Up and to the Right
The Execution of an Audacious Campaign
By Emily Magnus
Any good campaign must begin with “why.” Why take on the task of developing support and raising funds for a particular cause? In the case of Cardigan, that answer has always been easy. We do it for the boys, the boys who come to us with open minds and ask that we share our knowledge–whether it be learning to solve for x, or executing the perfect slap shot, or leading with compassion and service. On a fundamental level, the boys are here for their own personal gains, but there’s also the possibility that their education, if executed with Cardigan’s mission in mind, will lead to a better world.
That’s what the Cardigan trustees were thinking in 2010, when they began to formulate a plan for what they wanted Cardigan to look like in 2020. Their vision was bold and bigger than anything Cardigan had ever attempted before. The most the School had ever tried to raise in its 60-year history was $8 million; the goal this time was $50 million and involved building a new community center, renovating several dorms and facilities, as well as increasing the endowment by $10.8 million. Many doubted it was possible.
“We took on the campaign recognizing there was some degree, a relatively large degree, of probability that we could fail,” remembers former Board Chair and Finance Committee Vice Chair Hank Holland H’18, P’12,’15. “It was intentionally an audacious goal. And I think, had we achieved 90% of the goal, we probably collectively would have been very happy. Little did we know we would achieve 125% of the goal.”
State of the School
Let’s set the scene. In the early 2000s, Cardigan Mountain School was simultaneously leading junior boarding schools and falling behind in various aspects of its program. On the positive side, the School had recently completed two 12-bed dorms as well as the Wakely Center and new fitness facilities. In a 2007-2008 review of the School, consultant Nancy Stearns wrote, “The athletics program is one of the major program assets at Cardigan. Solid leadership and coaching, a wide range of options for the boys, and high enthusiasm from both adults and students for participation and sportsmanship imbue this department. I believe all the right issues are being addressed at this time.”
The physical and mental health of the boys and the Cardigan community had received significant attention as well under the leadership of Head of School Cameron “Chip” Dewar H’02, P’93 (1990-2004) and Interim Head of School Jamie Funnell (2004-2005). These efforts finally came to fruition early in the tenure of Head of School Thomas Needham (2005-2007), with the long-awaited dedication of the Hamilton Family Foundation Health Center and the addition of new health services staff.
“The new Health Center is welcoming, functional, and calming,” Ms. Stearns wrote in her report. “Led by a competent and attentive director and two part-time nurses, the Center has been described as ‘a place on campus where it’s safe to cry.’”
In spite of these challenges, the community still believed in the School’s mission and Core Values. The campus provided plenty of room for boys to explore and grow, developing their confidence and moral character through the four-year program.
At the same time, however, there was a period of rapid transition, and an accompanying uncertainty about the School’s future ensued. Routine maintenance had, out of necessity, been deferred on many occasions, and as the number of students increased, little had been done to provide a space in which the community could gather. The Hayward Dining Hall, in fact, was operating routinely beyond its intended capacity of 150.
“We had just four ovens and one grill to produce [three meals a day] for 178 kids, plus approximately 120 to 150 faculty and staff members (and their respective family members),” recalled former Director of Dining Services Bob Spano in a 2016 reflection. “We were able to just barely keep up with the demand of the business; we had to use a lot of premade products and take many shortcuts. In fact, we used to pray for winter because of the ‘cold storage' it provided for us!”
Also in dire need of attention was faculty compensation, benefits, and workload. Additional funding was necessary to bolster professional development initiatives. Housing was an issue, as each June, faculty were required to vacate their residences to make room for Summer Session staff. Salaries were not competitive with peer schools, and the work-life balance was often skewed heavily in the direction of work.
Furthermore, the national climate beyond the Cardigan campus was unfavorable to the fundraising efforts of the Development Office. With the Great Recession in 2008, families were both less willing and less able to contribute to a small junior boarding school in central New Hampshire.
