New Hampton Students in Civics Class

Alumnus in Residence: Thomas J. Motley ’72 Connecting and Sharing

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New Hampton School welcomed a Class of 1972 alumnus, The Honorable Thomas J. Motley, to campus to connect with students, faculty, and share his story. As part of our annual speaker series, Alumni in Residence, Motley engaged with the community in a multitude of ways during his two-day visit to New Hampton. Among the many events, Motley visited classes, presented at school meeting, gathered at lunch with students, and attended a nail-biting Men’s Varsity Basketball Game against Brewster Academy. As a former New Hampton basketball player, this was a memorable event for Motley.

During Motley’s presentation at School Meeting, he spoke about his time here and the opportunity granted through his New Hampton School education. He grew up in a small, poor community in Cheraw, South Carolina. Looking back at this opportunity that helped shape his future, Motley spoke to the importance of giving back and paying it forward.

New Hampton School Motley in English Class
Motley particularly enjoyed our Foundations of Learning Class given his background as a philosophy major.

Connecting through sharing

Following his presentation, a number of students joined Motley for lunch. They were eager to hear about how New Hampton School has changed over time and asked questions to compare their experiences. They wanted to know about classes and athletics, activities and culture, and, of course, the food.

Motley spoke about his relationship with “The Hamp,” the term he and his classmates still use to refer to the school. He offered insight into the political unrest that characterized the late 60s and early 70s when he was a student. Students listened as he shared and reflected about his work as a Supreme Court Justice and US District Attorney. Stories of challenging cases he’s worked on over the years were a highlight for some of the students, getting a rare glimpse of his life and career.

During classes, Motley was a willing participant in discussions. He attended Women’s History, Civics, and Financial Modeling, to name a few. As a philosophy major in college, Motley was excited about attending Theory of Knowledge, one of the International Baccalaureate program’s introductory courses. The teaching faculty impressed Motley with their student engagement, lesson delivery, and their passion for their craft.

Alumni in Residence Thomas Motley with students at lunch
Following his presentation at school meeting, students joined Motley at lunch for further discussion.

Reconnect with that Husky Spirit

As a former basketball player, attending Friday night’s home game against Brewster was a must. He joined the students in the bleachers and cheered alongside the crowds. After the game, Motley made a point of congratulating some of the players. Having joined some of the players in classes, over lunch, and then witnessing their talent on the courts, Motley was impressed by their versatility.

For our students and community, Motley’s career accomplishments are impressive. He faced many challenges in his life both as a person of color and socioeconomically. He handled many responsibilities as an attorney and judge, and now plays a critical role in our judicial system. Yet the students perhaps most appreciated the opportunity to connect with him personally. The small groups, the casual conversations, meeting him in classrooms, and sharing stories — these moments epitomized Motley’s ability to connect with the community on a personal level, and as someone who remains an engaged community member himself.

Our alumni visits are warming and inspiring for our community. It was a pleasure to host Judge Motley who has remained a friend to the school for many years. We look forward to welcoming more alumni back to campus for these special visits in the future.

Motley in New Hampton Philosophy Class
Motley joined in the discussion in Mr. Whitmore’s Theory of Knowledge class.

About Thomas Motley

Thomas Motley ’72 was a two-year student at New Hampton School. Motley attended Columbia College alongside several of his New Hampton classmates. He then went on to receive his law degree at Harvard Law School. Motley began his professional career at a private law firm in the District of Columbia before entering public service as an Assistant US Attorney, where he served from 1983-2000. In 2000, Judge Motley received his appointment to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia by President William J. Clinton. He was reappointed in October 2015 and took senior status in March 2018. Judge Motley was also a member of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization in the Washington, DC area for 10 years and in 1995 was recognized as National Big Brother of the Year.

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