Friday, March 19, 2010

Finishing My Stay in Florida, Several Educational Upates, Essex Heritage Grants Committee to Meet Next week


Finishing our Winter Vacation in Florida

As I prepare this posting to Essex Happenings, I am getting closer and closer to the time when I will be returning to Essex County. The six weeks that my wife and I spent in the Tampa/St Petersburg section of Florida has always been a most pleasant part of the year. We get to spent a pleasant period with lifelong friends of ours from Peabody, and continue a wonderful traveling relationship that goes back to the days when our children were just born. The weather here this year was not what we have come to expect as it was considerably cooler than usual, but still was a most pleasant time as are able to escape from the end of the winter period in New England, and during the last two weeks we were here the weather was more like Florida.

All that said, as we get closer to our return date to New England in the morning, I could truthfully say that I am looking forward to getting back to the work of Essex Heritage. During the time we have been here we have been able to play a little golf, read a substantial number of wonderful books including Senator Ted Kennedy’s memoir, Moral Compass. I have been putting off reading that book, as the Senator was so close to the work we are doing at Essex Heritage that I wanted to let a little time pass before reading the memoir. I am glad I waited a bit and truly enjoyed the presentation. While we have been here I took advantage of the nicer weather with no snow or ice on the roads to take a wonderful long walk virtually every day of our stay. The terrain here is mostly flat and there is a stretch of wonderful beach where one can enjoy a walk as the waves either crash or lap onto the beach depending on the weather. I made a commitment to walking a substantial distance every day, and for the most part met that commitment. I also took out a seasonal membership in an active community YMCA in St. Petersburg, and participated a several workouts at that facility that offered all that one could ask for, to keep active as well. The time has passed quickly and I hope that I offered some observations of what happens here in this region that you have enjoyed, “participating’ in a way in our winter sojourn. See you all soon around the region, and it will be good to get back to work at Essex Heritage on Monday, March 22, 2010.

Regional Educational Initiatives

In the past, I have devoted some space in these entries to regional educational initiatives, as education has always been important to me. In the past I have had the good fortune to serve at several levels in both public and private schools. Several tears ago, when the Salem Partnership fostered an Adopt a School program in Salem, I served for a couple of years on a school council at the Bentley School in Salem. I later served Salem State College when the current President of North Shore Community College was the Dean of the Business School at the College. Salem State organized a business advocacy group who could speak out for the business school if needed, and I served as President of that group. That school is doing very well now under the leadership of Dr. Brewer Doran, and now the school is helping Essex Heritage undertake a survey that will help us measure the value of quality of life issues in Essex County,

When Dr. Wayne Burton became the President of the North Shore Community College I agreed to serve on his Foundation Board, and today I still serve on the Board, and find that work most gratifying as we continue to try to help provide for students who might not have the college opportunity without that support. I serve on a scholarship Committee at the college and we are about to embark on a series of community breakfasts to help bring attention to those needs. The first of those informational breakfasts will be held at the school next Friday morning.

Just a couple of days ago, I noted the Golden Anniversary that Bishop Fenwick is currently celebrating, and I am pleased to say that until last year I served a term on that board as they continue to provide quality private education to this region’s youth. The school continues to provide wonderful opportunities to youth in the region, and I am proud to still be able to help that regional institution from time to time.

It is likely clear from my past postings, that I have a special affection for St. John’s Prep in Danvers. I am a proud Golden Eagle Alumni and in the past served three plus terms on the Board of Trustees of that school. Even today I serve as the co-chair of an endowment committee that seeks to develop gifts from fellow alumni to perpetuate the good work being accomplished at the Prep. I had two sons graduate from the Prep in the 1980’s, a wife who worked at the school’s Guidance Office for a quarter century, and even now I have a grandson, Brendan Leonard who in his junior year at the Prep who will become a member of the Prep alumni association when he graduates in 2011.

A couple of days ago, the Prep made public a plan that has been in the planning stage for about a year or so, that focused on a transition of leadership at the school. Headmaster Dr. Skip Shannon, who has taken the school to new levels since he became the first ever lay Headmaster at the Prep about a decade ago will in the future assume the role of Headmaster Emeritus and he will be replaced as Headmaster by the current school Principal and chief operating officer, Dr. Edward Hardiman. During the time that Dr Shannon has been in charge the wonderful campus with its college type environment have been updated, and the facility that he will soon turn over the Ed Hardiman is in superb condition. Skip Shannon has accomplished much during his tenure, and the school and all of its students, parents, alumni and friends are all better off for his attention to the needs of the school. I still serve as a Trustee Emeritus at the Prep and in the last several years I have seen what Dr. Hardiman can accomplish and I look forward to working with him in the future as he continues the traditions established over the past century, by Dr, Shannon and the wonderfully dedicated Xaverian Brothers like Brother Bill Drinan CFX, and Brother Ed Keefe CFX who preceded Skip Shannon. I am most confidant that the Prep, even with the recent disclosure of an allegation of financial mismanagement by a former employee is in wonderful hands with Dr. Hardiman at the helm, and I look for continuing good times under his leadership.

Several Projects will be Addressed in the First Full Week Back

During my first week back at the office I will have the good fortune to participate in the work of the Essex Heritage Partnership Grant Committee as they work to choose from a series of grant applicants to name some new grant winners. I also have a couple of personal activities that I a looking forward to when I return, I have a dinner planned with two wonderful friends from my days at Salem Five, and my wife and I are truly looking forward to that dinner. We will also help serve a dinner in Danvers to those in need along with other members of the St. Richard’s Parish Council. I also want to encourage any of you who have any questions or need any additional information about the work of Essex Heritage to feel free to contact me at any time.

As always we value your comments, questions and observations about the work of Essex Heritage. Please contact me with your thoughts at Thanks. Tom Leonard

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