In spite of these challenges, the community still believed in the School’s mission and Core Values. The campus provided plenty of room for boys to explore and grow, developing their confidence and moral character through the four-year program. The faculty maintained a reputation of caring deeply for the boys under their supervision, and the academic program was gaining momentum with the introduction of the Gates Invention & Innovation Competition. All of the intangible but essential ingredients were there; the school just needed the right leadership and significant financial investment to help it flourish.
Building a Plan
“You have to remember that the 2007-2009 period was similar to what we’re experiencing right now with respect to the nation’s economic situation,” remembers former Head of School Dave McCusker ’80, P’09,’10, who was hired in 2007 to help the School begin a new chapter. “That was a period of tremendous upheaval and uncertainty. And to the board’s credit, we didn’t just hunker down and try to weather the storm. We made an intentional decision to really grow and plan significantly during that period.”
The board’s Strategic Planning Committee, under the guidance of committee chair Burt McGillivray P’07,’09,’09, began by creating individual task forces—comprised of both trustees and members of the faculty—to assess not only the School’s financial situation, but also its competitive positioning, external market considerations, academic year and summer programming, and issues pertaining to staffing. Ultimately, the plan focused on five areas: (1) program refinement and support, (2) leadership and support, (3) physical plant improvements, (4) financial sustainability commitment, and (5) the telling of the Cardigan story.
“...As we move from planning to action, we do so with the confidence that we are focused on the most critical goals for Cardigan’s success, that they are achievable goals, and that they will drive the success of Cardigan for many years to come.”Burt McGillivray P’07,’09,’09
“Our goal is to put in place a strategic plan framework that is a living document,” wrote Mr. McCusker in The Strategic Plan for Cardigan 2020, “one that is used regularly to guide our decision making, and to measure our progress toward outcomes that are both ambitious and comprehensive in nature…By charting a course toward refining and enhancing the School’s distinctive program—while being mindful of the needs of people and resources needed to deliver it—this document, and the tactical plans that develop from it, will be an integral player in our success.”
The strategic plan called for developing mission-driven programs that were innovative, relevant, and responsive, and for attracting and retaining exceptional, collaborative faculty and staff through professional development, competitive compensation/benefits, and a healthy residential culture. It also called for an enrollment strategy that would ensure a diverse student body and a campus master plan focused on building and maintaining functional, environmentally responsible facilities that also support the programs and people. Finally, it called for financial resources that could be maintained in perpetuity and preserve intergenerational equity.
“The recommendations and strategic priorities are thoughtful, relevant, and important to the achievement of Cardigan’s mission,” wrote Mr. McGillivray in The Strategic Plan for Cardigan 2020. “...As we move from planning to action, we do so with the confidence that we are focused on the most critical goals for Cardigan’s success, that they are achievable goals, and that they will drive the success of Cardigan for many years to come.”
Building the Team
The plan, however, wasn’t enough. It needed cheerleaders, people unified by their belief in it and motivated to see it through to the end.
“Cardigan had never done anything like this before, and it required a high level of expertise,” says Diane Wallach H’16, P’06. “So right away we set out to build a team, to get the right people in place and give them the resources to do it.”
The individuals who dedicated their time to The Campaign for Cardigan 2020 were diverse in their perspectives, and the expertise each member brought to the committee and the respect each one had for the others coalesced into an incredibly strong team. Collectively, they inspired the community and convinced everyone with whom they spoke that their goals were both necessary and achievable. It’s easy to imagine the members of the Campaign Committee gathered around a conference table, their bodies leaning in towards each other, their dialogue animated and intense. They didn’t always agree on the tactical plans, but they were in it for the long haul.
The chair of Cardigan’s Board of Trustees when the campaign began was F. Corning “Kim” Kenly III ’68. As an alumnus and long-time member of the board, Mr. Kenly had the advantage of longevity and a knowledge of what had worked, and not worked, in the past. He was also open to the possibilities of a new future for Cardigan.
