The head of the search committee and clerk of Germantown Friends' school committee sent an e-mail Wednesday announcing that the school committee had "enthusiastically approved" Okeson's appointment.
She said she was thrilled to join, get to know, and work with the community of Germantown Friends, with 861 students from kindergarten through high school.
"I'm looking forward to being at GFS," Okeson said Thursday. "It's a great school in a city that I love."
While she looks forward to being closer to her parents in King of Prussia and other relatives, Okeson said it was the chance to lead Germantown Friends that attracted her.
"Germantown Friends is a school I have always admired from afar as a young person growing up in Philadelphia," Okeson said.
She described Germantown Friends as a community comprised of "passionate and dedicated teachers, talented and creative students, families that care deeply about the GFS experience, a devoted school committee, and a school community dedicated to the Quaker tradition."
Okeson, who taught for two years at schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, has a bachelor's degree from the University of Scranton, where she had a double major in chemistry management and philosophy. She earned a master's degree in philosophy from Villanova University and completed additional graduate courses in cell physiology and molecular biology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, where she was a visiting scholar.
For the last 22 years, Okeson has been a teacher and administrator at St. Ann's School in Brooklyn, a nonsectarian school that has 1,088 students from preschool through high school.
St. Ann, she said, hires teachers who are experts in their fields rather than those with education degrees. "That's why they hired me - because of my experience in the biochemical sciences," she said.
At St. Ann, Okeson taught biology, was chair of the science department, and most recently has been head of the high school.
She acknowledged that with degrees in science and philosophy, her resumé is not typical for a private school leader.
"It's an unusual background for a head of school," Okeson said, "but it's not so unusual for GFS, because it's committed to the life of the mind."
She and her partner, William Weeks, and her 13-year-old daughter expect to move to Philadelphia this summer.
Germantown Friends School was founded in 1845 by the Germantown Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. Tuition ranges from $19,150 for kindergarten to $28,500 for ninth through 12th grades.
Contact Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or at email@example.com