WMS people

Alumni Spotlight: Ronan Farrow


So many of the qualities I hold dear were born in me at the Washington Montessori School: curiosity; creativity; that delicate cocktail of entitlement and humility that comes from being nurtured by gentle people who believe in you. It ‘s a school that sees impatience when it comes to changing the world and lets it flourish. It ‘s a school that teaches the wisdom of chasing results rather than competing with peers.

I am not a believer in institutions—but I do believe in people, and the Washington Montessori School has the best of them in its lively, empathetic faculty. Thanks to them, I spent my childhood days with people of wit and insight and grace. In a sense, it’s a deeply misleading experience. This is not the real world. But it ‘s a glimpse into the world as it should be that I’d gladly give my own children.

Ronan began at Washington Montessori School when he was 6 years old as a 2nd year in a Lower Elementary classroom. He had transferred from Metropolitan Montessori in New York, where he had been moved into an older classroom to better meet his academic needs. During his years at Washington Montessori School, he continued to be a voracious learner.

His mother, Mia, describes a young Ronan who would  “be hatching things up in his room” and not wanting to be torn away from his microscope and who kept busy at home reading the books recommended by family friend and novelist Philip Roth. He would always have projects at varying stages of completion and he always wanted more.

“He was a very persistent child. He knocked on Pat’s door and said ‘I need more,”‘ explained Mia. “I think Pat (Werner, Head of School) was completely inspired by the way she listened to him, heard him and respected that his needs were legitimate and found a way to meet them.”

By the age of 10, Ronan was in a 7th-grade classroom, taking individual high school classes and completing independent research projects.  With graduation from WMS soon ahead, it was becoming clear that the obvious next step—high school—might not be the best placement for Ronan.

“Pat was ahead of the game and connected us with the right people,” said Mia. Ronan finished his final year at Washington Montessori School in 1999 and was accepted to Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Massachusetts. Although Simon’s Rock is an “early college,” designed for young college students, most enrollees are 16. At 11, he was and is the youngest student to ever attend the school.

“I don’t know what he would have been like had it not been for Washington Montessori, because he just grew and grew in all the right ways, and they were there to encourage that growth,” said Mia, who also noted that her young son was just as socially prepared for college as he was academically . “I think it would have been possible that in the wrong school with the wrong structure, that he could have been boxed in.”

“He would be the first to say that he was the captain of his own ship throughout his childhood. There was never a moment where he wasn’t  in control,” she continued. “Because he was asking for these things. He was not being led, or pushed, or denied , or any of the other things kids can rebel against.”

After two years at Simon’s Rock, Ronan transferred to Bard College in Annandale-on­-Hudson, New York where he would become the college’s youngest graduate ever at age 15. He was then accepted to Yale Law School, but deferred to work as an advisor to Richard Holbrooke, former US Ambassador  to the United Nations, and to work for UNICEF.

Since receiving his law degree from Yale University in 2009, Ronan Farrow has been a political commentator on U.S. television and has written about a variety of human rights issues in many national publications,  including  the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. Most recently, he worked as director of the State Department’s Global Youth Issues Office and advising Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on global youth issues.

He has been named by New York Magazine a “New Activist” and included on their list of individuals “on the verge of changing their worlds.” In 2010, Harper ‘s Bazaar named him their  “up-and-coming politician  of the year.” In 2012, he was named one of the Christian Science Monitor’s 30 young people with game­ changing ideas, and as one of Forbes’ “30 Under  30” most influential people.