Young bids a fond farewell to Stanwich School

It will not just be the end of another year at Stanwich School, it will be the end of an era when Pat Young officially ends her tenure as the only headmaster the school has ever known.

But before she goes, Ms. Young is going to get one of the biggest goodbyes the community has ever seen as more than 500 students and faculty will celebrate the school’s year closing today at 9 a.m. This traditional ceremony will also be their chance to bid farewell to Ms. Young, and then Thursday evening she will be the guest of honor at a cocktail reception with hundreds of parents at Stanwich’s main campus. Students are set to perform a song of tribute, gifts will be given and there’s even a proclamation from the town to honor Ms. Young’s service.

“It tugs at your heart to see all these children and think about not just how much they’ve grown but all the opportunities they now have in front of them,” Ms. Young said. “I can’t help but feel joyful and be excited about where the school is at this moment. There will always be a special place in my heart for the faculty and the students and the parents that I have shared this journey with.”

Building a school from the ground up has been a challenge and not just because Stanwich has spent many of its first 14 years searching for a permanent home. But going through all the growing pains of starting this school is something that Ms. Young feels has bonded the community.

“We make more meaningful relationships when we face our struggles together,” Ms. Young said. “It’s easy to navigate when everything’s a success. When you have challenges it’s when you truly begin to rely on each other and understand commitment. There’s been a ton of that at Stanwich as we’ve come as far as we’ve come over what appears to be a relatively short period of time.”

The independent, co-educational day school was founded in 1998 by Ms. Young and since its inception she has been its headmistress. It has been adding a grade of students with each passing year and is set to have a full high school of grade levels in 2014. There have been struggles with trying to get the land for the permanent school and long nights of working with the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, which can be rather frustrating at times. Ms. Young said this has forced her to deal with areas she never intended to become well versed in and she’s tried to keep her focus much more on what’s going on inside the school.

“It’s always been about asking if we’ve established a program that speaks to our mission and making sure our children are moving forward successfully,” Ms. Young said. “We had to make sure we were giving our children the experiences and opportunities that will allow them to be their best and help others be their best while making God’s world a better place. I can honestly say as we look at my program from pre-K through grade 10 and I look at the commitment of our faculty and, more importantly, when you talk to our students you can say we’re meeting our goals.”

Calling the school a “special place” filled with spirit and energy that taps into a person’s gifts and talents, Ms. Young said she will always treasure her time at Stanwich. The community and the students have given her lasting memories and Ms. Young expects that she might have trouble “holding it together” during Thursday’s emotional tributes. But she also knows this is the right decision.

“I thought very carefully over the last few years about what would be the ideal time for me to go,” Ms. Young said. “I feel I have given the Stanwich School everything I can give it. … I know this is the right time and that we have the right people in place. There’s excellent administrative leadership at all levels. I know it’s time for me to step back knowing I did all I could do and I took whatever gifts I had and gave them. It’s time for somebody else.”

Ms. Young praised everyone who has been a part of the school’s growth. Calling Stanwich School “a shared dream,” she said it was never just about her and that she always had people by her “to pick up pieces and make things work.”

This has been a year of transition for the school. Ms. Young’s retirement has been known for months and throughout this school year she has been transitioning her duties to Paul Geise, who will succeed her as headmaster. But it’s also at a time when the future of Stanwich School seems more secure than ever. Just this very week the deal closed with Greenwich Reform Synagogue cementing the school’s future at its current 257 Stanwich Road home. Ms. Young said this situation is better than they had ever hoped and it gives them the 37 acres of space they need to continue to develop. Now that they will no longer have to share it with the synagogue, Ms. Young says this gives them far greater flexibility.

Ms. Young said all of this makes her leaving much easier because she knows the school is in good hands.

“I think we have the absolutely perfect next head in place with Paul Geise,” Ms. Young said. “We’ve had a terrific year together and it’s been a great way to transition a school, particularly one that’s as new as ours is. … Paul is the right person to complete the journey for our children.”

Ms. Young doesn’t know what her immediate path will be going forward, but she is hoping to spend a lot more time with her grandchildren in Maine. She added she’s sure there will be plenty of things in Greenwich to keep her busy, but she isn’t making concrete plans right now.

“I’m just going to see what happens,” Ms. Young said.

 

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