Early childhood through grade 12

Hawthorne Valley Association

On June 15, we are delighted to welcome Matt Fleury, a member of Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School’s first graduating high school class of 1983, as our 2024 Commencement speaker. Matt currently serves as President and CEO of the Connecticut Science Center, a nonprofit in Hartford, CT that is a top educational destination.

This year marks HVS’s 50th Anniversary, and Matt still fondly remembers his time here. He was just a second grader when the school opened in 1973, but he and his family were among those who helped build Hawthorne Valley in the early days. His grandfather Hans Kaufmann served as a teacher and his parents, Anita and Robert Fleury, worked for a time with Hawthorne Valley’s founding program, the Visiting Students Program. Matt was part of the second graduating Grade 8 and spent Grade 9 at a public school before coming back to attend the new Hawthorne Valley High School.

Matt didn’t realize it at the time, but he and his fellow students served as early pioneers for the hundreds of students who would come to HVS and experience Waldorf education in the context of a working farm. Many of his favorite memories could be echoed by students through the decades, illustrating the common threads weaving from past to present. These included woodworking projects, those incredibly dedicated teachers—for him those included Frances Faust, Arnold Logan and William Ward—class plays, and the ability to experience life on the farm.

After his graduation from HVS, Matt followed what he called an “untraditional educational path.” At first, his search for a next step led him to Berkshire Community College (BCC) for theater arts, in part because he had enjoyed the dramatic productions at HVS.

“Mr. Logan would put on these musical productions that were great communal endeavors and really lit a spark in many of us,” Matt says. “I didn’t end up following a career in theater, but the experience lived with me as it taught me the craft of communicating in public and expressing myself clearly.”

While at BCC, a work study program led him to an internship at a local radio station. From there, he spent 10 years working in broadcast journalism at outlets in New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. His experience in the media opened other doors in corporate public and government relations, and then to an economic development role with the State of Connecticut. This became the launch pad for the new Connecticut Science Center, which he helped to create and open in 2009.

As each new career opportunity came up, Matt supplemented his knowledge with additional higher education, gaining his BA from Charter Oak State College and his Masters in Business Administration from the University of Connecticut. He later served for 10 years on the Connecticut Board of Regents that oversees 17 state colleges and universities, appointed Board Chair by successive governors. Last year he received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Southern Connecticut State University.

Matt is a champion of education in all facets of life. “Whether through the informal learning of experiencing a working farm or visiting a science museum or the formal lessons we learn in classrooms at school or in college, education is richly beneficial,” he said.  “It’s important for students today to know that the academic road will always lead to something valuable, and sometimes that manifests in unexpected ways because we don’t just learn information, we learn about our own potential.”

He adds, “I don’t think my academic record in high school would have profiled me as the one to lead a science institution. But over time and experience, new opportunities presented themselves, and I was able to adapt my educational pursuits to prepare for them. Education is there throughout your life—formal and informal—and it’s always something you can go back to.”

Matt currently lives in West Hartford, Connecticut, with his wife, Irene, and their twin boys, who are completing 9th grade. He remains in touch with HVS schoolmates, and he looks forward returning to the valley to serve as this year’s commencement speaker. “I’m grateful and honored to be invited,” he says. “Generations move through the school, so I expect that it will be much different than it was when I was a student. But I have been learning about these graduates and I can’t wait to meet them. I hope to be able to offer my experience and help recognize the students on their milestone and encourage them as they go on.”

We hope you’ll join Matt and all of the Hawthorne Valley community on Saturday, June 15 at 2pm to honor the Class of 2024 and this year’s Henriette Reiss Award recipients. An Alumni Brunch will precede the ceremony from 11am-1pm in the School Hall.