A Lot Lighter with More Hands: Leadership Upper Valley

On the bright, sunny morning of June 13, Cobb Hill was waking up, and the soon-to-be graduating 2018 Leadership Upper Valley class was just arriving for their final meeting. Before the ceremony at Harpoon Brewery, the class spent their final day reviewing the experience of the 10-month program while enjoying the scenery and touring the facilities of Cobb Hill’s farm and co-housing. I had the opportunity to view this day from the outside, as someone who had not experienced the previous year of Upper Valley exploration with the class.

The day began with a reflection on the varied lessons the class had learned in their monthly sessions together, as well as a breakfast of eggs and pastries. Then the class was split into groups and shown around Cobb Hill by residents—some original founders, some newer. We saw the houses, the farmstand, the community gardens, the shiitake mushrooms they grow, and learned about their methods for using one furnace to heat all of the houses, as well as the challenges and rewards of making big decisions as one community. Then it was back to the common house for a very welcome lunch and a discussion of how each member of the class could carry forward what they’d learned into their own lives. They also made lists of what their own unique skills and needs were and saw how they could help each other.

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One of the most enjoyable parts of the day was during a set of outdoor team-building exercises. After playing a game to learn new facts about each other and shared traits and identities, they were divided into groups and left to their own devices for a short while. The class started out by staying in their groups but soon began to pick up the basketballs, footballs, and hula hoops that had been sitting in the field. Suddenly, the groups were abandoned entirely, giving way to a free-for-all game. When the groups did eventually come together again, they had to use their communication and cooperation skills to lift tennis balls on strings and carry them all the way up the hill together, without dropping them. After each group had succeeded, we returned once more to the common house, where the class stood in pairs and described how each other had grown over the last ten months. Some talked about the great things they had seen their partners achieve, some told funny stories, and some looked forward to many more years of friendship.

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Once the class had disbanded and reconvened at Harpoon Brewery for the graduation ceremony, the atmosphere became less serious and a bit more casual. People wandered, carrying drinks and chatting, playing a giant lawn version of Jenga. After a year of thoughtful, sometimes intense monthly meetings, they had the opportunity to get to know each other in a more relaxed environment. After some heartfelt speeches from program managers, alumni, and members of the class themselves, the class received their certificates and a warm dinner. They sat at picnic tables, laughing and struggling not to get barbecue sauce on their brand new certificates, celebrating their achievement.

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At the very beginning of the day, program manager Rob Schultz shared a quote describing the difficulty of being confronted with a “9,000-pound boulder”—an enormous problem. These new alumni seem to have learned, as class member Alison Marchione pointed out, that the boulder gets a lot lighter when more hands are lifting it.

Photo credit to Molly Drummond.

Longevity & Commitment: Keynote Remarks from Heroes & Leaders 2018

Editor’s Note: Many thanks to Kevin Peterson, Director of Economic Development for the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority, who offered the keynote speech at our May 3 Heroes & Leaders celebration. Read his complete remarks below. You can watch the entire event courtesy of CATV8. PHOTOS BY MOLLY DRUMMOND.

I am humbled to share the stage tonight with this year’s Heroes & Leaders, and given their longevity and commitment to the Upper Valley, it’s no surprise that I have a direct connection with nearly all of them, as I’m sure many of you do, too.

Bill Boyle was part of the pediatric oncology team that treated my 12-year old daughter for leukemia, and I helped manage the Boyle Fund for Community Pediatrics.

In the fall of 1978, before starting my freshman year at Dartmouth, my father and I drove across the river to Dan & Whit’s so he could buy a couple of gallons of Vermont maple syrup to take back home to Michigan. I’ve been a customer ever since.

That same fall, inspired by my mother’s membership in a small cooperative food-buying club, I ventured to the far southern end of campus—WAY down Lebanon Street—to shop at the Hanover Coop and the old Food Bin, and I’ve been a member since the mid-1980s.

Laurie Harding and I have talked many times over the years about management issues facing Headrest and other nonprofit organizations.

Earlier this week, I received an email from Jill Lord asking for input on the 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment, and grants from New Hampshire Charitable Foundation helped to fund previous needs assessments.

My favorite breakfast is fried eggs and Fruitwood Smoked Uncured Bacon from North Country Smokehouse, and I worked with Mike Satzow on the Fund for Greater Claremont.

I chair the advisory committee for my Dartmouth class project, which placed a Dartmouth student at The Family Place to serve as a year-long social-entrepreneurship fellow who helped develop a marketing plan for their Jewelry-O’s program.

Rob Howe and I sang together for several years with Zephyrus, a community choral group.

While I have never been inside the Canaan Hardware, based on what I heard tonight, I need to pay a visit!

I first met Steve Taylor in 1986 when he was leading a presentation on the New Hampshire Land Conservation Investment Program. After I joined the staff of New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, he helped me develop a list of the “100 Things to See, Do or Experience to Get to Know the Upper Valley,” and, since 2007, we have co-presented a seminar to the opening session of the Leadership Upper Valley program called on “What is the Upper Valley?”

The Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund, which I administered at the Charitable Foundation, provided a grant for a permanent conservation easement on a portion of the Taylor’s Crossroads Farm property along the Ompompanoosuc River in Thetford.

Across a 15-year partnership with Tuck, I’ve engaged MBA interns, advised student leaders of the Tuck Social Venture Fund, and worked with John Vogel and the team at the Center for Business, Government and Society to co-host the Upper Valley Nonprofit Exchange, a series of professional-development seminars for area nonprofit leaders.

Each of these individuals and institutions represents a strand in an intricate web that is woven together to form a healthy, vibrant, strong and resilient Upper Valley community and economy. Let me share with you what I think are some other characteristics they all share.

The first is a sense of Place—as Dartmouth alum and author Norman MacLean wrote, “If you don’t know the ground, you’re probably wrong about nearly everything else.” Each person or institution honored here tonight knows the ground. They are deeply rooted in a geographic niche of the Upper Valley—a town, a facility, a subset of our region. They get to know their key audience or their core clients. They understand and have a deep and abiding sense of place and their role in it.

The second characteristic is Longevity—every day, we see the time scale of our world getting shorter and shorter. We live in a culture of ever-decreasing attention spans. News and information comes to us in sound bites, 240-character Twitter rants and Snap Chat posts. We have come to expect immediate response and reward in so many aspects of our lives. Even our politics are short term—New Hampshire and Vermont are the only two states with a Governor who is elected for a two-year term. By contrast, tonight’s honorees take the long view. Each has an extended history in our community. One of my favorite books is Staying Put by Scott Russell Sanders. In it, he describes the joys and benefits of staying close to home—wherever that is. These honorees have chosen to stay in their place, serving as anchors in the collective life of the Upper Valley. They embody the idea of durability and consistency that extends beyond the span of an individual lifetime.

