Meet Our Head of School Meera Viswanathan

Meera Viswanathan

Dr. Meera Viswanathan joins Walker's from Brown University, where she was an Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies. A lifelong educator and scholar, Meera holds her undergraduate degree, her M.A. and a Ph.D. from Stanford University. Meera was born in Madras, India and emigrated at age five to Los Angeles.

Meera joined Brown University as a Japan Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in the Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies departments. Subsequently, she became an assistant professor and was promoted with tenure. Meera, who is fluent in seven languages including French, German, Latin, Classical Greek, Old English and Old Norse, received several National Endowment for the Humanities grants and awards while at Brown.

Meera and her husband, Dr. Eric Widmer, former head of school at Deerfield Academy, were asked by King Abdullah II of Jordan to establish the Middle East's first co-educational college preparatory boarding school with financial aid. The school opened in 1997. Meera served as the school's principal architect of the curriculum and dean of faculty. King Abdullah II personally awarded Meera the King Hussein Medal, Jordan's highest honor, for her endeavors.

Meera, or "Ms. Vis" as she's known to students, began her tenure as head of The Ethel Walker School on July 1, 2016.


Meera on Walker's

Meera with students

"Walker's beckoned me in a way that few schools have ever done. I found its ethos, energy, and devotion to learning irresistible. I was born in Madras, South India, near the island of Sri Lanka, known in medieval times as Serendip, from which we derive our word 'serendipity.' Discovering Walker's was unexpected and fortuitous, pure serendipity for me.

If destiny is the rendezvous between readiness and opportunity, Walker's indeed has much to look forward to. But that future lies, first and foremost, in being true to the past. Founded as a standard-bearer of girls' education in 1911, may it continue, amid the numerous challenges evident in the world around us - from socio-economic upheaval and environmental changes to advents in technology - to be a flagship of teaching and learning for young women. May every one of our future hours be golden."

Meera on Girls' Education

Meera with students

"During my decades of teaching at the university level, I encountered many students who had attended a girls' school. I marveled at their confidence and poise, which seemed a trademark of those graduates. Sure enough, at Walker's, whether in class, the dorms, or on the fields, I saw wonderfully strong and capable young women with little time for self-doubt. Every girl is celebrated and cherished, and everyone cheers for one another. This is my kind of community!

John Dewey's comment that 'Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself' has always struck me as exactly right. The idea that education is merely instrumental misses the point entirely. Education brings knowing and being into alignment. And what we come to know at Walker's ultimately is ourselves, both the being and the becoming."

Meera on Leadership

Meera at podium

"Leadership entails the ability to forge a path, to clear the way, both for oneself and for others; it is fundamentally relational. Consider the classic V-formation of geese in the autumn sky: the birds take turns assuming the lead position in order to provide an upwash for their fellow travelers. In this way, leadership is not a fixed or rigid role. It recognizes that the needs of the group require each individual to assume responsibility for the welfare of the whole at the appropriate time, leading them out and beyond."

Investiture Highlights

On Friday, October 14, Dr. Meera Viswanathan was honored at an investiture ceremony marking the beginning of her service as the head of The Ethel Walker School. Meera, most recently an associate professor of comparative literature and East Asian Studies at Brown University, was appointed after a national search. Read More

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