With the retirement this past spring of Vance Wilson, headmaster of St. Albans School and the founder of the St. Albans School of Public Service (“SPS”), it was a good time for the SPS community to look back in thanks and forward in anticipation of more good works to come. On April 30, 2018, the SPS hosted a reception at the Embassy of Australia, courtesy of Ambassador Joe Hockey and Ms. Melissa Babbage, to thank Vance Wilson and celebrate all that SPS has become. Over 170 guests, including almost 20% of the alumni body of SPS, came together for the celebration.
In the remarks portion of the evening, Kevin Baine, first Chair of the SPS Board, paid homage to Mr. Wilson’s legacy at St. Albans School, stating that “he took a first place team and made it better—and the most visible way he has done this is with the School of Public Service. By inspiring SPS students to enter public service, I think it is fair to say that St. Albans is helping to change the world. That might sound extravagant, but think about these facts: six hundred students from all over the country and around the world have come to this program, from 41 states and 19 foreign countries, and they have gone back to their homes inspired to engage in public service.”
Two alumni of SPS, Amelia Thompson SPS ‘03 and Emily Dean SPS ‘09, shared how the program had changed their life. Amelia Thompson spoke on behalf of the many students from the Memphis public school system who have attended SPS since its founding, as part of a partnership between SPS and a nonprofit group called REACH Memphis. For Ms. Thompson, coming to SPS was truly an “‘aha’ moment: being at the School of Public Service just in general expanded every aspect of my life.” Amelia later came back to SPS to help run the program after college, and has since returned to her home city where she works in the nonprofit arts world for Ballet Memphis. For Emily Dean, who came to SPS from Montana, attending SPS “absolutely changed the trajectory of my life and my career. The experience was one that expanded my entire understanding of what real, impactful public service can and should be. And I returned to Montana with knowledge to better serve my state and a drive to learn more and more about how to be useful to my community. The School of Public Service might be based in Washington, D.C. but its impact reaches far beyond our nation’s capital, and I am confident it will continue to do so.”
Current SPS Board Chair James H. Rowe STA ‘69 thanked Vance Wilson for the founding of the program and made the announcement that an SPS Capital Campaign has, since the fall of 2018, already raised enough money to endow four full scholarships at SPS in Vance Wilson’s name. Mr. Rowe noted that SPS stands almost alone in its commitment of meaningful financial aid in the summer enrichment category (36% of the SPS Class of 2018 received financial aid covering an average of 90% of the program’s cost).
The last word, of course, went to Vance Wilson: “I think the School of Public Service is a great gift to this country. Alums, I’d like to be invited to your first inauguration.” Vance, on behalf of all of the students who have attended and benefited from the seventeen years in which the School of Public Service program has been in operation, it’s a deal.