The third characteristic is Stewardship—the people we honor tonight are deeply committed to the health and vitality of our region. As the anchoring strands in the intricate web of our vital communities, they are people who think not primarily of themselves, but of the greater good, of broader societal and community benefit, of the commonweal—not a term we hear so often in our current national dialogue. What they do has larger meaning than simply running a store, serving an individual client or providing a service. While they may not even realize it, they are important stewards of this place we all call home.

I think we can all agree that the web of economy and community in the Upper Valley is pretty strong and resilient. The Heroes & Leaders honored tonight are emblematic of that strength and resiliency, and they are some of the strongest strands holding that web together and thus maintaining our sense of place. But that strong web will only remain so if we all remain connected to it, as well. If one or two strands are removed or broken, the web may remain, but it’s not nearly as strong and durable. Thus, we all need to engage with, build, and maintain that web in regular and meaningful ways.

That engagement can manifest in several actions.

#1. Buying stuff on Main Street. According to author and researcher Michael Shuman, every dollar we spend locally results in two to three dollars of additional economic activity in our area. That includes jobs for our neighbors, local tax revenue, vibrant downtowns, more shopping choices, and on and on. I know we all love our Amazon Prime account—and, true confession, we’ve got one too. But I think we—and our entire Upper Valley web—are much better off if we buy local first—at Canaan Hardware, the Co-op, Dan & Whit’s, or at LaValley’s or Farmway. The few pennies or dollars we might have saved buying online are just not worth the cost of weakening our local economic and community web.

#2. Banking with a community bank or credit union based here in the Upper Valley. That ‘bank on the corner’ is likely the one lending to our neighbor who is expanding a local business, or to Twin Pines Housing to develop affordable apartments near an Advance Transit bus line, or to a young family purchasing their first home. Our money, deposited in a local financial institution, provides the capital that makes this kind of community investing possible.

#3. Getting involved in community. The institutions honored tonight, all of our towns, and the many, many nonprofit and community organizations working in our region are always in need of people: to serve on a board, to participate on a committee, to help with a project, to provide financial support. Their health and vitality depends on strong and enduring civic and community engagement, which begins with all of us. Tonight’s honorees offer plenty of these types of opportunities, and the Valley News publishes a monthly listing of volunteer jobs, so there is no shortage of good choices for getting involved.

All of these relatively small and seemingly inconsequential actions, taken together, help to strengthen our web of community and economy, and our sense of place.

In 1999, Tom Slayton, who at the time was editor of Vermont Life magazine, gave the keynote address to the annual meeting of the Upper Valley Community Foundation—in this very room. I’ll close with a quote from that presentation:

“A sense of place is created by a thousand-and-one specific things—an accretion that, over time, creates human interconnections, myths and stories, folklore and—a place. But just as place is created by specifics, it can be lost by specifics. Hayfields and historic buildings, downtowns and mountain tops, swimming holes and the cool, ferny depths of the forests that line the hillsides—all these specific things are important, as are the lives of all the people who live here, their memories of the place, and the stories they tell. If one important museum has to close, if one vital village center becomes run-down and deserted, if one old man or woman with a good story never gets to tell that story to a listening younger ear—then in every case, a region’s sense of place is weakened. By the same token, every single local artist who can afford to keep working, every stretch of the Connecticut River that is cleaned up and re-opened to fishing, every traditional bridge that is maintained and kept open, every town that stays vital—all of those things strengthen a region’s sense of place. Ultimately, a strong sense of community results in a strong sense of place.”

Thank you to Vital Communities for hosting this wonderful event, and congratulations again to this year’s Heroes & Leaders.

Long-Standing Stewards: Heroes & Leaders 2018

Every spring, Leadership Upper Valley, a program of Vital Communities, hosts a Heroes & Leaders celebration to recognize individuals who make significant contributions to the greater Upper Valley region. This year, Heroes & Leaders is pleased to honor 12 Long-Standing Stewards who inspire us with their commitment to this community, their hard work, and their positive impact on this place we love and call home.


Bill-BoyleDr. Bill Boyle
Dr. Bill Boyle is emeritus Professor of Pediatrics and of Community and Family Medicine. He came to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Dartmouth Medical School in 1970, after completing his pediatric training and serving in the military. His career has had several twists and turns but has been devoted to children with chronic conditions and the effect on their lives and their families. This has included 40 years in the cystic fibrosis program, a concurrent 12 year stint in pediatric oncology, and four years in the pediatric diabetes program. He also spent six years serving on the national American Academy of Pediatrics Injury and Poison Prevention Committee, with four years as Chair. He served as Hanover Health Officer from 1986-2010, and director of the Hanover Water Company. In appreciation, the Town named the water filtration plant in his honor in 2007. In 1998 a grateful patient endowed the Community Pediatrics Program in his name. The program is devoted to teaching students and residents the burdens families bear when a child is chronically ill. It has fostered and championed the precepts of patient and family centered care in the institution and community. Dr. Boyle has received numerous awards and accolades from the American Academy of Pediatrics, New Hampshire Pediatric Society, and even the Hanover Youth Hockey Association. Bill and his wife Susan have four children and 10 grandchildren.

Dan Fraser - CropDan Fraser
Dan Fraser is the Vice President of Dan & Whit’s General Store in Norwich, where he has worked since he was 10 years old. An Upper Valley native, Dan graduated from Hanover High School followed by the University of Vermont and has a Master’s degree in special education from St. Michael’s College. For 14 years, he worked full time as a Special Educator in Hartford and Hanover in addition to his full-time work at Dan & Whit’s. He describes the store as “what Walmart would be if it were local and community-engaged.” He is delighted that Dan & Whit’s is a key meeting place for families from all over the Upper Valley and travelers from all over the world. Dan is a strong advocate for the local economy and dedicated to supporting the local nonprofit community, both financially and with his time. He founded The 19 Days of Norwich & Beyond 1% for the Haven program in 2013, through which almost every Norwich business and many in other towns now donate 1% of sales each December to the Upper Valley Haven. The effort is in its 5th year and has raised over $1 million dollars to support the Haven. Dan & Whit’s also supports the community many other ways. Dan is generous with his time, as well, serving as a board member for the Public Health Council of the Upper Valley, Upper Valley Aquatic Center, Norwich Affordable Housing Committee, Norwich Business Council, Valley Court Diversion, and Hemlock Ridge Condominium Owners Association. He is also a Justice of the Peace serving on the Board of Civil Authority in Hartford.

