My great-aunt passed away last week at the age of 100. Quite a remarkable woman. She gave up driving at 98, and she had all her faculties about her until the last month or two, when they began to slip, even though her long-term memory remained as sharp as a tack.
Driving home from the funeral service last evening, I couldn't help but marvel at her life span, and what that meant for organizations to which she was attached. For example, she was a member of the same church for 100 years. That meant that she remembered when the preaching changed from German to English, among myriad other changes and evolutions.
100 years with the same organization! Of course, that got me thinking about centenarians and schools. Those folks who are around 100 years old right now have been around longer than the majority of independent schools in the United States. Imagine being able to tap into someone who has 100 years (more or less) with your school...wouldn't that be (potentially) powerful? One wonders what stories they might share, what changes they agreed (and disagreed) with, how many heads of school they might have seen pass through the school, not to mention how many school sites they might have seen (starting out in one location, moving to another, then building a third, etc.). Their testimony to the life of a school would be noteworthy. One hopes that development offices and heads are making connections with these folks, helping to fill in the "story of the school."
In contemplating my great-aunt's life, I had to marvel at her capacity for patience and perspicacity, meaning that I admired how she was able to weather change beautifully, always considering the good that would come in the long-term. In that sense, she is a model for boards of trustees, whose focal point should be on the "school-that-is-becoming..." That sense of duty toward an institution is what separates successful schools from failing ones: patience and perspicacity help to steer the ship on a steady course.