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PLT Meeting with Bruce Dennis

By Noah Reinhardt, Assistant Head of School and Middle School Division Head

When Bruce first came to Packer, he made a point of meeting with as many people in the community as possible. He asked all of us the same three questions: What’s most important about Packer that should stay the same? What’s something that should change? What would take Packer from good to great?

Sitting with him that first time, I was anxious because I was introducing myself to my new boss and I wanted him to know how much I knew and understood about the School. I remember thinking how honest that space with him felt, and how important it was to share what I really thought to be true about Packer. I also was aware, as we sat together for the first time, that this was going to be the beginning of one of the most important, sustained relationships of my career.

The significance of that relationship has manifested in so many ways over the years. I have had the opportunity to learn from Bruce and to sit with him as he navigated complex decisions and juggled competing agendas and priorities.

A number of people have commented on how well Bruce handles crises, and it’s true. That’s one of the things I admire most about him. Even in the most strained times, when the path forward is least clear, Bruce does an extraordinary job of rallying people around a common vision and moving forward with clarity and purpose.

In addition to Bruce’s ability to stay calm under pressure, I admire his courage and willingness to enter into and to sustain any conversation about anything with anyone, and his ability to do so with full confidence that he will reach the other side of it even if he’s not sure where it will end.

On a less important but equally impressive note, I envy Bruce’s ability to speak in full sentences, without tangential asides. Fourteen years into working with him and I’m still not even close.

When Bruce talks about his legacy at Packer, he most often talks about the hires he’s made and cites those of us who will carry on the work of the School after he’s gone. What he doesn’t talk about as much is the support he’s given to so many of us, and the growth that so many of us have had under his leadership. I appreciate his willingness to mentor the people who work most closely with him, to talk with us about our hopes and dreams, and to help us realize them in our professional lives, both at Packer and beyond. He is the most supportive mentor that I’ve ever had. Of all of the aspects of Bruce’s legacy, I think that that will ultimately be the most significant piece.