CCo-op Food Stores (1)o-op Food Stores
In January of 1936, 17 residents of Hanover and Norwich formed the Hanover Consumer’s Club—bringing the nearly 100-year-old cooperative movement to the Upper Valley. What started as a system for pooling orders for discounts within a year became the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society and opened a small retail store on Hanover’s Main Street. Annual sales that year reached $11,404. Today, the four Co-op Food Stores, service center, and commissary kitchen employ around 400 people, serving more than 20,000 member households with sales topping $70 million. In its first year, the Co-op’s Pennies for Change program raised more than $264,000 for community nonprofits including food access partners LISTEN Community Services, the Upper Valley Haven, and Willing Hands. The Co-op also supports local family farms, food producers, and crafters by stocking local produce, value-added food products, and other locally made goods.
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The Co-op Food Stores are represented at the Heroes & Leaders celebration by Edward W. Fox, General Manager of the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society. In his role of chief executive officer for the cooperative, Ed uses his comprehensive leadership and business experience to lead a team of nearly 400 employees. The Co-op’s seven locations are owned by its more than 23,000 member owners. Among his priorities for the organization is to secure and expand Hanover’s commitment to socially responsible businesses practices while strengthening financial performance. Ed’s prior experience–executive and production–sharpened his ability to run profitable operations in highly competitive sectors. He holds a BA in Political Science and Religious Studies from Saint Michael’s College.

Harding CropLaurie Harding, MS, RN
Laurie Harding is the Co-Director of the Upper Valley Community Nursing Project and works closely with local Aging in Community initiatives. Laurie holds an undergraduate degree in nursing from Syracuse University and a Master’s degree from Boston University in community health nursing. She gained comprehensive direct care/care management nursing experience through her work with Visiting Nurse and Hospice of VT/NH. She has extensive teaching experience, including in Honduras and Kosovo. Laurie also served in the New Hampshire legislature for five terms, including in leadership roles for Health and Human Services committees. Laurie is chair of the Board of Directors of Headrest and serves on the Advisory Leadership Board of the New Hampshire Citizens Health Initiative. She is on the steering committee for the Tri-State Collaborative on Aging and is the co-convener for the Upper Valley’s Elder Forum hosted by Alice Peck Day Health Systems. She is a past member of the Advisory Council of the New Hampshire Endowment for Health and over the years has chaired the West Lebanon PTO and Project Grad, volunteered at Whaleback’s Learn to Ski week, served on the Lebanon Master Plan Committee, the WISE Board of Directors, the United Way Board of Directors and the Women’s Leadership Council. She was one of the 12 originators of Women Crossing Paths. In her free time, Laurie loves to “hang out” with her family and ski, sail, and walk with friends and dogs. In addition, Laurie loves making beautiful music with the Upper Valley Music Center’s Juneberry chorus.

Jill LordJill Lord, MS, RN
Jill Lord is the senior leader responsible for Community Health at Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center. She holds a Master’s of Science in Human Services Administration from New Hampshire College and a Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of Vermont. She has been a nurse for 40 years. In 2001 and 2011, she was appointed to the Vermont Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Nursing. Jill was instrumental in creating the Vermont Nursing Internship Program in 1998 and has served as President of the Board since its inception. She served as Director of Patient Care Services/Chief Nursing Officer at Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center for 24 years. As a nurse leader, Jill has a strong community health influence through Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center, leading the Windsor Area Community Partnership, the Blueprint for Health, the Windsor Area Drug Task Force, Mt. Ascutney Prevention Partnership, and Volunteers in Action, Chaplaincy Program, and the PATCH Network, in addition to myriad other community health initiatives. Under Jill’s leadership, MAHHC was selected as a national finalist in the prestigious Foster McGaw Award for Community Health in 2002 and the winner of the award in 2012. Jill works to foster high-quality patient-centered care through administrative supervision and support for staff and programs.  Additionally, she leads the local area Multi-facility Ethics Committee, the Windsor HSA Community Collaborative, and the Mt. Ascutney Hospital Community Health Committee.

MIKE Satzow WITH BACONMike Satzow
Claremont native Mike Satzow joined the family meat packing business after graduating from Middlebury College in 1970. He also became involved in a number of civic and nonprofit organizations. He has served as Chairman of the Claremont Police Commission, President of the local Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis Clubs, and on the boards of numerous organizations including Valley Regional Hospital, New Hampshire Humanities Council, and as Chairman of the Claremont Economic Development Authority. Mike was also extremely committed to the revitalization of the Claremont Mill District and worked for years to bring the project to fruition. The family meat packing business evolved into North Country Smokehouse, a nationally renowned producer of specialty meats and cheeses. Mike has served on many national industry committees and as co-President of the North American Meat Association. He currently sits on the executive board of the North American Meat Institute. In 2015 Mike sold North Country Smokehouse to Quebec’s Breton Family with the stipulation that a new, ultra-modern, 65,000-square-foot meat processing facility be built in Claremont. This facility now processes the high-quality smoked meats the company is recognized for. Shortly after the sale, Mike created The Great Claremont Fund at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation as a vehicle for local citizens to support deserving local nonprofits. The fund currently holds assets in excess of $100,000. Mike and his wife Sheila enjoy two children and four very active grandchildren.

Family Place logoThe Family Place
For 33 years, The Family Place has provided family-centered support to Upper Valley parents and children. One of 15 state-designated Parent Child Centers in Vermont, The Family Place offers programs and services that invest in better outcomes for families in the region. They partner with parents and with other professionals through a variety of services including an on-site skills-based program for young parents, developmental screenings, home visits and parent education, child care financial assistance, a Child Advocacy Center, and an on-site child care center for infants and toddlers.

Family Place NancyBloomfield2The Family Place is represented at Heroes & Leaders by Executive Director Nancy Bloomfield and Board Chair Posie Taylor. Nancy joined the organization in 2015 after years of experience working with families and children in the region. Nancy developed and coordinated Listen Community Services’ Teen Lifeskills Center “The Junction.” She worked with families involved with the Department for Children and Families through a position as Family Engagement Specialist with Easter Seals Vermont. She also was a founding staff member of COVER Home Repair. Family Place - Posie Taylor preferAfter a career at The Aloha Foundation in Fairlee, where she served a variety of roles from homesick camper to Executive Director, Posie Taylor  “retired” and wondered what was next. She searched for a nonprofit whose mission matched her lifelong passion for raising healthy children and found The Family Place, to her everlasting gratitude. Since 2010, Posie has loved working with the dedicated staff and with her wonderful colleagues on the Board to support the essential work of The Family Place and to help strengthen families with young children across the Upper Valley. Other volunteer commitments at Crossroads Academy and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation keep her engaged, but nothing is as nurturing to her heart as her amazing children and grandchildren!

