A new group of alumni are helping to shape a better Williston
In his efforts to keep Williston true to its mission and reflect the values of the school community, Head of School Robert Hill now has a powerful ally. Actually, 43 of them.
The Head’s Visiting Council (HVC), an advisory group formed in 2017 to serve as a sounding board for school policies, advancement initiatives, and alumni-outreach strategies, welcomed 16 new members this year, bringing the total to 44. Though still relatively new, the council “has quickly gained an identity and become a significant resource for me,” Hill noted in a recent letter to the group, whose members reflect a diverse mix of backgrounds, ages, genders, and professions, hailing from 17 states and two foreign countries. “The perspectives that you and your fellow councilors are able to share from your own communities and experiences are particularly valuable now,” he added, “to inform our decisions in response to the extraordinary challenges precipitated by the novel coronavirus.”
The pandemic response, however, is just the most recent issue where the school has sought the council’s guidance. Members have helped the Advancement Office roll out networking events for alumni, served as ambassadors for Founders Day fundraising, offered support for a school initiative to emphasize the humanities, and weighed in on the date of 2019’s Reunion. “Thanks to their input and endorsement,” notes Director of Advancement Patrick Burke, “we were able to take a proposal to the board to move Reunion back to June, which was incredibly popular with alumni.”
The HVC, whose members are invited to serve a two-year term with the option of a second, was also asked to provide feedback on issues surrounding diversity and inclusion at the school, a process that left a positive impression on new member Paige Brinkley ’04. “Not only were we apprised of Williston’s response to the concerns of BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] students and alumni,” she notes, “but we were consulted on approaches Williston should take in its attempt to confront its shortcomings.”
That opportunity to help make Williston the best it can be emerges as a common reason why council members choose to serve. “What brings this group together is a value alignment around what is most important for young people today,” explains Director of Alumni Engagement Jill Stern. “They see this as an opportunity to offer positive support to a place that they love so much.”
Once selected, members convene on campus for an annual fall summit and join Hill for various regional gatherings and conference calls throughout the year. (The pandemic has forced the group to trade those in-person events for Zoom meetings.) “It’s a real working group,” notes Stern, “dealing with the key administrative and strategic issues that are on Bob’s radar.”
What’s more, the HVC’s access to both campus and the administration affords members a unique position as school champions and networkers. “They know what is happening at the school,” Stern notes. “Bob talks to them, the CFO talks to them, faculty talk to them, student panels take place for them. That makes them a really nice partner to have when you’re trying to get the word out.”
For their part, council members say the experience has strengthened their connection to Williston and to their fellow alums. “What we have at the core is a love and appreciation for the school and how it helped form who we are,” notes Steve Hoyt ’95, P’25, who joined in 2018. “No matter which decade you graduated or the experiences you had, there is always that common thread.”
Meet Some HVC Members
TERRY MARTIN ’85
Home Larchmont, NY | Joined 2017
Occupation Partner/Client Leader at Table of Content, a hybrid creative development and production company
Education B.A., history, Kenyon College
Williston Notes A boarding student, he was a member of the soccer, basketball, and lacrosse teams, received the George Denman Award, and participated in theater and the Caterwaulers. He was just inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame (see page 79).
Impact of the HVC “What it has really done—and makes me the most excited—is show me that Williston’s mission is the same as it was in the mid-’80s: inspire each student in the way that’s best suited for them. Complete appreciation for the individual. That wasn’t trendy back in the day, but the world has caught up to us. And Williston is just doing it better than they did it before.”
HAOSHU XU ’13
Home Chicago, IL | Joined: 2019
Occupation: Consultant with Deloitte
Education: B.S., business administration, economics, and strategy; M.S., customer analytics; both from Washington University in St. Louis
Williston notes: A member of the squash team and Cum Laude Society, she received the Edward M. Lawton Jr. Prize, the David H. Thomas Spanish Prize, the Williams College Book Prize, the Arete Class of 1985 Outstanding Tutor Prize, the Fine Arts Prize, the Log Award, the Dartmouth Book Prize, and the Dorothy Bement Prize.
Impact of the HVC: “I got to see firsthand the relentless effort our administration and staff invest in our students. Especially with the pandemic, I am overwhelmed by the amount of thought and work that has gone into ensuring our people’s safety and their ability to still enjoy school life as much as possible. I am more proud of Williston than ever (if that is even possible).”
PAIGE BRINKLEY ’04
Home Washington, DC | Joined 2020
Occupation Attorney at the National Labor Relations Board
Education B.A., political science, Howard University; J.D., New York University School of Law
Williston Notes A three-year boarding student and member of the golf team, she participated in Big Brothers Big Sisters and TRIBE.
Impact of the HVC “It has opened my eyes to just how vital alumni participation is to the school’s success. As Williston rises to meet the challenges of today’s world—namely, the pandemic and the nation’s (long overdue) racial awakening—it has been made clear to me that they are in a better position to do so because of alumni involvement. If Williston is to achieve its full potential, the onus is on us alums to step up by donating, attending or hosting events, mentoring, or joining alumni affinity groups and other organizations.”
STEVE HOYT ’95, P’25
Home Hatfield, MA | Joined 2018
Occupation Business Development at AWH Inc.
Education B.A., Union College; M.B.A.,University of Connecticut
Williston Notes A member of the basketball and lacrosse teams, he also sang with the Caterwaulers. His children Cal ’25 and Lucy ’25 now attend.
Impact of the HVC “The dialogue surrounding racial injustice and how it affects our Williston community has been the most powerful. We have learned more about our past, and several members have taken leadership roles in helping shape a better Williston for all. While the work is far from over, it’s an example of the willingness of the school community to create awareness and mobilize.”