“Cardigan had never done anything like this before, and it required a high level of expertise. So right away we set out to build a team, to get the right people in place and give them the resources to do it.”Diane Wallach H’16, P’06
“Real leaders aren't just committed to an initiative or an organization when everything is going well,” explains Mr. McCusker. “Real leaders remain faithful through thick or thin, and Kim deserves tremendous credit for his commitment and perseverance. And when I was hired, I was completely unproven; there was no guarantee that I was the right leader for the School. But Kim was a remarkable partner from the start. And what I most appreciated? We debated things, but he kept an open mind.”
Mr. Kenly is equally complimentary of the contributions of Mr. McCusker: “I think the nucleus of the team was Dave McCusker. He kept everything moving, and he had high expectations for the staff. He never let up with us on the board, and he had a vision that we all bought into. Every time we hit barriers, he would find ways around them.”
If Mr. McCusker provided the plan, it was David “Marty” Martinelli P’13 who provided the energy. “I still can relive those board meeting conversations,” says Mr. Kenly, “when Marty said, ‘Hey listen, David [McCusker] has put together a great plan. These are all needs for the School. We all are here because we want the School to do well. If not now, when?’ He was really phenomenal in igniting the match to get us to wake up.” It’s worth noting that Mr. Martinelli coined the phrase, “Up and to the right,” often used as a rallying cry during the campaign.
Also important to the team was Hank Holland H’18, P12,’15, whose financial expertise provided a fundamental shift in the School’s financial practices. “Hank provoked a lot of out-of-the-box thinking, and he pushed us when we needed to be pushed,” Mr. McCusker remembers. “Hank educated the board about how to best take advantage of historically low interest rates that would complement and extend our fundraising and help achieve our strategic goals.”
“I think we all had our reservations about raising $50 million. That’s a lot of money, and we did that and more. But it does take commitment and enthusiasm and excitement and energy. It took every board chair, every head of school, every head of development, everybody along the way to make that happen.”Jeremy Crigler ’79
The list of individuals who contributed to the campaign continued to grow. Even as the years passed, the momentum of the campaign did not falter, despite changes in board members and committee chairs. Ms. Wallach, Mr. Holland, and Jeremy Crigler ’79 all took turns leading the board, while Ms. Wallach, Chris Welles P’08, Mr. Martinelli, and Karl Hutter ’92 chaired the Campaign Committee. Members of the Development Office were also an integral part of the team, including former Director of Development David Perfield, Director of The Campaign for Cardigan 2020 Sandy Hollingsworth (now Cardigan’s Director of Leadership and Planned Gifts), and current Director of Development and International Relations Joe Burnett ’95. “The leadership style, the talents, and the commitment that each individual brought to the campaign were exactly what we needed,” says Mr. McCusker. “They were very much complementary.”
“I think we all had our reservations about raising $50 million,” adds Mr. Crigler. “That’s a lot of money, and we did that and more. But it does take commitment and enthusiasm and excitement and energy. It took every board chair, every head of school, every head of development, everybody along the way to make that happen.”
By the end of 2012, Phase I of the campaign had come to a close. The School had developed a clear strategic vision, had assembled a strong and unified team to speak for the campaign, and had begun to raise the funds that would enable their vision to become reality. Renovations to the C.O.R.E Cabin and Pearson House, as well as the construction of the original Gates I.D.E.A. Shop, were completed. Phase I had also led to the implementation of a new academic schedule and a new course of study. Modifications to the teaching load and schedule provided faculty with more “down time,” and at the same time faculty salaries were increased. The Campaign for Cardigan 2020 was gaining momentum, and those who hadn’t believed it was possible began to change their perspective.
The Tipping Point
On April 12, 2012, Cardigan received a pledge for $30,000, reaching the $10-million marker and allowing for the construction of the Cardigan Commons to begin. In October they received additional pledges, one for $6 million and another for $1 million.
