When Cathie Buffett first applied for the position of Director of Health Services at Western Reserve Academy, she phoned former Business Manager Leonard S. Carlson who promptly called her in for an interview.
More than 20 years later, Buffett received the service award named in Carlson's honor.
"It feels like I've come full circle winning this award, because I owe Len my gratitude for hiring me," Buffett said.
When Buffett first came to WRA, she brought with her 10 years of experience working in school health services as a nurse and educator. With nursing experience in six specialty areas, she found school health nursing to be the most interesting. She worked in two large elementary schools in Texas and taught reproductive health classes in Virginia. When she moved to Ohio, she worked in the Brecksville school district, and then at Hawken School.
Impressed with her experience and credentials as a Registered Nurse, Licensed School Nurse and National Board Certified School Nurse, WRA hired Buffett in 1997, and she immediately began working to improve the school's health services.
At the time, WRA used an "infirmary model," where a nurse would house sick students for School Physician Dr. Steven Johnson to visit every weekday evening. When Buffett took over, she pushed for a more comprehensive approach to school health, with an emphasis on preventative care.
"My passion is helping students learn to take care of themselves," Buffett said. "No one can take better care of us than we can. Working with teenagers gives me the energy to keep going. I love everything I do in this job."
Buffett's joy and enthusiasm is contagious, and her colleagues admire her commitment to serving others.
"Cathie is an extremely dedicated nurse, and in her many years with WRA, she has always treated every student and parent with respect," said Health Services Administrative Assistant Diane Bunnell.
In fact, on the day she received the Leonard S. Carlson Award, Buffett almost missed the ceremony because she had planned to work all day in preparation for the first day of classes.
Thankfully, a chance encounter with Head of School Christopher D. Burner '80 convinced her to attend.
"I tried telling Chris that I wouldn't be able to hear his remarks that morning because I had too much work, but he told me that I'd be pleased if I attended."
At the time, Buffett was unsure of what this meant and assumed he must have written a speech he wanted her to hear. The furthest thing from her mind was the idea that she would win an award.
"I was completely shocked," Buffett recalled. "It was an incredibly humbling experience, and it's wonderful to feel appreciated."
When her name was announced, those in attendance gave Buffett a standing ovation that rang throughout the Chapel.
Burner thanked Buffett for her years of service to Reserve and praised her for the time and dedication she brings to the school each day.
"Cathie has served our students with care and expertise for years. She always has the best interests of our students in mind. She is a deserving recipient of this recognition," said Burner.
After the ceremony, Buffett joined the faculty for lunch in Ellsworth Dining Hall. Colleagues hugged and congratulated her for the much-deserved distinction, and many reminisced about their time together at WRA.
However, she did not stay long. Back at the Health Center, there was a job to do.
With a smile on her face, she quickly walked back to her office and got back to work.