Howe CropRob Howe, Howvale Farm & Tunbridge Fair
Rob Howe has owned and managed Howvale Farm in Tunbridge since 1983, when he acquired the operation from his father, who established it in 1953. The farm has been certified organic since 1995, marketing fluid milk under various brands and raw directly from the farm. Howe has been instrumental in the beloved Tunbridge World’s Fair since 1981, when he was elected to the board of directors. He served for 25 years as director and in other offices for another decade. He has also been superintendent of cattle for 22 years and works with the fair’s promotion committee. Howe is an active member of the Tunbridge Church as a Parish Council member, chair of the Tunbridge Democratic Caucus, and a Justice of the Peace for 15 years. He also sings with the Handel Society of Dartmouth, presently in his 13th year.

Dow Parker cropRobin Dow Parker and John Dow, Canaan Hardware & Supply
John Dow grew up in Canaan and after getting an architectural degree from Wentworth Institute returned to Canaan in 1975 to take over his grandfather’s—formerly his great-grandfather’s— hardware store. In 2006, John moved and expanded the store in a central location on the Canaan common. The store’s presence downtown has been a boon to both the store and the community. John has been an active participant in the Lions Club, American Legion, Eastern Star, Free Masons, Canaan Planning Board, Canaan Water Commission, and Friends of Canaan Village. He was also a member of the building committee for the Mascoma Community Health Center, as well as an umpire and coach. In 2011, Robin Dow Parker became the fourth generation to continue the family tradition when she took over for her dad, John. She has continued to expand the store—and she honors the history of the family business with old tools and photos on display. Robin enjoys being part of the community where she grew up. She organizes and supports numerous popular community events including Canaan Hardware’s Spring Expo Day, the Canaan Farmers and Artisan’s Market Fall Festival, and Christmas in Canaan.

Steve Taylor, Taylor Brothers Farm
Steve Taylor is a farmer, journalist, and longtime public official. He began his newspaper career at age 14 as Hanover High’s sports stringer for the Valley News, and following study at the University of New Hampshire and Army service he was managing editor of the Valley News for seven years. For a decade he was a freelance writer for various publications and was the founding executive director of the New Hampshire Humanities Council. Along the way he developed with his family a dairy and maple farm in the Meriden Village section of Plainfield. In 1982 he was appointed New Hampshire’s commissioner of agriculture, a position he held for 25 years. He served 12 years as a town selectman and for 31 years was Plainfield’s moderator. He has served on numerous civic and charitable boards and committees at the local and state levels and, as a lifelong scholar of New Hampshire’s rural culture, writes and speaks frequently on topics related to the land and its people.

Crossroad CropJanet & Tim Taylor, Crossroad Farm
When Janet and Tim Taylor started Crossroad Farm in Post Mills in 1980, it was sort of on an impulse—about to have their first child, Janet didn’t want to work in preschool every day and then come home to her own kids, and Tim knew he didn’t want to practice law despite having recently completed law school. They had a big garden and abundant courage, and they launched the first year with an acre of land, a card table, and a hopeful idea. Today, with 45 tillable acres acquired over time, 14 greenhouses, farm stands in Post Mills and Norwich, a number of wholesale accounts including local restaurants and summer camps, and around 40 full- and part-time employees in season, Crossroad Farm is one of the larger farms in the greater Upper Valley region and part of the fabric of the Thetford community. As farmers, Janet and Tim have been involved in building a vibrant agricultural economy in the region for decades. In their early farming days they helped coordinate mini-conferences for area farmers to learn from experts and each other—building knowledge and relationships that have helped them and many other local farmers over the years. Janet has served on the board of the Norwich Farmers’ Market and was involved in the development of local farm to school efforts, and Tim was president of the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers’ Association. They’re also very connected to their community beyond the farm; Janet served on the Thetford School Board and on the Vital Communities board of directors, and Tim is a member of the town’s Development Review Board, a longtime youth soccer coach, and for seven years has been Chair of the Act 250 District 3 Environmental Commission. Now in their 60s, Janet and Tim feel strongly about maintaining the farm as a working farm and teaching the next generation to keep it going. In 2016, Tim and Janet conserved Crossroad Farm with the Vermont Land Trust and also took on partner Phil Mason, who started working there 17 years ago as a young teenager. “Keeping it a farm for the next generation is a big deal to us,” Janet says. “The farm is very much a part of the community, and we never want to be too far from it.”

PrintThe Tuck School of Business
The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College combines the intellectual depth and reach of a large Ivy League university with the values of a close-knit community. Founded in 1900 as the world’s first graduate school of management, Tuck’s mission is to educate wise leaders to better the world of business. Tuck is distinguished by its collaborative, trust-based learning community and commitment to placing students at the center of discovery. In this environment, students learn to ask the right questions, build the right teams, and take the right risks to transform themselves and the broader world. This orientation to both do well and do good is one of the most enduring aspects of a Tuck education. Tuck’s Center for Business, Government & Society prepares wise leaders to better the broader context in which business operates. The CBGS believes business and governments exist to serve society and can work together for the common good. The 21st Century global economy faces acute social challenges from poverty, inequality, and climate change to health, education, and economic opportunity. No business or government can escape these challenges, and no organization or even sector can address them alone.
ginaTuck is represented at Heroes & Leaders by Gina des Cognets, Chief of Staff to the Dean of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Gina serves as a strategic adviser on institutional matters, oversees corporate relations, marketing and communications and institutional research, and partners with the senior leadership team to bring the Tuck mission and vision to life. At Tuck since 2006, Gina has held several in roles including Associate Director and then Director of Alumni Services, and more recently, Director of Marketing and Communications. Before joining Tuck, Gina was Director of Investor Client Services at Business Intelligence Advisors, and held chief of staff roles at both AOL Time Warner and Robinson, Lerer and Montgomery (RLM, a strategic communications firm in NYC). Gina is a proud 2001 graduate of Tuck and has a BA in Art History and minor in Psychology from Hamilton College. Gina is a trustee of the Norwich Public Library and the Montshire Museum of Science.

 

 

30 Local Leaders Graduate from Leadership Upper Valley

Vital Communities celebrated its Leadership Upper Valley Class of 2017 on June 14, in a commencement ceremony at Harpoon Brewery. Thirty of the region’s emerging local leaders graduated from the 10-month professional and personal development program that builds knowledge and networks to help local leaders succeed in and serve the Upper Valley.

“Leadership Upper Valley has been opening minds and hearts to the region’s challenges and inspiring innovative solutions from emerging local leaders for more than a decade,” said Leadership Upper Valley Manager Stacey Glazer. “This year’s class included 30 participants from some of the area’s largest employers, small businesses, local nonprofit organizations, schools, and municipalities who came together to explore regional issues through their range of perspectives and build the kinds of connections that weave the fabric of the Upper Valley community. We’re thrilled to expand our ranks of alumni to nearly 250 with the members of the Leadership Upper Valley Class of 2017.”

