Snapshots of St. George's
The fall meeting of St. George’s Alumni Board of Visitors (ABOV) convened on Saturday morning, November 12, during a spirited Middlesex Weekend that showed the Hilltop at its finest. Fifty-five attendees gathered in the Academic Center at 8:00 a.m. to take part in a comprehensive agenda of remarks and presentations that ran through a buffet lunch and into the afternoon. Some had arrived the day before to be present at Friday evening’s biennial SG Sports Hall of Fame ceremony and Middlesex pep rally. All were queued to follow the meeting with a migration to the athletic fields on a glorious autumn afternoon to cheer on the home team Dragons in their games against the Zebras.
The Alumni Board of Visitors was established by the Board of Trustees in 2013 to engage a select group of dedicated SG alums in ongoing annual conversations about the life of the school today, the objective being to strengthen their affiliation with St. George’s and to use that relationship as a catalyst for promoting SG in their own communities and among their alumni peers. The group has grown into a steadfast corps of would-be ambassadors whose interest in learning about St. George’s and the evolution of its programs and resources is passionate. The message they take with them when they leave the campus and disperse is vital.
The meeting on November 12 was presided over by Co-Chair Jeff Kimbell ’89, along with fellow Co-Chair Stew Strawbridge ’94 and Vice-Chair Susie Carlson ’87. In Jeff’s opening remarks, he spoke highly of the St. George’s he experienced as a student, and just as highly of the school today and the wealth of opportunity it offers the current generation of Dragons. He referenced his muse, the late William S.R. “Robin” Rogers, who inspired him in so many enduring ways and moved him to pursue a successful career as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. He spoke of the challenges that confront St. George’s now, economic and demographic, and made the case for why the Board of Visitors is important in terms of the tremendous positive impact that everyone in the room could have in his or her role as an ambassador of the school.
Head of School Eric Peterson took the podium to describe how the culture of the school reflects personal respect among students and adults, and best practices in the realms of safety and security. The modern evolution of St. George’s has been wholesome and uniquely positive.
Director of Admission Ryan Mulhern ’91 presented a statistical overview of the enrollment scenario, emphasizing that while St. George’s remains both competitive and desirable in the ranks of its peer schools, challenges persist, and those include shrinking school demographics given the rising cost of tuition, and increasing demand for financial aid. His directives revolved around the need for capital improvement in all realms of the physical plant to make the school even more competitive, and specifically, in terms of the Board of Visitors, the need for affirmative publicity and active promotion through word of mouth at alumni venues and in alumni communities.
Director of Operations George Staples talked about the ever-present menace of facilities depreciation in an environment impacted by proximity to the sea and salt, emphasizing how the beauty of SG’s campus on a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean comes at a cost. He also referenced the Campus Master Plan, and alluded to the scope of capital expenditure that everyone in the room should be aware of as St. George’s eyes the future both in practical and in wishful terms. He gave an honest assessment of the state of SG’s facilities—athletic, residential and academic—and made it clear that while we can keep track of depreciation and physical needs effectively by means of a calculated Facilities Condition Index, we remain in the position of playing catch-up. The good news? The last 10 years have seen the creation of the Behrend Quad and elimination of the old pool, the restoration of the Chapel roof and east wall including installation of the new altar window, the Hill Library rehab and expansion, and construction of the Academic Center—all remarkable achievements and fodder for optimism.
Trustee Dana Schmaltz ’85 reported on school finances and gave an update on the Head of School search. Supported by graphs and charts, he made the point very clearly that when it comes to the operating budget at St. George’s, there are but three sources of revenue, familiar to us all—investment income, tuitions, and annual giving—and the first two are relatively fixed on a percentage basis. Hence the overwhelming fiscal prominence of the St. George’s Fund this year and every year. He hammered home to the assembled group the vital importance of annual giving and the significance of getting the word out.
Speaking about the Head search, Dana indicated that the consultants at Spencer Stuart were moving the process along smoothly and that the present happens to be an opportune time to be in the game because no other peer schools are actively searching. He produced a graphic that showed the timeline to be roughly 75% along—between the candidate “referencing” phase and the “negotiation and closing” phase. This bodes well for completion of the search near the end of the calendar year.
The final presentation of the morning touched on the nuts and bolts of programmatic vitality and academic innovation at St. George’s, with words from a selection of faculty and then comments from a panel of students. Presenting for the faculty were Dean of Academics Christopher Shaw, Director of Signature Programs and French teacher Allison de Horsey, Captain of Geronimo Mike Dawson, History teacher Jim Connor, and Director of the Merck-Horton Center Tom Callahan.
Student panelists included Morgan Hill-Edgar ’19, Morgan Sailer ’18, Nurzhan Jandosov ’17, Dillon Kaynor ’17, Eva Killenberg ’17, and Alice Reeves ’17.
The meeting wound down over a buffet lunch in the Academic Center for ABOV members, faculty and students. At the end of the day, the entire program was received enthusiastically by Board of Visitors attendees for the honesty and depth of all the information presented. Their marching orders as ambassadors of St. George’s rang clear: Promote the school, tell the story of its academic strides and enduring culture of respect, and continue to identify annual giving as a vital priority among all of SG’s constituents.