HUDSON — Against a backdrop of other recent historic milestones, Western Reserve Academy announced Oct. 29 that Suzanne Walker Buck has been selected as its new Head of School, the first woman to hold the post in the school’s history.
Earlier this month, WRA completed an $86.5 million "Campaign for Excellence & Access," the most successful fundraising effort in the school’s history.
"Suzanne’s appointment adds to the feelings of pride and momentum we feel at Western Reserve Academy today," said Tim Warner '69, co-president of the WRA Board of Trustees. "In many ways, she personifies the school — accomplished and dynamic, thoughtful and intrepid — these are the qualities we sought in our next leader."
After a national search, the WRA Board of Trustees and Head of School Search Committee unanimously selected Buck as the school’s 32nd Head of School, replacing Christopher D. Burner ‘80. Her tenure will begin on July 1, 2019.
"I couldn’t be more thrilled to join Western Reserve Academy," said Buck. "While rich in traditions, resources and programs, I am struck most by the character of the community. Pioneers care about one another and the world at large. It is clear that students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni share a common thread in the tapestry of experience; they are committed to learning, teaching, innovating, and connecting with authenticity and compassion. My husband, Johnny, and I are extremely honored to root our professional lives and family in Hudson at Western Reserve Academy."
Buck’s engagement with boarding schools is long and deep. She is a graduate of both the Fay School and Miss Porter’s School. She says she knew as early as the fifth grade that the world of boarding schools held a spell of magic and could always foresee returning to work in such an extraordinary environment.
After graduating from Connecticut College, Buck joined Westminster School as an admission counselor, dorm parent and coach of field hockey and lacrosse. From Westminster she attended graduate school earning a degree in clinical social work from Columbia University and a degree in education from Harvard University. She has since held posts at Fay School, New Hampton School and most recently as the rector (head of school) at Chatham Hall in Chatham, Va., where in four years she increased enrollment by 36 percent; added significant tuition revenue; increased annual giving by 14 percent; and developed a bold strategic plan.
Buck is also a leader in the independent school sector, as the vice chair of the Association of Boarding Schools and chair of the governance committee for the enrollment management association.
Burner served as Head of School at WRA during a decade of transformation that included bold evolution across the campus and the curriculum. The Campaign for Excellence & Access helped to grow the school’s endowment to allow for $6 million in financial aid to be awarded annually; further supported the school’s faculty; and enabled historic additions and renovations to the campus, including a new admission office, Wang Innovation Center and the restoration of Seymour Hall, the school’s main academic building.
Alongside the brick and mortar renovations was a reconstruction of the Reserve curriculum, including the move beyond Advanced Placement courses, a daily schedule built for balance and collaboration, and a Literacies program supported by the E.E. Ford Foundation. Reserve has been named the best independent school in Ohio and among the top three percent of private schools nationally by Niche, and the most beautiful private school in Ohio by Architectural Digest.
Buck’s appointment is the result of an extensive national search conducted in partnership with executive search firm RG-175. WRA leadership said the school community’s engagement was instrumental to the process and reflective of the strength in Reserve.
"Throughout our history, with this announcement today, and in our future, remarkable things happen when our Reserve community combines its experiences, passion and purpose," said Andrew Midler '79, co-president of the WRA Board of Trustees. "Our students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni have created a school that stood out to a world-class candidate, and we can’t wait to welcome Suzanne and her family to ours."