To develop a deeper understanding of the Upper Valley, this year’s class of 30 participants spent a day at the Southern State Correctional Facility to learn more about the inner workings of our justice system; rode Advance Transit to downtown Lebanon, where they walked the city discussing community design with a city planner; learned to identify native trees on the nature trails at VINS; went behind the scenes during Northern Stage’s production of A Christmas Carol; toured the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center; met with more than a dozen Upper Valley nonprofit service providers at The Woodlands; toured the mill buildings in Claremont to see firsthand the adaptive reuse of historic buildings; and learned how to run their own campaign to effect positive change in their communities. They also completed two service projects supporting the Mascoma River Greenway and Claremont Soup Kitchen.

This year’s Leadership Upper Valley graduates include:

Alice Ely of Grantham – Mascoma Valley Health Initiative

Beatriz Cantada, formerly of West Lebanon – formerly of Dartmouth College

Brett Mayfield of White River Junction – Spark! Community Center

Chris Kennedy of Hanover – UK Architects

David Urso of Quechee – Kendal at Hanover

Elizabeth McShinsky of Sharon – River Valley Community College

Erin Gooch of Lebanon – Dartmouth-Hitchcock

Evan Leary of Enfield – Family Financial Strategies

Heidi Postupack of Hanover – Second Growth

Jeff Roosevelt of Sunapee – Kendal at Hanover

Jennifer Fontaine of Haverhill – Upper Valley Haven

Jennifer Riccio of Etna – Hypertherm

Jessica Walker of Claremont – Claremont Savings Bank

Reese Madden of Norwich – Hypertherm

Julie Martin of Charlestown – Claremont Savings Bank

Katie Kobe of Hanover – Granite United Way

Kelly Crate of Enfield – City of Lebanon

Kimberly Quirk of Enfield – Energy Emporium

Kim Vacca of Brownsville – Red River Computer Company

Leah Romano of Norwich – MedU

Linda Lanteigne Magoon of West Lebanon – Thetford Academy

Marie McCormick of Lebanon – Upper Valley Educators Institute

Mark Bradley of Lebanon – Lebanon Opera House

Nelly Palmer of Cornish – Mascoma Savings Bank

Patrick Christie of Lebanon – Advance Transit

Paul Coats of Lebanon – City of Lebanon

Peggy Allen of White River Junction – Consultant

Sadie Simpson of Norwich – The Simpson Companies

Sarah Sincerbeaux of South Pomfret – VINS

Susan Jacobs of West Lebanon – Co-op Food Stores

Closing Remarks for Heroes & Leaders from Markell Ripps

Thank you all for joining us to celebrate the young leaders who are being honored tonight, and thank you to Vital Communities for recognizing their important contributions to our community. It is so important to make a point to pause in our busy lives to recognize those around us who make our community what it is—the Upper Valley. As we all know, each year Vital Communities honors a different category of heroes and leaders. So the natural question that I am tasked to answer tonight is “Why are young leaders important?” It just so happens I have been asking myself this question since I first joined the Upper Valley Young Professionals in 2012, the year the group was founded. After five years being on the group’s board, and serving as its co-chair and chair for several years, I find that while I don’t feel as young as I did back then, through furthering the group’s goal of supporting young leaders by connecting them to one another and to their community, I have learned quite a bit about this subject.

The first thing I have learned is that the Upper Valley is especially scant on young professionals. If you are under 40 and accidentally walk into any non-profit board meeting in the Upper Valley, you will almost certainly be sweet-talked into joining. My own fiancé made the mistake of missing just one Grafton County Bar Association meeting, and—oops—he was voted onto the board and was deemed the group’s website guru! Now that isn’t to say that young professionals don’t want to join non-profit boards—they certainly do, like many of the leaders being honored tonight. The problem is that there just aren’t enough young leaders to go around. In the 2015 census, the populations of both New Hampshire and Vermont had a higher average age than almost all the other 50 states.

Perhaps partly due to this fact, being a “young person” in a field or community where your colleagues are usually in a different demographic category than you are can be quite challenging. Many young people in the Upper Valley’s workforce find themselves here to take on a new career opportunity or start a new educational program, and many are moving from more populated areas around the country. Our young professionals group would hear that many in this category arrive in our area feeling somewhat isolated. Many of the Upper Valley’s workers not only live in one town and work in another, but they don’t congregate in the same city center during the day, as is the case in metropolitan areas. This means that there is less chance to strengthen social interactions among members of our workforce unless we make those chances more readily available ourselves. We also often hear that many of our young professionals may be the only ones under 40 in their offices, and sometimes even in their whole fields. Once they get here to the Upper Valley, they are faced with being not only a newcomer, but also someone in the dreaded “young” category.

We all know being in the “young” category often does not have positive connotations when you are trying to be successful in your career or be a leader in your community. We have heard how our honorees tonight have been quite successful in their fields, but I also wanted to give a voice to our other peers, who may have trod a more difficult path. “Young” is often associated with “inexperience,” which means it can be difficult to have one’s voice be heard and taken seriously in some scenarios. I have heard from several of my peers that even though groups and businesses are eager to welcome young people, those peers then often face challenges when offering a new idea or solution, when it has been done the same way for a very long time. However, it is imperative for young leaders to be able to contribute to the cause they are interested in, because when they can, in turn they will feel invested in the business or group’s success. Likewise, professionals in the mentor class can pass down their experience and expertise. This helps a business or group remain relevant and resilient, and by including a young person in your business or group, it builds in continuity and succession planning for the future.

How can we help a young person to succeed? As an example, when I first joined Dan Grossman in law practice, he made a specific point to encourage everyone in the office to refer to me as just another lawyer in the office—not a young one; not a new one. You don’t want your brain surgeon to be introduced as the young, new brain surgeon. That does not instill confidence. Words matter. Just this week, a colleague and I were referred to as “girls” in a professional setting. I know it was not intended to be a slight, but when you speak to someone who is a professional peer, it doesn’t make them feel like one if terms such as “young” or “girls” or “boys” are used. Often, the person using these terms doesn’t even realize the effect this can have, but that’s exactly why I wanted to talk about it. Our young professionals group has even considered that maybe including the word “emerging” professional in our mission would be more accurate than “young.” We all know what is meant by the term “young,” and if used correctly, it can be worn as a badge of pride, like it is tonight for our honorees, who are in a special class of leaders that deserves to be celebrated due to that specific circumstance and the challenges they face because of it. However, in certain contexts, it can be used in a way that is not helpful to promoting one’s sense of confidence and ability. All of us of all ages need to think about how we can best support this special type of leaders and professionals.

