Peter G. Gurt Appointed as Milton Hershey School's 10th President

MHS Alumnus Gurt Brings Deep Academic and Operational Experience and Knowledge

Video: The Milton Hershey School's appointment of its 10th President is announced to the Student Government Association and Senior Leadership team on June 5, 2014. Read the transcript here.

The Board of Managers of Milton Hershey School has appointed Peter G. Gurt as Milton Hershey School’s 10th president.  Gurt, 46, is a proven academic leader who has served Milton Hershey School (MHS) as Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer since the 2009 academic year. The appointment concludes an extensive 11-month search process.

Pete Gurt, President of Milton Hershey School

Announcing Gurt’s selection by the Board of Managers, Board Chairman Robert F. Cavanaugh said, “Pete is the ideal leader for Milton Hershey School as we progress into our second century of serving children in financial and social need and helping them to reach their full potential. He’s a Milton Hershey graduate who exemplifies all of our core values and who has dedicated his professional life to serving the School in a range of capacities. Over the past five years, Pete has played a critical leadership role at MHS, presiding over a period of tremendous enrollment growth and academic achievement.”

Gurt succeeds Dr. Anthony J. Colistra, who retired in July 2013. John Estey was appointed Interim President at that time. Estey will continue to serve the School, returning to his role as Executive Vice President of Administration for the Hershey Trust Company.

As the Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Gurt was responsible for Admissions and Family Relations, Curriculum and Instruction, Career/Technical Education, Home Life, and Health Services for all students, in addition to the office of Alumni Relations. He has also held positions of Vice President of Administration and Vice President of Student Life.

Gurt is an Advisory Board member of the World Children’s Center in Atlanta, Georgia; and since 2009 has served on the Commission for Accreditation, responsible for all independent schools in Pennsylvania. In 2009, he was named Administrator of the Year by the Coalition for Residential Education (CORE).

“I am very much aware of the significance of this job, and our commitment as a team to make sure this is the very best place on earth to serve our kids more effectively and to serve more kids in the future as we get excited about what’s possible for this school in the next decade.” - Pete Gurt

An Outstanding Academic Leader and Dedicated Advocate for Children in Financial and Social Need

In his role as Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Gurt’s priorities have been to establish the School’s Five Year Strategic Plan which prioritizes strong growth in student enrollment in order to serve as many children from poverty as possible; enhance the School’s safety and security plans and processes; and place a greater focus on post-graduate success. In addition, he has reestablished a strong working relationship with the Milton Hershey School Alumni Association.    

In the last several years, Gurt has led a team of educators and administrators who have consistently guided students’ test scores to levels which surpass some of the most competitive school districts in the state, despite many students having significant achievement gaps upon arrival at Milton Hershey School. 

Ensuring higher education is accessible to students with financial need is a priority for Gurt, and he has worked with several colleges and universities to ensure greater access for students. Most recently, Gurt partnered with Temple University Harrisburg to offer a full semester of college classes to MHS seniors.

A Dedicated Alumnus Who Experienced Milton Hershey School’s Mission Firsthand

The youngest of eight children, Gurt was enrolled at Milton Hershey School at the age of five with his two older brothers. After graduating from MHS, he attended Temple University from which he received a Bachelor of Business Administration; he later continued his education at Pennsylvania State University, receiving a Master’s of Education degree. Gurt resides in Palmyra, PA with his wife and two sons.

“Spending 13 years as a student and having spent over 20 years as an administrator, I am honored to be selected as the 10th president of this school which means so much to me and look forward to continuing the mission of Milton and Catherine Hershey,” said Gurt. “I have spent virtually my entire career serving with the very dedicated staff at Milton Hershey School. Together we have ensured that our students are provided the best opportunities for success in life. I am deeply committed to working with the entire MHS community to explore new and effective ways to extend the Hersheys’ generosity and legacy to as many children as possible.”

