November 22, 2019

Toasts and tributes with the Board of Trustees

Fall meetings focus on the revitalized Oliver Wendel Holmes Library and more
by Tracy Sweet

Andover’s generous benefactors and loyal volunteers returned to campus last week, connecting with the community and celebrating important milestones. Among the events, trustees and members of the Andover Development Board (ADB) attended the rededication of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library and a dinner honoring former head of school John Palfrey P’21, ’23. Their weekend continued with a breakfast hosted by Interim Head of School Jim Ventre ’79, who was joined by young alumni speaking about the impact of financial aid. ADB and trustees capped their visit with a lunch presentation by Ventre, Trustee President Peter Currie ’74, P’03, and Trustee President-Elect Amy Falls ’82, P’19, ’21 on the state of the Academy and the head of school search.

To mark the rededication of the library, school copresidents Shahinda Bahnasy ’20 and Sebastian Romero ’20 presented Currie with something old and something new—an original copy of a Holmes book of poetry and the library’s entire collection in a digital format. Following a massive digitization effort over the last several months, Andover became the first high school to make its collection available to the world. Guests then ventured to the Snyder Center where squash courts were a fitting backdrop to a pre-dinner toast. A crowd gathered to raise a glass with Trustee Eric Zinterhofer ’89, P’18, ’19 and his family to celebrate their recent campaign gift, which enabled the naming of the Palfrey Squash Pavilion.

The spotlight remained on the 15th head of school throughout the evening, as dinner included personal tributes recounting his leadership. Christopher Jones, chair of the Department of History and Social Science, described Palfrey’s unique ability to engage and inspire students in the classroom, exploring a range of subject matter, from WikiLeaks to John Milton and free speech to the Phillips Academy constitution. Palfrey also nimbly guided students through Independent Projects, U.S. History, Hacking: A Course in Experiments, and a number of other interdisciplinary topics.

“The lasting tributes to John’s time here will be defined by living testimonials,” said Jones, “by those students who were fortunate enough to study in his classroom, and who came to appreciate, through his teaching, the complexity of the world around them in ways that transformed them.” One of those students was MJ Engel ’13, who returned to Andover this year as a teaching fellow in English. She also reflected on her former teacher’s special talents. One of the original “hackers” in Palfrey’s first PA course, Engel said she continues to embrace the ethos of dismantling and rebuilding systems for the better. “I am still learning one of John’s most durable lessons: that a hacker’s work is never done.”

Excerpts from the boardroom:

Curating for the curriculum: Trustees hosted Andover Development Board (ADB) members for a lunch-and-learn event headlined by educators from the Addison Gallery. With a presentation from director Judith Dolkart and guidance from museum educators Jamie Gibbons and Christine Jee, the program included history and treasures of the museum and aimed to expand one’s capacity for critique. Using techniques such as slow looking and juxtaposition, guests at each table worked together to curate Addison works and present a mini exhibition.

Focus on financial aid: Thom Lockerby, secretary of the academy, reported that the Knowledge & Goodness campaign is embracing a renewed focus on financial aid, which is among its most ambitious priorities at $110.5 million. Leading the effort to secure the future of need-blind admission is campaign cochair Joe Bae ’90, P’21, ’23 in partnership with Ventre. In addition to supporting marketing efforts that involve donors at all levels, the board is also engaged in peer-to-peer conversations and smaller events to cultivate benefactors with the capacity to make leadership gifts.

Admission highlights: Jill Thompson, interim dean of admission and financial aid, reported on the 2019 enrollment season, with highlights including record applications (3,233), another historically low admit rate (13 percent), and improved yields for underrepresented students of color (70 to 77 percent). High on the minds of prospective parents are questions related to student health, wellness, and campus safety. The admission team has seen this trend emerge and hold steady over the past few years.

Thompson was joined by Vivien Mallick, director of admission operations, who described their team’s ongoing collaboration with the Office of Communication. From video and interactive social media campaigns like #SayYesToAndover to webinars and traditional printed materials, the approach includes both audience-specific and broad-based strategies to bring Andover’s story to prospective families around the world.

Budget and endowment: Ferd Alonso, assistant head of school for finance and administration, reported a positive close to fiscal year 2019. Prudent management of resources and outperformance in revenue areas, including annual giving and Summer Session, allowed the Academy to draw $3.4 million less from the endowment than planned. Endowment returns also finished the year on an upswing, closing FY19 with a 6 percent return. The board also took a deeper look into the workings of the financial model and discussed key areas that can affect budget planning. With Alonso offering insight, their discussion included the pros and cons of taking on debt, tuition discounting and financial aid, and funding for new facilities to bridge the gap as donor pledges are paid.

Pan Athletic Center: Director of Facilities Larry Muench and the team from Stanmar presented design options for the Pan Athletic Center. Consistent with the Athletics Master Plan, the first phase will include new homes for aquatics, wrestling, and dance. Should full funding be secured, phase one construction could begin in May/June 2020. A driving factor in decision-making is the rising cost of construction, something the trustees and Muench are watching closely as project scope and timelines are considered. The board also voted to approve the demolition of Smith and the Cage in preparation for construction. This work could begin as soon as January 2020.

Categories: Leadership

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