So why are emerging leaders important to a healthy and vital community? Well, let me tell you another quick story. When I first became a lawyer in my mid-twenties, some fellow professionals and clients would tell me that I looked too young to be a lawyer, or that I couldn’t possibly be a lawyer because I was the same age as their own children. To which I would respond, “Old lawyers don’t grow on trees.” And guess what—experienced professionals, those who create jobs and pay taxes, they don’t grow on trees either. They have to ripen over time. In other words, seasoned professionals just don’t show up out of nowhere. The community has to plant the seeds that encourage young leaders to move here. As a community, we have to provide them with affordable shelter and affordable education; we have to mentor them, listen to their ideas, and support them in their goals. If we are lucky, they will decide to put down their roots here, contribute to our economy, populate our schools, pay taxes, shape local policy, stabilize our community, and plan for its future. This takes work on all of our parts.

Young leaders reinforce why the Upper Valley is such a great place to live. If you ask the person sitting across from you at the table today why they chose, out of the whole country, to live here, you will most likely get a response identifying the area’s work/life balance, natural beauty, community cohesiveness, availability of social services, opportunity to be involved in local government, or friendly corporate environment. When you work here at a local business, most of us can call up any one of our competitors if we need help. You can call your neighbors when your car gets stuck during mud season. Or when your neighbors find your goats in their own yard, eating their flowers, they will bring them back to you—an experience I can personally attest to. These qualities just don’t happen by accident. They are created by a balanced community that strives to take care of all the needs of its members. A community where every little bit can go a long way and a new idea can spark real change. Our region provides fertile ground for fostering this cohesiveness, and with the right amount of care, our young leaders have demonstrated for us the amazing results that can be grown from it.

Our honorees today help to weave these very intangibles together to provide the fabric that is our sense of place. Some of them have overcome moving from across the country, far from their own families and friends; have started a new career or new educational program; have developed a new business; and even started new families, all while taking what little precious personal time they have left to give back, for the benefit of all of us in this room. Despite these challenges, our honorees today have made amazing contributions to our community’s health care, environmental, economic development, finance, technology, corporate social responsibility, disability awareness, international advocacy, civic engagement, entrepreneurship, athletic, and education spheres. They were not afraid that they didn’t have enough experience. They were not afraid that their voices wouldn’t be listened to. They were not afraid of trying something new that perhaps hadn’t been thought of before. They were not afraid that they couldn’t make a difference, or that it wasn’t worth trying. They started by giving back a little bit a time, and their success and impact grew and grew.

We celebrate your hard work, your perseverance when facing these obstacles, and your dedication to an idea greater than yourself. An idea that connects all of us in this room together. An idea we call the Upper Valley.

You should all be proud to be called a “young” leader, and we know you will give back to whatever community you live in—even though we truly hope you will continue to make the Upper Valley your home.

Delivered at Heroes & Leaders celebration 5.24.2017 honoring Young Leaders by Markell Ripps

Meet the 2017 Heroes & Leaders Honorees

 

Merritt Patridge

Merritt Patridge

Merritt Patridge joined the Tuck School of Business in 2015, where she serves as Executive Director of the Center for Business, Government & Society. Prior to Tuck, Merritt worked at The Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science as Program Lead for HCDS Impact Investing and then Director for Strategy and Operations. Her work included ethnographic research to understand the social, cultural, and economic factors of tuberculosis in the mining sector in South Africa and support for the Ministry of Health of Rwanda in their national palliative care strategy. From 2008-2011, Merritt worked as an investment analyst for a $10 billion global long/short equity hedge fund, Maverick Capital. At Maverick, Merritt joined the Board of its philanthropic foundation, where she led grant-making activities, developed analytical tools for evaluating nonprofit organizations and their impact, and set strategic direction. She also managed investment team recruiting. Prior to Maverick, Merritt worked for two years as an investment analyst at Morgan Creek Capital Management, an endowment-style investment firm. She has worked for the Clinton Health Access Initiative in Abuja, Nigeria, and the National Park Service in Jackson, Wyoming. Merritt earned her MBA from Tuck, where she was a Tuck Scholar, and a BA with Honors from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill where she majored in History. She currently serves as President of the Board at the Upper Valley Haven.

 

Dan McGee

Dan McGee

Dan McGee was born and raised in the Upper Valley and returned in 1997 to take a position at Red River, a start-up technology firm. In 2001, Dan became a member of the Red River management team, where he has since served in a variety of roles focused primarily on sales and operational leadership. Today Red River is a 235 person technology transformation company with employees nationwide and offices in Claremont, Reston, Va., and Austin, Texas. Dan is Red River’s President of Operations and responsible for Sales Operations, Program Management, Service Delivery, Technical and Business Operations, and Human Resources. Prior to Red River Dan worked in the financial services industry at SNL Financial in Hoboken, New Jersey. He is a graduate of Bates College (1996) where he majored in Economics. Dan is also a volunteer hockey and soccer coach and has served on several Boards including the Carter Community Building Association, the Red River Charitable Foundation, and Mascoma Savings Bank. Dan lives in Lebanon with his wife Kristin and their three children ages 12, 10, and 8.

 

 

Elyse Crossman

Elyse Crossman has been the Executive Director of the Greater Claremont Chamber of Commerce since 2015 and has focused on rebuilding the Chamber as an essential community influencer for economic development. Under Elyse’s direction, the Chamber has expanded its membership, as well as built on a number of initiatives; Business Before and After Hours, Speed Networking, Lunch n Learns.  Elyse returned to the Connecticut River Valley after graduating from High Point University in 2010.  She has been active in several community based initiatives including Claremont Green Dot, Greater Claremont Concert Series and the Early Childhood Education Leadership Team.  Elyse and her husband reside along the scenic Sugar River in Claremont.

 

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson learned about the resiliency of life by growing up watching her mother, a veterinarian, advocate for animals. While a student at Mount Holyoke College, Emily founded the youth-led nonprofit Cultivating Action, with the mission to build community around environmental solutions. Cultivating Action focuses on bringing the natural world into the classroom by placing aquaponic systems in schools across the country. This closed-loop microcosm of life is a way for students to interact with biology and chemistry in a hands-on way. While on exchange at Dartmouth, Emily joined Stand With Me, a medical nonprofit that produces and distributes pediatric standing frames in the developing world. Her work with that organization took her to South and Central America where she saw firsthand the challenges faced by children with disabilities and their caregivers. These experiences, coupled with her work as a research assistant in Dartmouth’s aquaculture lab, led to Emily’s appreciation of the importance of science-based policy. To further that professional focus, Emily looks forward to attending Oxford’s Enterprise and the Environment Summer School this July and joining the Vermont Law School this fall to begin her Masters in Environmental Law and Policy/Accelerated JD.