A Rigorous Search Process

Pete Gurt will be the 10th president of Milton Hershey School since Milton S. Hershey and his wife Catherine founded the School in 1909. 

Gurt’s selection resulted from a rigorous nationwide search undertaken by the Board of Managers over the past 11 months, during which they identified, assessed and interviewed a deep and talented pool of candidates recommended by internal and external sources. The Board engaged nationally-recognized search firms and considered input from several stakeholder groups including students, houseparents, teachers and alumni before making its selection.

Biography of Peter Gerard Gurt

Peter Gerard Gurt is President of Milton Hershey School (MHS), a cost-free, private, coeducational home and school for children from families of low income. Gurt is an accomplished academic administrator and leader who most recently served as the Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Milton Hershey School, a role he has held since 2009. His duties included oversight of the Admissions and Family Relations, Curriculum and Instruction, Career/Technical Education, Home Life, and Health Services resources for all students. In addition, he was responsible for the office of Alumni Relations. 

He previously served as Vice President of Student Life at the Milton Hershey School, responsible for leading all of the academic, residential, student health care and alumni relations programs at the school.

Gurt served in a succession of roles at MHS including Vice President of Student Life and Vice President of Administration. In addition, he has served as a relief houseparent for 10 years and an assistant varsity girls’ basketball coach. Gurt also served as a Milton Hershey School Alumni Association Board Officer for three years and is the current President of the William E. Dearden Alumni Campus Advisory Board.

As a “lifer” at MHS, Gurt attended the school from kindergarten through 12th grade, giving him a profound, personal understanding of what it means to be a student raised at Milton Hershey School.

Before his graduation from MHS in 1985, Gurt was a member of the National Honor Society, Glee Club, New Horizons, Student Senate, Student Leadership Society, Student Cabinet, and Student Home Council. He was chosen as Rotary Student of the Month, Senior Class President, and Student Body President. He also served as a Peer Group Counselor and played on the soccer team.

Gurt currently serves as an Advisory Board member of the World Children’s Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and on the Commission for Accreditation, the body responsible for all independent schools in Pennsylvania. He is also a member of the Hershey Rotary Club.  In 2009, the Coalition for Residential Education (CORE) named Gurt Administrator of the Year.

He received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Temple University and continued his education at Pennsylvania State University in Harrisburg, PA, where he received a Master’s of Education degree. As an alumnus, Gurt partnered with Temple to establish a College and Career Transition Program for MHS students at Temple’s Harrisburg campus. The program allows advanced MHS seniors to take a full semester of college courses while still in high school.

Gurt resides in Palmyra with his wife and two sons. 

Read the message Pete sent to Milton Hershey School families (PDF)

Read the announcement sent to Milton Hershey School students & staff (PDF)


Check out stories of Pete's recent leadership endeavors:

President-Elect Pete Gurt sat down with 6abc at his childhood home & shared his incredible story of rising from a Milton Hershey student to its 10th president!

Meeting and thanking the SGA Leadership:

Encouraging staff involvement in the Cancer Care Community Walk:

Speaking at the P4CE conference:

Experts from Milton Hershey School (MHS) in Hershey, PA, presented at the Partners 4 Connections in Education Bridges Conference in Cape May, NJ in April. Speakers including MHS Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Peter Gurt, discussed various programs and partnerships with colleges, universities and businesses offered to prepare underprivileged students for higher education and careers.

“Our college-readiness programs promote academic achievement and emotional development while also fostering a sense of community-- particularly through our mentoring services. During what is a transitional and often pivotal time, it is beneficial when both mentors and mentees can share information about academic expectations, decision making, time management, and organizational skills,” Gurt said.

The goal of the college-readiness initiatives is in place for all MHS students to leave post-graduation with a solid foundation for future success to lead a fulfilling, productive lifestyle.

Temple University Articles:

Spearheading new program to offer Temple University Classes at Milton Hershey School - Click to read more.

Temple University's Fox School of Business site feature on Gurt's rise from MHS student to president: Please click here.