SJA Names Retiring Board Members Trustees Emeriti
During their recent meeting, the St. Johnsbury Academy Board of Trustees unanimously named outgoing Board members Lee Hackett ’57, Sue O’Neil Grayson ’67, Alex Ko (past parent), and Jim Impey ’64 Trustees Emeriti. This well-deserved recognition honors former Trustees who have demonstrated outstanding service to St. Johnsbury Academy. When combining time on the board and alumni council, this group totals over 100 years of volunteer service to the school.
Lee Hackett ‘57 was a valued member of the Board of Trustees since his election in 1985, notably serving as president from 2009 to 2015. During his tenure as president, he oversaw changes to the Academy’s infrastructure including the addition of several new dormitories to facilitate the expansion of the boarding program and major renovations to existing buildings. He was involved in the Academy’s efforts within the town of St. Johnsbury such as linking the St. Johnsbury Recreation Department to the school and the establishment of RecFit in the former Old Mill building. He supported the establishment of St. Johnsbury Academy Jeju on Jeju Island in Korea and the Kingdom Development Corporation (KDC) partnership. Over the years, he sat on every working committee of the Board and provided a historical perspective on many issues.
One of Lee’s most endearing traits is his genuine interest and caring for the people of the Academy. His support for faculty, staff, and students is immeasurable. His experience as executive vice president of American Appraisal Associates, Inc., trustee of the International Valuation Standards Council, and as an active consultant to other country valuation groups, such as the China Appraisal Society, was extremely beneficial to his work on the Board. Lee often traveled internationally and met with families, consultants, and alumni supporting the admissions and alumni operations of the school. He rarely missed a Capstone Day, always took time to speak with faculty, staff, and students on his visits to campus, and most recently (at the request of some of the graduating seniors) spoke as the 2019 commencement speaker. Thinking back on his time on the Board, Lee said,
I appreciated all my time on the Board, but the things that resonate most would be working with a totally dedicated and driven Board of Trustees, interfacing with students to better understand their outlook and concerns, getting to know the faculty and staff, and traveling to China and Eastern Europe to meet and understand the different perspectives of boarding families and students. This is a great school, and I couldn’t be prouder to have graduated from this fine institution and to serve the school as a Trustee for the past 35 years.
Susan O’Neil Grayson ‘67 joined the Board in 1990 and was an active member for the past 30 years. To date, Susan is the only woman to hold the position of president of the Board of Trustees, which she did from 2003 to 2009. During her tenure as president, she saw the Academy through the aftermath of 9/11 in 2001, led and positioned the Board for its outstanding independent school governance section of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation in 2006, and oversaw the school’s response to the financial crash of 2008-2009. In addition, she was president when Christensen Hall and the Green Dorm were built which boosted SJA’s boarding school profile. Sue is, and always has been, a caring and smart leader who maintains a steady presence.
Sue works as a principal partner at New England Guild Wealth Advisors and an investment consultant at CIGNA Investment Management. She was also an assistant head of school at the Renbrook School in West Hartford, Connecticut. Her investment and private school experience allowed Sue to assist the Academy in many ways including her service on the development, investment, and executive committees of the Board. When asked about her time on the Board, Sue said,
As a former student, I was deeply honored to be asked to serve as a trustee of this great independent educational community. As trustee, I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to help further the Academy’s mission—that of character, inquiry and community—in partnership with the outstanding leadership of Headmasters Tom Lovett and Bernier Mayo; their dedicated faculty, administration, and staff; and my wise and ever-diligent fellow trustees. As president of the Board, I cherish the memory of shaking hands and awarding diplomas to graduating seniors from our town, neighboring areas, and all parts of our world, as they celebrated their important milestone in front of proud faculty, family, and friends.