 

Gordon Ehret

Gordon Ehret

Gordon Ehret has enjoyed living in the Upper Valley since graduating from Dartmouth in 2002. He is a member of the Leadership Upper Valley class of 2013. He has been an associate at Hypertherm since 2007, serving in various positions in corporate improvement, operations leadership, and now engineering project management. Gordon is committed to helping others and improving this community. Gordon is invested in corporate social responsibility at Hypertherm, both as past chair of the HOPE team, which makes funding decisions for the HOPE Foundation, and as a member of the Green Team, focusing on environmental stewardship. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Granite United Way and chair of their Upper Valley Community Impact Committee. Additionally, he is an Everybody Wins reading mentor at the White River School and a ski instructor for the Rivendell Interstate School District’s ski program. Gordon is on the Advisory Group for Thayer School of Engineering’s Bachelor of Engineering program. In 2014 he was recognized as one of the New Hampshire Union Leader’s “40 Under Forty.” He lives in Orford with his wife, Amanda, and his 6-year-old son Willem and 2-year-old daughter Margaret, who amaze him every day.

 

 

Nicole LaBombard

Nicole LaBombard

Nicole LaBombard works in Community Health at Dartmouth-Hitchcock as the Program Coordinator for Partners for Community Wellness. She has been with D-H since 2014 and enjoys working collaboratively with community members and D-H to support a stronger, healthier population. She is a member of the Leadership New Hampshire class of 2017 and connects with fellow classmates across the state to engage more deeply in the issues and opportunities unique to New Hampshire. Nicole currently serves as Chair of the Upper Valley Young Professionals and has been on the board since 2015, helping to foster connections between young people in the Upper Valley. She is proud to volunteer as an advocate for WISE and is passionate about supporting their mission to end gender-based violence. Nicole grew up in Lebanon and graduated from Dartmouth College in 2009. She returned to Lebanon in 2014 and enjoys staying active, spending time with family, and working on obedience with her dog, Remy.

 

Sam Drazin

Sam Drazin

 

Sam Drazin, an Upper Valley native and former elementary school teacher, is the Founder and Executive Director of Changing Perspectives, a nonprofit organization that promotes disability awareness in schools. Sam was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome – a rare congenital disorder resulting in both facial anomaly and hearing loss. Sam underwent seven surgeries as a child while attending his local public school. Sam’s experiences, both as a student with a disability and as a teacher working in an inclusive classroom, made him recognize the importance of improving awareness and understanding of disabilities. Sam continues to be amazed by the positive impact that disability awareness initiatives are having on students and teachers around the country.

 

 

 

Stephanie Thompson

Stephanie Thompson

Stephanie Thompson is a native of Springfield, Vt., where she serves as Vice Chair of the Select Board and has worked to help improve the circumstances of her community in recent years. She is also Executive Director of the Springfield Prevention Coalition and President of Springfield Project ACTION, the community-based holistic response to the opiate epidemic. She was recently appointed to represent the Vermont League of Cities and Towns on the Governor’s Opiate Coordination Council. Stephanie is also Town Administrator for the Town of Londonderry. Stephanie has a strong passion for her community and state, and for representing those who are often not provided a voice. Stephanie received her undergraduate degrees through the Community College of Vermont and Johnson State College. In 2017, she graduated with a Master’s in Public Administration from Norwich University and began working as an adjunct faculty member with the Community College of Vermont. In addition, Stephanie is a member of Emerge Vermont, a 2016 graduate of the Snelling Center for Government’s Vermont Leadership Institute, and a 2017 Vermont State College Hall of Fame inductee.

 

Holly West

Holly West

Holly West graduated from Mascoma Valley Regional High School in 2000 and went on to earn her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with concentrations in Management Information Systems and Marketing at Northeastern University in Boston. Holly spent the first year after college working in marketing at Kallmann McKinnell & Wood Architects. She then transitioned to a career in information technology (IT) at Eze Castle Integration, where she worked for almost seven years before joining Ascend Learning. After working in IT in Massachusetts for over a decade, Holly, her husband, and son returned to Enfield in November of 2013; they welcomed a daughter to the family in November of 2015. Holly has found many opportunities to volunteer within the community since returning to Enfield. She is President and a founding member of Friends of Mascoma Foundation, and a member of the Enfield Budget Committee, Enfield Capital Improvement Program Committee, Enfield Tax Increment Finance District Committee, Enfield Energy Committee (and actively promoted Solarize Enfield-Lebanon), Community Lutheran Church. Holly is also a volunteer with Mascoma Cooperative Preschool and for Whaleback Mountain (UVSSF), where her husband is Chief Operating Officer and Board member. Holly’s parents have always been active volunteers in the community and set a great example for her and her siblings to follow.

 

Paul Coats

Paul Coats

A southern gentleman who loves the outdoors, Paul Coats was drawn to the Upper Valley first by the Appalachian Trail. After hiking the trail, he moved to the area to become Lebanon’s Recreation Coordinator, and he was promoted to Director of Lebanon Recreation and Parks in 2009. His commitments to the Recreation Department and community development run deep, convinced that our community is healthier and stronger when neighbors gather at beautiful parks, interact at special events, stay physically active in fun programs, and mentor our youth to become better citizens. Paul has actively served on several community-building boards, including the Lebanon Opera House, ReThink Health, Skip Matthews Run, Covered Bridges Half Marathon, Healthy Eating Active Living, DHMC’s Healthy Living Committee, Upper Valley Recreation Association, Upper Valley Running Club, and is the Youth Ministry Coordinator at Valley Bible Church. Paul is married to Kristen Coats, also an active member of the community, and they enjoy skiing, biking, running, hiking, canoeing, camping, snowshoeing, traveling and volunteering. Paul’s education includes a Bachelor of Science from Georgia Tech, and Outdoor Educator from National Outdoor Leadership School.

 

Noah Crane

Noah Crane

Noah Crane is an Upper Valley native and Founder and General Manager of the Upper Valley Nighthawks. A former collegiate baseball player and coach, Crane launched the Nighthawks in the fall of 2015. The Nighthawks are the second summer collegiate baseball conceived and managed by Crane. He spent six years as general manager of the Laconia Muskrats, also a member of the prestigious New England Collegiate Baseball League. Crane is a frequent speaker at college campuses throughout New England on the subjects of entrepreneurship, marketing, and athletics. He serves on the board of Mid Vermont Christian School and CCEF New England. Crane graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a degree in Classical Studies. Noah and his wife, Alyssa, reside in Lebanon with their three children.

