May is the Farewell Season


Spring is supposed to be the season of rebirth and renewal, but for me it is usually the season of goodbye.  I am late with my blog today because in the last twenty-four hours I have attended three farewell celebrations.  Perhaps celebrations is not the right word, but send-offs sounds too casual. I went to a goodbye lunch today for my friend Meg who is moving to Baltimore, then to an ice cream social for Durham Academy’s long time Headmaster Ed Costello who is retiring.


Last night we had the Durham Academy board of Trustees annual thank you those trustees who are rolling off the board and welcome to the newly elected.  Many past board members who came to pay tribute to Ed attended the annual event.  The board members in the room were keenly aware of the good work Ed has done and the quite way he steered the school.


I was lucky enough to get to make the thank you remarks for my friend Sara Pottenger.  I am including them here today not only to pay tribute to Sara, but as a small guide for anyone who is ever asked to sit on a non-profit board, a job with great satisfaction if done right, but little fan fair.  Sara, with lots of experience serving many institutions is one to be emulated.


A Tribute to Sara Pottenger


When I realized that Sara Pottenger was leaving the board I got a little pit in my stomach. For those of you who serve on the board with us there is no way you could tell that my goal in life is to grow up to be like Sara Pottenger, but it’s true. See Sara is my board idol.  But I am obviously a poor student because I have not learned her ways and it looks like my time has run out.


Sara has a sense of grace about her as she quietly and serenely runs her committees and what a lot of them there have been.  We and I mean the entire school is indebted to her for co-chairing the Evergreen campaign with her husband Dave and the Suttons.  As the chair of the development committee along with the campaign for the last three years she has done double duty to ensure the money the school needs is there.  Sara easily could have just headed one of these committees but she has never asked anyone to do something that she was not willing to do herself.  She is by all definitions a true servant leader.


From the day that Durham Academy accepted Sara and Dave’s oldest daughter Tatum sixteen years ago she has been fully involved.  Besides all the regular room parent stuff Sara has consistently been a caller for the gift club for annual fund.  The Pottengers have generously given to the school every year, without fan fair. 


Recognizing talent the board asked her and Dave to serve as chairs as of the New Parents phase in the Cornerstone campaign.  You would think after all these years of constantly asking people to fork over their hard earned dollars to DA, people would run from Sara, but quite the opposite.  Her kind hearted manner and her devotion to our school has made her the perfect torchbearer for all these years.  And many of us have willing followed her into the cause. 


We were lucky to have her serve on the board for seven years; Her first in an ex-officio roll as the president of parents’ council in 2004- 05. She served on the strategic planning retreat in 2006 and then the board recognized that her thoughtful and consider council was needed back.  So Sara has spent the last six years serving this board.  She has had almost every job except President and we all know that being campaign and development chair is harder than being president.  Right David Beischer?


Someone was brilliant enough to have her on Trusteeship and the executive committee as secretary for every year she has been on this board.   Sara leads by example and is always thinking about the long-term viability of the institution. I have never heard Sara bring up an issue that is really about her child.  She understands that her role as trustee is not what goes on with her children, but what is best for everyone’s children.


Sara is obviously a brilliant negotiator because when we got her to head up different development roles she brought along her husband Dave.  Together they make a talented team.  So sadly we are not just losing Sara, but Dave may be retiring too.  Dave is the first to say that Sara is the brains in that team, but I know he is selling himself short. 


Obviously, like Dave, I am a faithful Sara Pottenger devotee. I know that I have failed in emulating her in board meetings for Sara never talks out of turn or raises her voice.  When I grow up I want to be as hard a worker, thoughtful, kind and gentle southern women as Sara.  I hope no one is holding their breath because I know I am not worthy to walk in her footprints and I am fairly certain we will be hard pressed to find another like her.


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