Like many other alumni, the Academy holds a special place in my heart. I have always been very proud of its history and traditions, its beautiful campus “up on the hill,” and its strong, unwavering commitment to academic excellence, to community and to its independence. In this “year of the virus” and as my tenure as trustee ends, I find myself feeling prouder than ever of this great school! I am in awe of the incredible effort and accomplishments on the part of our faculty and staff throughout this difficult year to ensure a safe, smart, and scholarly opening for our students, parents, and teachers. I have been deeply moved by the smoothness of transition of our new Headmaster; as Tom Lovett—after 19 years of service—successfully passed the baton to Dr. Sharon Howell in the middle of masks, sanitizers, lockdowns, and a remote-working era. Truly two exceptional people, providing exceptional leadership, during exceptional times. And finally, I continue to be incredibly impressed by my fellow trustees, under the extremely capable leadership of Jay Wright, as they have kept a steady, calm hand on the tiller while navigating these unchartered waters.
As I leave the board, the strong sense of pride I feel is matched only by how confident I feel that the Academy community will once again masterfully weather a storm; and that the school’s future remains ever bright! In doing so, we continue to honor the age-old tradition and pledge etched on the south wall of Fuller Hall that “…we will transmit this school not less but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.
Past parent Alex Ko and Jim Impey ’64 both served on the SJA Board of Trustees from 2010 to 2020 and brought different strengths to the Board.
Alex Ko, father of Dexter ’08 and Stephanie ’09, played a significant role in St. Johnsbury Academy’s relationships in Asia. Alex joined Piper Jaffray as part of the firm’s 2007 acquisition of Hong Kong-based Goldbond Capital Holdings Limited, which he founded in 2003. Alex has more than 25 years of experience in banking and corporate finance in China and Hong Kong, and previously served as the chairman of the corporate finance business at BNP Paribas Peregrine Capital Limited. His international experience helped the board to see the world through an international lens. Alex spent his time on the board serving on the development committee and hosted numerous dinners for the school in Hong Kong.
When asked about his time on the board, Alex said, “It has been my honor to serve on the board for the past 10 years. I would like to sum it up with this quote, ‘Higher love—one world together at home.’”
Jim Impey, alumnus and past parent of four Academy graduates (Michelle ’95, Alison ’97, Charlene ’02, and Jeffrey ’07), brought his local business expertise to the Board. Since the formation of his company, Impey’s Vermont Real Estate, in 1971, Jim and his wife, Lorraine, have restored and developed more than 20 older St. Johnsbury structures, many with historic significance, and run several area businesses. Jim will continue to serve on the SJA Alumni Council, a post he has held for over 25 years. He also sits on numerous volunteer boards in St. Johnsbury. Jim’s good business sense, awareness of tradition and community values, and problem-solving skills have been invaluable to the board. During his tenure, he provided guidance to the investment, development, campus advisory task force, and the executive committees. Reflecting on his time on the Board, Jim said,
It has been an honor and privilege to serve as a Trustee. I have always held the school in high regard. Being a trustee gave me insight into how great this school really is. SJA’s commitment is first to the students’ education and total well-being. I also greatly appreciate the commitment it has to the community and the economic impact it provides to our area with its forward-thinking and continued innovations. I cannot emphasize enough the phenomenal dedication of the faculty, administration, staff, and Board, and the alumni support is a true testament to the strength of the institution. With Tom Lovett’s leadership of the school for years, and now under Sharon Howell’s leadership, I am confident that St. Johnsbury Academy will remain a beacon of educational excellence in the future. The community is blessed with having one of the finest high schools in the nation.
“Alex, Jim, Sue, and Lee are four of the finest trustees the Academy has ever had,” said Jay Wright, President of the Board of Trustees. “Alex shared the unique insights of a former parent from Asia as well as support for our sister school in Jeju. Jim brought his long service on the Alumni Council, financial acumen, and his deep ties to our community. Sue and Lee’s board service is nothing short of legendary. They are two of only five individuals in Academy history to serve 30 years as a trustee and also as Board President – the others are all named Fairbanks’ – Thaddeus, Henry, and Colonel Joseph (current trustee, Bob Fairbanks grandfather and the donor of Brantview). But more impressive than this group’s service is that they are all great people. I will miss their wisdom and humanity. I will miss serving with them.”
A complete list of St. Johnsbury Academy Trustees can be found at www.stjacademy.org.