By Maria Donoghue Velleca, Governing Board Chair
Having anticipated a quiet year of Governing Board work, life should have taught me not to be surprised that reality did not align with my expectations.
What a year it has been!
The biggest news, of course, is Vance Wilson’s decision to retire in June 2018, after what will be nineteen years of spectacular leadership.
St. Albans, the Governing Board, and I join the school community in our admiration of Vance’s vision and voice, his magic with words, his skill as an educator, his good judgment and wise counsel, his sense of joy and of mercy, his wonderful humor, his love of boys and commitment to their education, his patience with and compassion for parents. Mostly, we celebrate his devotion to the principles on which the school is founded and his ease in fitting into a line of strong and centered leaders. Every one of us has been blessed by Vance’s presence. Those of us on the Governing Board have had the special honor of supporting him as he steers a multifaceted, complex organization with vision and balance, always with a strong sense of camaraderie with all who work at the school. We have been so lucky.
We look forward to celebrating all that Vance has been to the school during the upcoming academic year.
And while we are all getting used to the idea of a St. Albans without Vance Wilson’s daily presence, we look to the future with confidence and some excitement. For there will be a new head of St. Albans School! In late July, the St. Albans Governing Board and the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation Board unanimously approved Jason F. Robinson as the eighth headmaster of St. Albans School. Jason is currently the assistant head of school for academics and head of upper school at Princeton Day School. He will bring a broad understanding of independent schools to St. Albans when his tenure begins in July 2018.
With three devoted and talented members of our school community—Chris Gladstone ’75, Julie Miller, and Robert Musslewhite—serving as tri-chairs, the Search Committee conducted a thorough, six-month, international search for a new head of school. Working with the search firm Spencer Stuart, they heard from hundreds of voices within the St. Albans community. Strikingly, distinct constituencies echoed one another, and the position description that was created reflected a vision and identity broadly shared by alumni, parents and faculty. The Search Committee was gratified to find diverse interest in the position and reviewed and met with a stellar pool of candidates. We look forward to introducing Jason Robinson to the community this fall and working with him in 2018.
And then, there was Vance’s unexpected—and thankfully successful—open-heart surgery in April. While recovery from this kind of surgery is a challenge, it was a thrill to have Vance healthy and back at school in time for the 2017 Commencement festivities. The Governing Board and school are forever grateful to David Baad ’83 for serving as acting headmaster; his hand on the rudder of the St. Albans ship was steady and sure.
In the midst of this uncertainty, the school sailed forth. Under the tutelage of talented teachers and coaches, the boys learned, sang, acted, exercised, competed, and joined together.
The board embraced Headmaster Wilson’s plan for a thorough curriculum review. After a quiet first year, the process intensified during this second year. Led by Will Segal ’00, the faculty examined their learning goals, mapped each goal on the existing curriculum, and then imagined modification and change. Next year will conclude the process as the faculty and administration describe shifts and opportunities for improvement. The Governing Board is glad that our Education Committee, chaired by Chris Denby, is partnering with and supporting this effort.
STRONG FINANCIAL NEWS
The financial position of the school is strong; under Chris Gladstone’s capable leadership of the Finance Committee, the Governing Board crafted a budget and celebrated an endowment that exceeded $70 million for the first time. A budget surplus from FY16 was applied to the fields and costs associated with the search for a new head.
The STRIVE Campaign powers on under the direction of Development Committee Chair Rob Carter ’80 and Dan Jamieson, associate headmaster for development. The $20 million goal for the athletic fields was exceeded, with extra pledges being placed into reserves for turf upkeep and replacement. We now pivot to building endowment and supporting initiatives to increase financial aid and support faculty. The Governing Board hopes to celebrate the close of this $50 million campaign next year—another way of recognizing Vance Wilson.
As many know, we undertook a set of surveys at the mid-point of our ten-year accreditation cycle. We thank all who participated. The school will report on the survey results in the fall. In addition, a Governing Board committee on Measurable Outcomes, chaired by Casey Cooper, is examining the results and will assess how well we are meeting institutional goals that are not easy to quantify.
LOTS TO CELEBRATE
Our new athletic fields made it through their first full academic year with flying colors. There were seemingly continuous practices and games, few weather-related cancellations, and great student pride as attendance at sporting events by members of our community of all ages soared. As we all appreciate the fields, we remember the incredible efforts of former board members, especially John Gerber ’80, Brian Coulter, and Sevag Balian ’83, in planning and overseeing the building of these centers of school life.
We celebrated the first full year of our new Lower School head, former St. Albans teacher Fred Chandler. Fred’s return to the Close was heralded by the faculty; now the boys understand why. Mr. Chandler upheld the tradition of knowing each boy’s name at the start of the school year; his enthusiasm for learning is infectious, and he helps us all find him with his bright clothes! And recognizing that St. Albans is part of a bigger community on the Close, we are so glad to welcome the presence and vision, wisdom, and warmth of the new dean of the National Cathedral, Randy Hollerith.
On the Governing Board, we bid fond farewell to Sevag Balian, Pete Clare, Althea Harlin, Lloyd Howell, Ellen Jakovic, and Andrea Rice and are glad to welcome Robert Bellinger ’80, Anthony Bruce ’85, Colleen Kiernan Campbell, Gina Coburn, Wayne Frederick, Chris Grigorian, Andrew Marino, and Kevin Morin.
I submit this year in review in recognition of the uncertainties in life and the promise of our shared future with thankfulness that the community we form is strong and solid. We are fortunate.