Welcome to Trustees, Faculty, Staff, Parents, Alumni, Parents of Alumni, Grandparents, and Friends.
My name is Debbie Juantorena, and as Chair of Packer’s Board of Trustees and a proud Packer parent of alumni, it is an honor to welcome you to this historic occasion: the installation of Packer’s Head of School, Dr. Jennifer Weyburn. In Packer’s nearly 200-year history, we have only gathered for this occasion nine prior times. We are all here because of the dedication and service of those who came before us. Sitting in our beautiful, historic Chapel, you can’t help but have a sense of both our School’s rich history and its hopeful future.
Before I share a few reflections, I want to recognize the efforts of the many awesome people at Packer who dedicate their time and service so we can join together on this very busy weekend as a community. Thank you for all that you do.
I also want to take a moment to acknowledge the Trustees and Faculty who devoted countless hours, including many long summer weekends, to Packer through their service on the Head of School Search Committee:
Last, I want to recognize Ronan Harty, who chaired the Search process. Ronan’s commitment to excellence and to our community is admirable and should be lauded. Thank you, Ronan.
As many of you have heard me say before, the hiring of the Head of School is the most important work. The Board of Trustees — and prior boards at Packer — have done an extraordinary job. As a result, we had Dr. Bruce Dennis for 15 years. And I have to confess, once we had to start this process, we all realized we were out of practice and lacking experience.
But in addition to a remarkable tenure that allowed Packer to thrive and advance in numerous ways, Bruce gave us one last gift, and that was the gift of time — the time we needed as a board to plan for this crucial assignment. I am very proud of the work that we did, as it demonstrated Packer at its very best, and I couldn't be more delighted with the outcome: the appointment of Dr. Jennifer Weyburn as our 10th Head of School.
The Head of School search process is unique, and it's different from what we do in corporate America and I would imagine in some other places. Our process began with introducing ourselves to potential candidates that the search firm had found. My first interaction with Jen was over Skype. Ronan and I had scheduled a call with her. She was in Copenhagen, and we had negotiated a reasonable time, given the time-zone difference. As we started the call, what was so clear through an electronic medium was Jen's energy. It was palpable. She was also prepared for what was not supposed to be an interview. She nailed it.
It continued her presence when she came in July for what was a very long and arduous interview process with the Search Committee. Her thoughtfulness and her intellect came through during that time. The search for a head of school also has a unique attribute because, while the candidates have to sell themselves to you, we have to sell ourselves to the candidates. While many of us think New York and Brooklyn are wonderful, we cannot assume others feel the same way! You have to entertain the candidate, as well as their family. So, during the August summer heat and unpredictable weather, we had made arrangements for Jen and her family to join us in Brooklyn to learn about the wonderful aspects of the borough. The first thing that happened was Garrett, Will, and Louise were stranded and didn't make it to New York that first day of the long weekend.
Jen showed up. It was a Saturday, it was pouring rain. It was awful, and we had arranged for an outdoor walking tour of Prospect Park with giant umbrellas, and with Sue Donahue, the head of the Prospect Park Alliance, taking us around. Jen showed a level of flexibility and easygoing-ness, which was wonderful. I was so grateful, because, as you can imagine, I was dying inside.
I also had the opportunity during that weekend to see another side of Jen, the mother. We spent a long time with the family, and we dragged her children to a dinner with trustees. I leave that to your imagination! Watching her motivate and encourage her children, watching how wonderfully well behaved they were that evening was impressive, and was yet another indicator that we were on the right path. To me — at that time and after subsequent sessions at the school with the parents, with faculty, with alumni, with the student body — it became clear that Jen and Packer were a perfect match. Jen's skill set aligns perfectly with Packer's core values of scholarship, creativity, diversity, integrity, joy, and respect.