Year in Review

Governing Board

By Maria Donoghue Velleca, Governing Board Chair

The 2017-18 academic year has been a time of strategic consideration and important activity for St. Albans School’s Governing Board.

Following last year’s news that Vance Wilson would retire at the end of this academic year, the international search for his successor, and the July 2017 announcement of Jason Robinson as St. Albans School’s eighth headmaster, the school’s trustees and I have focused on a strong transition.

In this, we first sought to honor Vance Wilson for his many contributions to St. Albans School. As we all reflect on the accomplishments of the nineteen Wilson Years, the value of a clear vision, fair and merciful temperament, and disciplined decision-making shines through. We are glad for Vance’s unselfish leadership, humble presence, quiet grace under pressure, acceptance of all students and families, ability to reconcile disparate opinions, and his sense of humor. Vance stood for the very best of what St. Albans can be while setting high expectations for all the boys and their parents; his inner strength, strong moral compass, and willingness to stand up for the “hard right” will be remembered. Vance left our school the same way he led it: working hard and attending to every last detail to keep St. Albans strong through the end of June. Woven into that busy schedule have been events of appreciation and celebration for our departing headmaster; gatherings with alumni and families throughout the United States, and a lovely celebration in the cathedral in May. All of us wish Vance the very best as he starts his next chapter.

In parallel, Jason Robinson has been learning as much as he can about St. Albans. We on the Governing Board have been glad to get to know him more fully; the more we learn, the more his brilliance, compassion, strategic thinking, and investment in education and student formation shines through. Mr. Robinson visited last fall and met students, faculty, and parents at the school. In addition, in meetings with administrators, faculty, and staff and during retreats with the Governing Board throughout the year, Jason has learned about the intricacies of the school and the strengths of our partnerships with the other institutions on the Cathedral Close. As I write in late June, Mr. Robinson and his family have moved to Washington and are in temporary housing until the Headmaster’s house is ready for their occupancy. Starting on July 1, 2018, the reigns of the school will be in his hands.

In addition to managing the leadership transition, the Governing Board has considered the extension of the school’s Strategic Plan and embedded Financial Sustainability Plan. In this, we were informed by the data obtained in the surveys that members of our school community—including faculty and staff, current students, recent alumni, and current parents—completed last year. Thank you to everyone who participated! Chris Denby led the Strategic Plan extension process, while Andrew Marino and Anthony Bruce ’85 co-chaired the financial sustainability piece; we are grateful to the other trustees and members of our school community who joined them in this work. Our goal in this work was to continue to enunciate institutional goals while Mr. Robinson prepares for a comprehensive strategic planning process. There will be a separate letter on the direction of these extensions this fall.

The Governing Board appreciates the school’s recent conclusion of the first stage of the Curriculum Review. We thank Will Segal ’00 for his superb shepherding of the three-year process and look forward to the initial implementation of ideas arising from our talented faculty. Mr. Wilson and Mr. Robinson have consulted on this work and are in alignment on these efforts as well as additional innovations in the coming years.

Financially, St. Albans School is in a strong position. Under the chairmanship of our Finance Committee by Chris Gladstone ’75, in partnership with the school’s Director of Finance and Business Operations Greg Parker, we have a lean operating budget and an endowment that topped $80 million for the first time. In addition, thanks to the work of the Development Committee, under the leadership of Rob Carter ’80 in concert with Associate Headmaster Dan Jamieson, the school completed the $50M STRIVE Campaign, including almost $2 million for the Vance Wilson Scholarship Fund.

We thank departing Governing Board members Chris Gladstone ’75 (after nineteen continuous years of service on Close boards), Rob Carter ‘80 (after serving as Annual Giving chair for four years and then an at-large trustee for six), Andy Florance (another long-serving Close trustee who will serve as chair of the National Cathedral’s Governing Board next year), Chris Grigorian (Parents’ Association president), Patrick Bracewell ’98 (chair of Annual Giving), Anne Large (a STRIVE Campaign Co-Chair), and Colleen Campbell (the Upper School faculty representative who recently relocated to New York). And while this is an extraordinarily talented group of departing members, we are thrilled to be joined by Melissa Babbage, Rob Kinsey ’76, Tara Palmore, and Brendan Sullivan ’93 as at-large trustees, and Krissy Benner (Parents’ Association president), Carter DeLorme ’88 (Alumni Association president), Jonathan Nobil’02 (Annual Giving chair), and David Sturtevant ’92 (Upper School faculty representative) as ex officio members of the Governing Board.

And change is afoot across the Cathedral Close: Kathy Jamieson announced her retirement as head of the National Cathedral School at the end of the next academic year. Beauvoir named Cynthia Gibbs-Wilborn the next head of school. And the National Cathedral, under Dean Randy Hollerith’s leadership, has made impressive progress in innovating their programming, welcoming the city to their sacred space, and strengthening their financial position. All who participate in governance in one of the four Close institutions recognize that being a member of the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation brings some complexities but also great strength in institutional partnerships.

And finally, in addition to Vance, other long time and beloved members of our community have left us for their own adventures. The Governing Board especially notes the departure of David Baad ’83, recent associate headmaster and now head of Episcopal School of Dallas; David worked closely with trustees on many endeavors and selflessly stepped in to lead the school when asked. David insights, thoughtfulness, and good judgement will be missed, but we remind him that he is always a Bulldog! Ann Owens, the assistant to the headmaster and capable and graceful manager of parents and trustees also leaves the Close; she, too, will be missed.

In closing, as I step away from my leadership of the Governing Board and hand the chairmanship over to Robert Musslewhite, I marvel at the strength of our school community. I am grateful for the talented administrators, faculty, coaches, and staff we attract, and continue to delight in the boys’ joyous embrace of learning. Our school is strong with a bright future ahead.

Located in Washington D.C.,  St. Albans School is a private, all boys day and boarding school. For more than a century, St. Albans has offered a distinctive educational experience for young men in grades 4 through 12. While our students reach exceptional academic goals and exhibit first-rate athletic and artistic achievements, as an Episcopal school we place equal emphasis upon moral and spiritual education.