“It was during the quiet phase of the Campaign,” reflected Mr. Perfield in 2016, “but reaching that goal was a tipping point because it provided a sense of confidence and made people believe bigger things were possible for this little school in central New Hampshire.”
By 2013, when the campaign was made public, the new Cardigan Commons was complete, including a state-of-the-art kitchen and servicing area, a mail room for the receipt and delivery of all incoming and outgoing mail, a new school store, and the Haven—a gathering place for the students. The new family dining hall, with views of Canaan Street Lake and Mount Cardigan, had seating for over 300 people, and the Klein Theater offered ample space for growing the School’s music program.
“The renovations provided great rooms for the boys, but when I think of Clark-Morgan, Hayward, and McCusker, I think about the faculty. If you want to have good faculty, you need to provide them with good places to live.”Chris Day P’12,’13
The athletic facilities were transformed as well. The Johnson-Wakely Fitness Center and the renovated Marrion Athletic Center, completed in 2013, added a state-of-the-art weight room and adjacent wrestling/multi-purpose room to the School’s athletic facilities. Expanded locker rooms–with specific space set aside for female coaches and visiting athletes–and equipment storage were also included in the construction. Lastly, with the addition of a full-time strength and conditioning coach, the new athletic facilities answered the strategic plan’s call for attention to the overall health and wellness of the community. In these efforts, the generosity of the Johnson family (including trustee David and Sally Johnson P’78,’79, GP’01,’03,’08, trustee Craig ’78 and Kathy Johnson P’01,’03, and trustee Clayton ’79 and Myra Johnson P’08) was crucial, as was the leadership of the Wakely family and trustee and Campaign Committee member Schuyler Peck ’63.
These significant successes early in the campaign supplied enthusiasm for the rest of Phase II, which turned attention to the residential life of the School. While there was some desire to grow enrollment, improvements to the residential spaces were primarily undertaken in order to provide a better quality of life for the faculty.
“The renovations provided great rooms for the boys,” reflects current Head of School Chris Day P’12,’13, “but when I think of Clark-Morgan, Hayward, and McCusker, I think about the faculty. If you want to have good faculty, you need to provide them with good places to live.”
Renovations to Hayward and Clark-Morgan came first in 2014 and 2015 respectively. McCusker Hall, a 14,000-square foot dormitory with room for 28 students and four faculty residences, was finished in 2016. Named for Head of School David McCusker, it was a tribute to the unwavering leadership, strategic vision, and optimistic nature of the man who was helping transform the School.
The three years encompassing Phase II quickly passed, and in 2018 The Campaign for Cardigan 2020 entered Phase III. The transition allowed for a shift in leadership as well as a change in focus. As David McCusker finished his tenure and Chris Day began his, the campaign turned its attention to the academic program, with the goal of defining and incorporating “a program-wide teaching and learning philosophy that would embrace entrepreneurial thinking, innovation, risk-taking, learning from failure, and active learning (social/physical/intellectual).”
Critical to this phase of the campaign was the leadership and support of Ms. Wallach. “Diane responds to questions, not with answers, but with more questions,” says Mr. Day. “She works tirelessly to solve problems by empowering others to discover their own solutions. We all need the support of a team to help us reach our potential; Diane was that teammate for me and many others at Cardigan.”
“And of course, what we ended up with—in the amazing Wallach facility and the academic quad and the changes we made to Bronfman—are so much better in terms of what we needed.”Karl Hutter ’92
In Phase III, Ms. Wallach’s matching gift provided the initiative to begin fundraising for a program that had been long in the making. “We knew that we needed to address our academic space,” Mr. Hutter explains. “But we didn’t just say, let’s shelve this thinking until we get through the other building projects. We kept it in the conversation because of the strategic plan, and therefore we were able to chew on it and chew on it through a couple architects, through evolving needs, and through plenty of time for different voices to challenge and think about it. And of course, what we ended up with—in the amazing Wallach facility and the academic quad and the changes we made to Bronfman—are so much better in terms of what we needed.”
