. You may have your doubts on the front end, but if you stick with it, it will get easier and you will start to see results. Sacrifices that you make for the team can create a gravitational pull and speak much louder than words.
My best memory was when our 2005 lacrosse team won the State Championship and was ranked as high as second in the country. I believe that was the highest a PA team had ever been ranked at that time. Looking back, that success was a consequence of the collective sacrifice and servant leadership on the team. There were no egos and everyone worked hard for the person next to him—I’m humbled to have had that experience.
You and your family recently took over the Hopwood School & Camp. What do you find most rewarding, interesting, or exciting about your work?
I worked in private equity for most of my career and there were significant demands on my time, especially with travel. Growing up, my parents never missed a game of mine, from tee ball through college lacrosse. I have a three-year-old son, also Casey, and a one-year-old daughter, Grey. I am happy to be present for my kids and working with my wife, Annie—that is the most rewarding.
Hopwood School & Camp is somewhat iconic in that it sits on an 8.5-acre farm, with a big red barn and two alpacas (Harry and Judd) up in northern Montgomery County. We are a nursery school for nine months of the year and have three hundred kids a day running through our summer camp. We have pools, basketball, tennis, archery, wood shop and several other fun activities. The school has been around for almost 55 years and is highly regarded in the community. Harry the alpaca escaped this week, and we thought that was interesting!
We love being at a focal point in the community and being able to make people’s lives better. We take care of our staff and believe that has a causal relationship with the quality of experience for our Hopwood families. Strong childcare is necessary for bolstering thriving communities and it has been fun to be a part of it.
How do you stay connected with the Haverford community?
I recently played in the Jordan Baumeister Golf Outing which raises money and provides scholarships to help high-character students-in-need receive an education at The Haverford School. Jordan was a classmate of mine who tragically passed away from cancer. There were about 150 people attending the event, mostly from The Haverford School. It was amazing to see the level of support in the community to honor Jordan’s legacy.
The great thing about Haverford is that the community transcends generations. I have many relationships from Haverford with coaches, teachers, mentors, general supporters and friends. You should never have any qualms about reaching out to a member of the community. The Haverford guys I know have been open to helping and I have tried to return the favor in kind.
What advice do you have for current Haverford students or other alums?
I have never learned a lesson when things have come easy. All the important lessons in my life were accompanied by some sort of uphill battle or hardship. Those are the lessons that I value the most. As they say, “steel is forged with a hammer”—life’s challenges have a way of developing resilience, strengthening internal and external faith and, ultimately, revealing character. Embrace the challenges that life throws at you, look at those challenges through a different lens and persevere.