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Creating Ripples Across Generations

Creating Ripples Across Generations

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At a recent memorial service for my former headmaster at McDonogh School, the last speaker relayed a story that Bob Lamborn shared in an email to his granddaughter.

When he was much younger, Bob asked his father “what can you tell me about immortality?” His father responded, “I believe in heaven and the hereafter, but I have no way of proving what I think is true. However, I can assure you that there is immortality on earth. It exists in the difference you make in the life of others, and it can ripple forward through generations until no one knows that you started the ripple even as they benefit from it.”

Bob Lamborn served for 20 years as the Headmaster at McDonogh School. His father, Louis, served as Headmaster for the 26 years before Bob succeeded him. While both were teachers and heads of the same private school, the quote that he attributed to his father is inspirational and instructive.

In the 96 years since Louis Lamborn became head of McDonogh, there have been seven heads of school including him. Dave Farace, the current school head, has been in his role since 2018. While some may argue that the lengthy tenure of its leaders may allow for legacies and traditions to continue, the school has survived and thrived through the years through changes implemented by these leaders.

Throughout the years, there were significant changes at McDonogh. In the 1920’s, McDonogh shifted from a farm school for orphans to an independent school for boys with a semi-military curriculum. A college preparatory curriculum was introduced in the 1950’s, replacing the more practical curriculum. McDonogh racially integrated in 1959, dropped the school’s semi-military curriculum in 1971, and became a coeducational school in 1975. In the 1980’s, it dropped from a seven-day boarding program to a five-day boarding program and increased its day student enrollment. Over the past 20 years, the school rebuilt many of its facilities to accommodate co-educational instruction, athletics, and co-curricular activities. During these years, the heads of school and its trustees have had to meet and adopt to challenges but have never forgotten one of the tenants of its founder “to do the greatest possible amount of good.”

McDonogh School today is very different from the school that Louis Lamborn was hired to lead in 1926. It’s safe to say that Louis Lamborn and his son, Bob, implemented many changes that made a difference in the lives of others as did the changes implemented by their successors.

From my vantage point, leading a private school is not very different from leading a public school. Both have students, faculty, coaches, someone the head reports to (a board or a superintendent), parents, alumni, and the outside community at large. Managing multiple constituencies is a difficult and sometimes thankless task.

A public school principal may have a more difficult job when you consider that turnover of public school superintendents (4-5 years) is likely more frequent than private school trustees. Public school superintendents may or may not be from the local area and may not be familiar with the city/county cultural norms, expectations, and traditions. A private school board is likely comprised of more alumni and donors than parents and independent members. The longer tenured private school board member can be helpful when supporting change and a real roadblock when not supporting change.

I believe that all leaders should ascribe to making a positive difference in the lives of others, not just leaders of schools. The world would be a much better place if that was the case. Hiring leaders who believe in the mission of the school or business would be a good first start. Replacing board members who don’t believe or commit to the mission would be a second step. Electing leaders (politically) who are not narcissists is a tougher job because much of our national and regional news is reported by people whose personal image is tantamount to their success. Not only that, it’s impossible to run for office today without being exposed to the limelight, and that requires a certain personality. Sadly, we often elect the person we see more in the media than the person with the best ideas for governing.

Many of us likely know someone who exudes all the characteristics of a good leader, someone whose actions make a positive difference in the lives of their students/customers, employees/faculty, and their community. It’s time to push for leaders like that rather than those looking for a personal sound bite, higher paycheck, or step to the next higher paying job. We need to create ripples across the generations, not tidal waves that wash our communities out to sea.

Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston continues to serve as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.

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