Wallach and Bronfman opened their doors this fall. Entering the classrooms for the first time, it is clear that they are designed for collaboration and group projects. In Wallach, high top tables paired with stools invite students to lean in and work together. Large classrooms with ample space encourage movement and exploration. State-of-the-art equipment and plentiful supplies—smart boards and white boards in the Gates Lab, individual computer stations in the graphic design classroom, countless tools in the woodworking shop—aid the students in making discoveries and developing their ideas.
The renovations to Bronfman Hall are equally impressive. The Needham Gallery and art classroom on the second floor were transformed into science classrooms and labs, doubling the Science Department’s space and providing them with the flexibility to schedule longer blocks of time for fieldwork and in-depth reflections. The science classrooms are also equipped with prep rooms, where faculty can store equipment and prepare hands-on experiments. An additional outdoor classroom on the academic quad is perfect for fall and spring escapes, acting as a staging area for scientific exploration in the natural world.
“It wasn’t just about bricks and mortar. That’s what we obviously raised most of the money for, but it permeated the culture into areas that had nothing to do with fundraising.”Diane Wallach H’16, P’06
There’s no doubt that these new buildings—from the athletic facilities to the dormitories to the academic classrooms—transformed Cardigan’s programs, but the transformations weren’t just physical or limited to the programs taking place within them. “The new facilities infected the way the rest of the School was thinking and motivated change,” reflects Ms. Wallach. “We’re going to be better as teachers. We’re going to be better in advising groups. We’re going to be better about how we deliver the product of education. It wasn’t just about bricks and mortar. That’s what we obviously raised most of the money for, but it permeated the culture into areas that had nothing to do with fundraising.”
When the campaign ended on June 30, 2020, Cardigan had extended its facilities by over 100,000 square feet and renovated over 70,000 square feet. The endowment had reached over $30 million and four new scholarships had been added to support a diverse student body. In terms of the adult community, staff responsibilities have been adjusted in support of work/life balance, helping to ensure that faculty members are always at their best and allowing them to see Cardigan as a career and not just a job. Salaries have been brought into the median of our peer schools, professional development budgets have been enhanced, and a formal system of evaluation and improvement for all has been established. Programmatically, Cardigan has shifted its schedule, invested in technology, established clear methods for integrating and improving the academic program, and expanded resources to support the residential and advising programs. In short, the whole School has been affected by the campaign.
As Cardigan celebrates its 75th anniversary, it would be easy to congratulate The Campaign for Cardigan 2020 fundraising team on a job well done and take a break. In talking to members of the current board, however, one gets a sense that there continues to be a sense of urgency.
“In a very real way, campaigns never end,” says Mr. Hutter. “You move right into the next campaign, whether you want to refer to it with a capital C, or lowercase c. The next phase of this campaign is securing the Cardigan experience for the future.”
“The momentum that we have going is fantastic,” agrees Chris Day. “It’s been exciting to watch our community using Wallach and Bronfman, and now I’m looking forward to the next thing, the evolution of Cardigan. I have my ideas, but the strategic planning process will involve the whole community—faculty, staff, parents, students, alumni—and it will be our cumulative vision that will lead us forward. I can’t wait to see where we go.”
With a global pandemic, climate change, and the rights of people of color at stake, the challenges facing Cardigan are significant. On the other hand, science has provided us with a more sophisticated picture of the development of a young child’s brain and the best ways in which to educate middle school boys. Now more than ever, as we face very real concerns for the future, the Cardigan community is energized for what is to come.
What seemed like an audacious goal ten years ago, we can now say with confidence is achievable, thanks to the hard work of countless individuals who never faltered in their dedication to Cardigan. The future may be uncertain, and the goals of the next strategic plan have yet to be written, but there is one thing we know for certain: our “why” and our mission will remain the same. The “why” will always focus on the boys.