Last spring, the Deerfield Academy Board of Trustees elected two new members: Diana Newton and Mark McInerney ’81. Mrs. Newton and Mr. McInerney arrived on campus in October for their first meeting but are by no means strangers to Deerfield community.
Mrs. Newton’s father ’48, brother ’87, husband ’80, and daughter Hadley ’12, are all graduates of Deerfield. An alumni himself, Mr. McInerney sent his three children to Deerfield for ten consecutive years. His youngest son, Finlay, is a member of the class of 2016.
Since the Board only meets on-campus every October and April, few students know about its members and initiatives. In the same way that Deerfield students follow the handbook, the Board of Trustees obeys its Bylaws & Charter. For example, section 9A of the Bylaws states, “The Board shall consist of no more than thirty Trustees, a majority of whom shall be alumni/ae.”
Because many Trustees are either alumni or Deerfield parents, they know which school traditions they would like to preserve, such as sit-down meals, class dress, and school meetings, as well as how Deerfield can, according to Mrs. Newton, embrace “the technological innovation and changes that can transform the classroom in the 21st century.” Looking forward, Mrs. Newton hopes that she can “be instrumental in helping Deerfield walk the fine line between maintaining DA’s special recipe of community and character, while keeping up with the dynamism of the 21st century.”
Over the years, especially since the return to coeducation 25 years ago, the Board of Trustees has transformed into a diverse group of individuals of different ages, races, and genders. Dr. Margarita Curtis, Deerfield’s Head of School, believes “the Board is able to engage in serious, generative discussions” because of the different perspectives each member brings to conversation.
This year, Dr. Curtis pointed out, is a critical time of change for the Deerfield Board of Trustees. In a period of three years, the terms of six Trustee members will have ended. By next April, the final pair of new Trustees will be elected.
The Trustees are the “cultural and financial stewards of the school,” Dr. Curtis explained. “They operate at the strategic level, rather than at the tactical level. For example, their job is to hire the Head of School, and then the Head of School is in charge of management.” In other words, the Board is responsible for governing the school and providing the guardrails for Dr. Curtis and her team.
When members cannot resolve a specific issue, the Board allocates a special focus committee called an Ad-Hoc committee to propose a solution. Board Members are also divided into several other committees covering aspects of life at DA.
When new Trustees are elected toithe Board, they usually join three to four committees. Mrs. Newton requested to be on the committee for Academic Affairs, the committee for Admission, Financial Aid and College Advising, the committee for Student Life, as well as an Ad-Hoc committee for Inclusion. Mr. McInerney requested to be on the committee for Admission, Financial Aid and College Advising, the committee for Buildings and Grounds, and the committee for Student Life.
Mr. McInerney is aware of the challenges students face. He chose to be on the Student Life committee because he feels he can “give meaningful feedback to the community.” He explained that “the Board meets with all of Dr. Curtis’s senior staff during Trustee meetings to get a sense for all aspects of student life at Deerfield.” However, Mr. McInerney added, he “would like to see the Board have the opportunity to spend more time with students in the classroom, at sit-down meals, and elsewhere on campus so we can see and hear firsthand what students are thinking.”
The Board will always be concerned with the future and how it can differentiate Deerfield from the other top secondary schools. Generally, the Board plans numerous projects at once, but some key current initiatives include the new Field House and Ice Rink and working on making Deerfield a more inclusive community. Students can contact Dr. Curtis and her administration if they would like to know more about the immediate steps that will be taken.
Mrs. Newton and Mr. McInerney have led successful careers and are looking forward to drawing from their experiences when governing Deerfield. Mrs. Newton is a Senior Fellow at the John G. Tower Center for Political Studies at Southern Methodist University. She is also an adjunct professor who teaches National Security Policy in the Political Science Department.
Mr. McInerney is a member of GCA Savvian’s Executive Committee and Co-Head of Investment Banking. As a member of the Board of Directors of GCA Savvian, he has over 29 years of experience in the investment banking industry.
Before arriving to campus in October, Mrs. Newton said, she reread The Headmaster by John McPhee in order to reconnect with the Deerfield her father, brother, husband, and daughter attended. Mr. McInerney ’81 knew the Deerfield just after the days of Mr. Boyden, and just before the implementation of coeducation. He explained, “Everything about this school is better than it was 30 years ago.”