May 10, 2019

Celebration of PA values and gratitude for retirees

Highlights from the boardroom include admission, fundraising, and endowment updates
by Tracy Sweet

Friday’s dinner to celebrate retiring trustees and members of the campus community featured tributes to seven extraordinary individuals whose service to Andover is distinct in myriad ways. They’ve trained young journalists, championed student-athletes, managed start-ups, worked in higher education and on Wall Street. They’ve stewarded the financial and environmental health of the school. For all their differences in professional journeys, each tribute was connected by a theme of gratitude—deep appreciation for PA’s values and the people who embody them.

Following a moving a cappella performance by Fidelio, Trustee President Peter Currie ’74, P’03 shared official resolutions and high praise for three outgoing board members. He was joined by Head of School John Palfrey P’21, ’23, former Head of School Barbara Landis Chase, and Trustee Tamara Rogers ’70 in honoring:

  • Shelly Guyer ’78 (13 years, charter trustee; 4 years, alumni trustee)
  • Alison Lord ’85, P’19 (4 years, cochair, Annual Giving Board; 2 years, alumni trustee)
  • Joshua Steiner ’83, P’17, ’19 (13 years, charter trustee)

Respected across decades as mentors and advocates, sources of inspiration and wisdom, this year’s faculty and administrator retirees were feted by Palfrey. Sharing reflections from colleagues and students, he added personal appreciation for their unique expertise and tireless devotion and for the joy they spread among students and colleagues. “You have my deepest respect and gratitude; you will be missed,” he said, thanking the following:

  • Kathy Birecki P’04, instructor and trainer in athletics (35 years)
  • Leon Modeste, director of athletics (33 years)
  • Andrea Nix, chief financial officer (7 years)
  • Nina Scott P’05, ’06, ’11, instructor in English (26 years)
Head of School John Palfrey, Joshua Steiner ’83, P’17, ’19, Alison Lord ’85, P’19, and Trustee Tamara Rogers ’70

Highlights from the Boardroom

Outlook on Outreach: A decade has passed since the Trustee Task Force on Outreach made recommendations to fortify Andover’s signature programs—ABL, IRT, (MS)2, and PALS. Director of Outreach and Summer Session Beth Friedman gave an inspiring presentation on how much has changed since that time, including sources of revenue, governance structure, and marketing strategies. Expressing thanks for the good work of the task force, which preceded her arrival, she took the current board on a forwarded-looking journey. Their conversation centered around a number of questions: What is a structured way to evaluate many good opportunities? How do we decide when a new program should be launched? Or when a current program should be scaled or discontinued? Are there opportunities for more formal partnership with the Tang Institute?

Trustees responded with enthusiasm for next steps, which likely will include a new trustee task force that expands beyond the boardroom. They also reaffirmed unwavering support for the mission of Outreach as core to the Academy’s mission, blending non sibi and private school with a public purpose.

Budget and endowment: The finance team reported on FY 2019 budget activity and endowment performance, noting that markets have rebounded after a harrowing few months. With these data points in mind, trustees approved the FY 2020 budget, which includes a salary pool increase above that approved at the winter meeting. It also includes a financial aid budget that preserves need blind admission and tuition that maintains PA’s position as one of the most affordable among peer schools.

In addition, the school is expecting to take a lower-than-expected draw on the endowment for FY ’19. Ferd Alonso, assistant head of school for finance and administration, highlighted a trend in this area, initiated by Palfrey and the trustees when he became head seven years ago: Over that time, the draw on endowment has decreased 68 basis points, from 5.83 percent to 5.15 percent.

Head of School search: Trustee Amy Falls ’82, P’19, ’21, chair of the Head of School Search Committee, continued her listening tour, spending five days on campus last week. She held individual and group discussions with members of the board and campus community, and engaged the Alumni Council in roundtable discussions. Seeking collective wisdom on the school’s strengths and opportunities, as well as desirable characteristics in the next leader, Falls expects to have a search firm and membership of the committee in place this week. Next steps include opening broad communication channels, including a web page for continued feedback.

Fundraising highlights: The Academy Resources Committee received updates on campaign progress to date ($227.7 million) and impressive metrics behind PA Giving Day. The 24-hour rally on March 27 attracted 3,607 donors and commitments totaling nearly $2.5 million. The day also resulted in four new scholarships thanks to a challenge grant from Board President Peter Currie ’74, P’03. With financial aid a foundational priority of the campaign, the board also discussed donor outreach strategies aimed at increasing endowment support for scholarship from 60 percent to 80 percent annually.

Admission success: Jill Thompson was introduced as next year’s interim dean of admission to resounding applause. She then joined Jim Ventre ’79, assistant head of school for admission and financial aid, for a review of this year’s season. With record applications (3,191) and another historically low admit rate (13 percent), 83 percent of students accepted Andover’s offer of admission. As demand for an Andover education continues to grow, Thompson shared insights into the popular Spring Visit Program. This key decision-making experience for families included demonstration classes by faculty for parents and guardians, and reimagined programming to better serve underrepresented students of color.

Categories: Leadership

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