Connection, Collaboration & Service

With the graduation of this year’s class of 30 participants, Leadership Upper Valley has trained more than 200 community leaders — from bankers to educators to nonprofit staff and retirees — in its first decade.

The power of the program is the ways in which it connects participants to the community — and to each other — to the benefit of all.

Read the entire article in the Valley News Enterprise Magazine.

30 Community Leaders Graduate from Leadership Upper Valley

Leadership Upper Valley Program Celebrates 10th Anniversary with Largest Class Ever

The largest class yet – 30 participants – graduated from Vital Communities’ Leadership Upper Valley program on June 8 in Windsor, VT. The year-long program aims to inspire, educate, and engage established and emerging leaders to better serve their communities.

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“This program changed the very way we think and interact with one another and with our community,” said graduate Markell Ripps, an attorney at Grossman & Ripps PLLC, who spoke on behalf of the Class of 2016 at the ceremony. “We entered this program as individuals, bankers, nonprofit employees, lawyers, educators, entrepreneurs, CEOs, family care givers, business owners, Vermont and New Hamphsire residents, and we leave as volunteers, future public servants, board members, questioners, and best of all classmates, fellow Upper Valley community members, and friends.”

Established in 2007, Leadership Upper Valley engages participants in 10 day-long sessions from September through June focused on key aspects of community life in the region. Topics include Economic Development, Education, Government and Politics, Arts and the Creative Economy, Communication, Health and Human Services, Environment, Transportation, and Justice.

Including this year’s graduating class, there are now more than 200 Leadership Upper Valley alumni. The Class of 2017 will begin in September.

This year’s graduates include:

Addy Mae Williams, Mascoma Savings Bank

Ayeshah Al-Humaidhi, Upper Valley Humane Society

Brent Edgerton, Kendal at Hanover

Christopher Coughlin, Dartmouth Printing

Cynthia Twombley, West Central Behavioral Health

Daniel McCarthy, Sage Dining Services

Diane Reinhardt, COVER

Elizabeth Long, Twin Pines Housing Trust

Emily Rogers, Hanover Consumer Co-op

Frank Gould, Mascoma River Greenway Coalition

Georgie Sawyer, David’s House

Irene Green, Northern Stage

Jeremy Coylewright, WISE

Jessie Farnham, Frazer Insurance Agency

Kyle Fisher, Listen Community Services

Lindsey Klecan

Lyn Miller, Our Hybrid Lives, LLC

Margaret Monroe-Cassel, TLC Family Resource Center

Marion Steiner, Lake Sunapee Bank

Markell Ripps, Grossman & Ripps, PLLC

Michael Baymiller, Hypertherm

Rachel Abendroth, Dartmouth College

Ron Miller, Sustainable Woodstock

Sadie Wells, Mascoma Savings Bank

Shawn Bard, Ledyard National Bank

Sue Nadeau, Southwestern Community Services

Terri Decker, Claremont Savings Bank

Tim Condon, Cook Little Rosenblatt & Manson, PLLC

Tina Stearns, City of Lebanon

Wendy Farnsworth, Dartmouth-Hitchcock

See more photos from Graduation here.

 

What I Learned About Mentoring From My Mentor, Donella Meadows

At the May 19th Heroes & Leaders celebration of mentors in the Upper Valley, Elizabeth Sawin, Co-Director of Climate Interactive delivered a keynote speech focused on what she learned about mentoring from one of her mentors, long-time Upper Valley resident, Donella (Dana) Meadows. Meadows was the founder of the Sustainability Institute (now the Donella Meadows Institute) and a co-founder of Cobb Hill Co-housing.  Elizabeth worked with her from 1995 until Donella’s death in 2001. We asked Elizabeth to share the list of six traits of mentorship that she outlined in her speech in this blog post.

Donella Meadows influenced so much about my life, especially where I live and the work that I do. In reflecting on how it is that she had such a significant impact, I realized that there were six habits and attitudes that she cultivated that made her a powerful influence not just on me, but on hundreds of other people.

A mentor really sees you, and the goodness in you, and makes you feel special, and chosen, even while you might be one of dozens or hundreds of people who each also feel that special bond. Even fifteen years after her death, I run into people who tell me how much Dana influenced them. Philanthropists, writers, teachers, researchers, all came out of study with her at Dartmouth somehow transformed and found ways to turn that transformation into work in the world. I hear stories from people touched deeply by her genuine desire to hear the essence of their ideas and her willingness to provide practical help to put those ideas into practice.

A mentor makes you jump and stretch and leap and try things you never thought you could. My husband and I, brand new parents, with a brand new mortgage, took a job at Dana’s new institute when she offered it to us. It was a 50% pay cut from our previous jobs and had a guaranteed salary for only six months, and we jumped. Some of our neighbors at Cobb Hill uprooted their lives to join our experiment mostly on the basis of her encouragement. They packed up households, kids, in one case a truckload of farm equipment and animals, on the strength of her vision and her ability to articulate it.

A mentor is so fully herself that she creates a little sliver of space for you to be more fully yourself. Before I knew Dana I knew people who were top-notch thinkers and academics. And I knew people who were intuitive and good at expressing feelings. But I hadn’t met anyone who did both, at the same time. You’ll see that balance today, if you look at her writing, but it was even more apparent in her being. Today, whenever, I am in a group that’s deeply emotional and I feel brave enough to bring in some quantification, or whenever I am in a group that is only looking at analysis and I feel brave enough to talk about my feelings, I feel Dana there, still at my side, reminding me that it is possible – and in fact essential – to bring my full self into this world and into my work.

A mentor finds something to praise and deeply appreciate in whatever you produce. Whatever effort, product or prototype, someone brought her, no matter how amateurish their effort to make the world a better place, Dana embraced it and celebrated it, and then suggested and nudged it just a little further towards excellence.

Mentors allow you to figure things out for yourself and leave you the pleasure and pride of self-discovery, even if you are walking along a path she has already traversed.  As we started to work together I’d have sparkling, shiny ideas for projects we might undertake at her new Institute. I’d bring them to Dana and she’d get excited and encourage me on. It was only after she died, and I began to read essays and papers she’d written before I knew her, that I realized that, for at least several of those brainstorms of mine, she’d already had the idea herself, or most of it, five or ten years ahead of me.

A mentor so empowers you that you believe you did it yourself, and in fact, the illusion is so strong that you did it yourself, that you can keep on doing whatever ‘it’ is even if you loose her. When Dana died so early, so unexpectedly in 2001, the Sustainability Institute was extremely young, and Cobb Hill was still in the construction phase. Both efforts continued in part because of the shared ownership and vision Dana had cultivated in each member of both projects.

 

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