Mr. Jon Balsbaugh, the head of school at Trinity River Ridge and a 20-year veteran member of the faculty, will be the next president of Trinity Schools, Inc. Mr. Balsbaugh follows Dr. Kerry Koller, who has filled the role of president since the founding of Trinity School in 1981 and will step down this summer.
“I am confident that Mr. Balsbaugh’s vision, leadership, and experience will carry the mission of Trinity Schools forward into the future,” said Dr. Craig Lent, chair of the Trinity Schools board of trustees, which hired Mr. Balsbaugh after an extensive search.
As president, Mr. Balsbaugh will be responsible for overseeing Trinity’s three campuses—in South Bend, IN, Eagan, MN, and Falls Church, VA—as well as relationships with two member schools, The Wilberforce School in Princeton, NJ, and Trinity Academy in Portland, OR. His term of office lasts for six years and is renewable.
Mr. Balsbaugh and his wife Jen, also a teacher at River Ridge, have five children: Dietrich, 19 (River Ridge ’16), Anna, 17, Emily, 15, Nora, 12, and Charis, 8. This summer the family will move to South Bend, where the headquarters of Trinity Schools, Inc. is located. Mr. Balsbaugh’s replacement as head of school at River Ridge will be chosen this spring, Dr. Koller said.
Mr. Balsbaugh grew up in Adair Village, OR, and credits his educational formation to his parents, a machinist and a stay-at-home mother, who made financial sacrifices to send him to a private Christian high school. He earned a B.A. in English from The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, CA. After marrying Jen, the Balsbaughs moved to Minnesota, where Jon earned an M.A. at the University of St. Thomas, writing his thesis on C.S. Lewis’s novel Till We Have Faces. There, searching for what God might be calling him to do with his life, he stumbled upon a news article about Trinity School at River Ridge. “I was instantly captivated,” he said. Mr. Balsbaugh began teaching at River Ridge in 1997 and became the head of school in 2009. During his tenure, he has established a Christian arts festival that has attracted nationally-known speakers and artists. He also expanded the school’s offerings, adding a sixth grade.
Dr. Koller said he was delighted by the choice. “Mr. Balsbaugh is a man of tremendous intellectual depth who has masterfully developed the community of learners at River Ridge. He is one of our most gifted teachers, in part because he is also a model learner. His love of truth, goodness and beauty is revealed in his vast intellectual and aesthetic interests. He is a committed Christian and leader in the People of Praise community, which founded Trinity Schools. He has the Trinity DNA.”
Mr. Steve Hendrickson, a longtime math and science teacher, credits Mr. Balsbaugh with cultivating a vibrant culture of learning. “One of his notable decisions was to declare Free Learning Day,” Mr. Hendrickson said. “To the great surprise of our students, we announced the cancellation of regular classes, offering the students and faculty the chance to spend the day pursuing different interests—reading poetry together, learning Italian cooking, exploring the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, or studying special topics in mathematics. We expected it to go well, but the response from the students far exceeded our expectations.”
Ms. Beth Schmitz, a math teacher and River Ridge alumna, points to Mr. Balsbaugh’s eloquence and clarity as a speaker, explaining Trinity’s vision to students, faculty and parents alike. Mr. Balsbaugh’s 2015 opening address to the students, entitled “Ideas are Dangerous” gained a national audience after it was posted on the Internet and republished by the popular education blog Intellectual Takeout.
Mr. Joe Gleason (River Ridge ’05), an editor for the film director Terrence Malick, says his friendship with Mr. Balsbaugh began in the classroom discussing The Brothers Karamazov and has grown stronger over the years. “We have great conversations over email and have gotten together over breaks to discuss books, movies, art, music, Christ and our lives. Jon’s interests include cooking, poetry and fly fishing. He is a gifted photographer whose images help me see beauty in ordinary things.”
“For more than 35 years, Trinity Schools have been faithful to the call of the Lord to provide students with an education rooted in the pursuit of truth, the practice of goodness and the creation of beauty,” Mr. Balsbaugh said. “Dr. Koller has provided visionary and courageous leadership that has kept us grounded in our mission. It is at once a great honor and a humbling prospect to follow him into the office of president. I am looking forward to getting to know the faculty, staff, students and alumni of each of our campuses better and to working closely with our Trinity member schools. The foundation laid by the People of Praise community during the founding of Trinity Schools, Dr. Koller’s steady leadership, our dedicated and passionate faculty and, most importantly, a sense of calling from the Lord to engage in this work give me great confidence for the future of Trinity Schools.”