Flint Hill School Tribute to Til Hazel
John Tilghman "Til" Hazel Jr., 91, chairman emeritus of Flint Hill School, philanthropist, attorney and real-estate developer who transformed the landscape of Fairfax County, died on March 15 at home at Huntley Farm in Broad Run, Virginia.
Flint Hill Headmaster John M. Thomas said, “Til’s passion for Flint Hill School is unrivaled. He was a force of nature; a persistent and insistent advocate for education. We are so fortunate that such power, energy, loyalty and vision were with us at a critical time in our school's history. He generously gave of his time and talent and rallied others in support of the mission of Flint Hill. He became a personal mentor to me and an example of leadership and character for the entire school.”
The son of a doctor, he left rural Virginia to attend Harvard University and Harvard Law School. Returning home to practice law after military service, Til developed a passion for real estate development. Having been a major force in the development of Northern Virginia, Til continued to pursue a vision, which included improving and expanding the educational opportunities available to the citizens of the region and the Commonwealth. While Flint Hill School would be the only educational institution that Til Hazel would reconstruct from the ground up, it would be but one of many educational enterprises which would benefit from his vision, business acumen and persuasive powers.
In 1989, Til led the acquisition and reorganization of Flint Hill Preparatory School and ushered in a new era of excellence and innovation in academics, arts and athletics under the name Flint Hill School. By September 1990, Flint Hill opened its doors for students in grades Kindergarten-12 with a new campus, now known as Hazel Lower School. He gathered others with a commitment to education to serve on the Board of Trustees. Their collective determination, with his focused visionary leadership, quickly identified the need to expand the facilities and led the way in 1998 to purchase and develop a separate Upper School Campus. Til’s experience and deep understanding of the land entitlement process allowed the School to seamlessly navigate and acquire the necessary approvals to build the Upper School building and athletic fields, which opened on September 10, 2001.
Former Headmaster Tom Whitworth observed, “Til had faith, drive and belief to make Flint Hill School happen. Without him, Flint Hill would not be the leader in independent school education it is today. He understood that Fairfax County needed a great school for its citizens.”
Til led the Board of Trustees for over 20 years before deciding that it was time for a new generation of leaders to begin to make their difference. But first, he ensured that the Flint Hill he envisioned would persevere. Upon Til’s retirement from the Board of Trustees, in recognition of his extraordinary and steadfast leadership, the Board bestowed the honor of Founding Chair and Trustee Emeritus on him. “Til set the standards for all future leaders of Flint Hill School. I was extremely proud to follow in his footsteps. His vision and example of exceptional governance should be the cornerstone for all future leaders in their dedication to Flint Hill,” according to former Board Chair Skip Coston.
Til continued to be actively engaged until his passing, participating in monthly Finance Committee meetings and lending his personal support to every Flint Hill philanthropic endeavor including the annual fund for over 30 years. He could often be seen on the sidelines of a Saturday football game cheering the Huskies on to victory. He took great pride in the further expansion of the school's program and efforts, and supported and encouraged the recent creation of the Peterson Middle School that opened in 2020. Til observed, “I think this is a great moment in the history and life of Flint Hill School. This will guarantee its future for years to come. It’s a tremendous thing for me to see.”
In 2020 the Lower School was renamed Hazel Lower School in appreciation for Til’s transformative impact on Flint Hill School. During the Momentum Campaign kickoff celebration Til remarked, “I started here some 30 years ago, and it’s been a remarkable growth; it’s doing extremely well. It’s one of the most satisfying things in all my years.”
Til understood in a way unique to him, that the economic vitality of Northern Virginia is inextricably linked to the range and quality of education options from kindergarten through the collegiate level. Flint Hill Board of Trustees Chair Pia Trigiani shared, “Til’s passion for education brought him to Flint Hill. His fortitude and strength of character and his deep and abiding relationships with others of like mind guided the rebirth of Flint Hill and charted a path for what Flint Hill has become – an institution dedicated to educating the whole child to be prepared for a changing world.”
The Flint Hill community expresses our heartfelt condolences to Til’s entire family during this difficult time. Through his passion, vision and commitment he has touched the lives of everyone associated with Flint Hill. He made it his life’s work to blaze a trail in our region, and we are all better for it. We will forever be grateful for the impact he has had on our great School family. We will remember his many significant contributions as we celebrate Founder’s Day this year and in the years to come.