With the beginning of a new academic year in the valley, Deerfield welcomed new members Joseph L. Dowling III P’21, Joshua A.S. Greenhill ’96, Vanessa Allen Lavely ’00, Elizabeth H. Leist ’97, and Theodore W. Ullyot ’85 to the Board of Trustees.
The induction of these trustees further contribute to the diversity of backgrounds on the board. For example, Mr. Greenhill works as a partner in the Public Investment Group of The Baupost Group LLC, a private investment partnership, while Ms. Lavely is a partner in Cravath’s Litigation Department, handling a variety of legal cases such as environmental and commercial and securities matters.
Mr. Ullyot has previously served as Facebook’s General Counsel from 2008 to 2013 and is now a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm, leading its policy and regulatory affairs group.
While the trustees are not frequently seen around the campus, they play an important role in managing Deerfield’s general operations and future initiatives.
According to the Alumni Association’s written constitution, one of the responsibilities of the Association is “to communicate relevant information about Deerfield Academy to the members of the Association; to communicate to the Academy, when appropriate, the views of the Association and its members.”
Therefore, the alumni and the Academy have a relationship that emphasizes understanding between the two groups.
President of the Board of Trustees Brian Simmons, when discussing the inner workings of the board, stated, “On an ongoing basis, the board oversees major strategic decisions, major resource allocation decisions, and provides feedback, advice, and counsel to the Head of School and senior staff on a whole variety of issues.”
For the trustees to be selected by the board, all of them have to have shown deep interest in the wellbeing of the Academy and have a wide range of views that will help Deerfield become an even more inclusive and diverse community.
“The board is always looking for people who care passionately about Deerfield and people who represent different constituencies and different perspectives. We want a balance of men and women, minority representation on the board, trustees from around the country and trustees with different professions, families, and life experiences, so that we can have the greatest number of opinions and insights,” said Mr. Simmons.
Prior to their first Deerfield board meeting, Mr. Dowling and Ms. Leist shared their thoughts on their upcoming roles at the Academy. Both of the elected members have been acquainted with Deerfield in the past and present, with Mr. Dowling’s son Joe Dowling ‘21 being currently enrolled at the school and Ms. Leist having graduated in 1997. Their close ties with Deerfield ensure that they have great interest in and a tangible connection with the Academy’s goals, traditions, and most importantly, the students and faculty.
Mr. Dowling has been serving as the vice president and chief investment officer of Brown University since 2013, and he believes his experience at Brown will complement his role as a trustee. In addition, Mr. Dowling has been an active member of Deerfield’s investment committee for the last two years, and he commented on his positive experience while serving on the committee.
He shared, “The talent, experience, and high quality of the other investment committee members makes it my favorite investment board. I am not surprised that Deerfield is one of the best performing prep school endowments.”
Mr. Dowling continued on his reason for accepting the role of a trustee, “I think it is important to support Deerfield and our educational institutions… [and] to give back.”
Mr. Dowling aims to listen and learn from different members of the community by focusing on the benefit of students, faculty, alumni, and other trustees. During his five year term, Mr. Dowling hopes to maintain Deerfield’s legacy of academic excellence and leadership and keep the core values of Deerfield citizenship close to the Academy at all times.
The board consists of many committees that each focus on different aspects of Deerfield such as Advancement & Communications or Admission, Financial Aid, and College Advising. These committees have meetings two days prior to the board meeting, and they report to the board on the day of the board meeting. The new trustees will be a part of this whole process, providing their unique perspectives to the entirety of the board.
After graduating from Cornell in 2001, Ms. Leist has been heavily involved in news and journalism, having worked at NBC News as the Statement Department Producer and traveled with Hilary Clinton during her overseas trips as the Secretary of State. Having attended Deerfield herself, Ms. Leist cherished her time in the valley, and she has kept the experience close to her ever since. “I loved my time at Deerfield for all that it provided me – academic excellence, diverse viewpoints, and community. I want to help shape that same experience for future students,” wrote Ms. Leist.
Furthermore, she wishes to actively engage in the Deerfield community and interact with every member. Ms. Leist continued, “I want to be an active member of the board who contributes my perspective as a former student. I look forward to returning to Deerfield to attend some classes, meet students and faculty, and connect with former alumni.”
One of the projects that the board has constantly been working on is the “Financial sustainability and affordability” of a Deerfield education.
Mr. Simmons added, “I think everyone understands that Deerfield education is very valuable, but also very expensive. The board realizes that over time, if we are not careful, many very qualified applicants will be priced out of considering the Deerfield education.”
As the new trustees transition into their new roles as overseers of Deerfield, we believe their input will help the Academy propel further in this rapidly-changing world.