Change & Tradition from Those Who Know it Well--Our Board Chairs

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From the Winter 2010-11 Caller

The chairs of Catlin Gabel’s board of trustees play a crucial role in advancing the school’s mission; they bring the strongest of commitments to their position. What have our current and some of our former board chairs accomplished, what do they remember most proudly, and what are their visions for the school?

Ruth Ann Laster, 1980–83

What’s one wish or dream you have for Catlin Gabel?
I hope that the school always remembers its mission and focus. I am confident that it will remain a caring and creative environment. The school is remarkable because of its devotion to students and faculty. I am grateful that my own children were nurtured and educated so well at Catlin Gabel, and I wish the same for future generations.
What improvements have you seen in the school since your time on the board?
Overall, it seems more diverse. It’s terribly important to have students experience such diversity both within their own group and within the faculty.
What were the school’s most important fundraising goals at the time and how did you achieve them?
My recollection is that we aspired to keep the school on a sound footing as we prepared for the future—all resting on a commitment to excellence in substance and in spirit. I specifically remember the Rummage Sale: not only did it raise money, but it also brought the school together behind a common goal. One of my fondest memories is Sid Eaton collecting cans—he was ahead of his time. I think we all appreciated that raising money was important, but it was not an end in itself. Nevertheless, the board took fundraising very seriously.

Joey Day Pope ’54, 1988–90

What made you so committed?
My commitment to the school stems from its continuous adherence to the philosophy and mission articulated by Ruth Catlin in 1928, a statement that has held up through decades of scrutiny: a school where “each pupil is the unit of consideration” and which maintains “a liberal attitude towards ideas and fields of knowledge . . . in the search for truth and wisdom.”
What’s one wish or dream you have for Catlin Gabel?
My dream is that we continue to enroll both students who represent a cross-section of American life and those whom we used to term “children of promise” (not just the super bright, but those whose records and test scores upon entry may not portend the significant contributors they may be later in life).

Fletcher Chamberlin, 1990–93

What was your proudest board moment?
That moment came before I was chair, when I was treasurer: placing Howard Vollum’s bequest into the endowment and not into buildings. If we had spent the funds on buildings we may not have set our foundation for the endowment. His bequest changed everything.
What’s one wish or dream you have for Catlin Gabel? To keep doing what you’re doing and innovate. My three children were taught to have opinions and learned how to express them. They were taught how to think critically whether in writing or orally. They are three very different kids, but all got a great core education. I loved the most recent Caller on writing. That kind of education is fascinating to see from a 1st grader to an upper schooler. Keep innovating!
What improvements have you seen in the school since your time on the board?
Lark Palma’s intense focus on educational innovation. It’s even more powerful that what it used to be. I admire it.

Peter Krainock, 2001–04

What’s your proudest board accomplishment?
I am very proud of the set of fiscal procedures we implemented that changed how we budgeted for deferred maintenance costs. This was a tough decision that had powerful long-term effects. Without deferred maintenance the school would have ended up fundraising for costs that are not attractive to prospects and donors. I’ve sat on too many boards to realize not enough institutions do this, and I’m proud Catlin Gabel is one that does. I’m pleased to know our deferred maintenance budgeting is alive and well.
What’s one wish or dream you have for Catlin Gabel?
I wish the school will continue to search for board members who have divergent points of view—not just those who think the same way. Push and pull is tremendous. We had that on the executive committee, and it worked quite well.

Dave Cannard ’76, 2004–06

What’s one wish or dream you have for Catlin Gabel?
I hope Catlin Gabel remains true to its mission and roots as an experiential and experimental school, and that it continues to increase its accessibility to a broad range of students with different points of view. I’m happy to have participated in many of the discussions that continue and are enhanced today.
What improvements have you seen in the school since your time on the board?
I sense an increased awareness of financial assistance and accessibility, and it seems the board’s really focused and taken it to heart. It’s tremendous. During an economically challenging time the board stepped up and found additional funds for financial assistance. I’m pleased the school’s kept Lark Palma on as the head for continuity, leadership stability, and long-term success.
What made you so committed?
I deeply appreciate what the school did for me way back when, and what I’ve witnessed in my two sons made me and keeps me committed. I have a deep-seated awe for the work of the faculty with each child, and the commitment from the grounds crew to the head of school. I wanted to help support that and help make Catlin Gabel more available for more people. It was easy for me to commit.

John Gilleland, current board chair

What improvements have you seen in the school since you joined the board?
In my nine years on the board we have witnessed wonderful improvements in the Beehive, the Upper School library, our math and science buildings, the Dant House, and other facilities. Changes in our food service over the past several years have been great. We now have a bus commuter service, which was very much needed. Our curriculum continues to improve and evolve as it should to meet the demands of our shrinking world and expansion of a global economy. I see expansion in areas once not a part of our ongoing program becoming more integrated and expanded and highly successful, such as our outstanding robotics program. The dramatic growth in our financial assistance budget, while always in need of growing further, has been a blessing. Most know we increased our financial assistance budget by 44% over the past several years compared to 2007–08. The culture of the school regarding community involvement continues to evolve, with the volunteer efforts once devoted to Rummage now being expanded to a broader array of efforts. To speak in terms of our faculty and leadership, it is difficult to improve on excellence, but the best thing to know is we continue to attract top faculty and personnel when retirements or program changes occur. It has been a dramatic decade.
What wishes or dreams do you have for Catlin Gabel?
I dream that we continue to attract the financial resources to maintain our excellence in teaching and programs, which then makes Catlin Gabel the desired school for a diverse community of inspired families and students. I dream that we can match our programs with the related physical needs of our campus, including an Upper and Middle School creative arts building, an expansion of our robotics work areas, and beyond. I dream we will grow our endowment to a level that would support a vast expansion in our programs—a dramatic growth for the endowment fund.