Sometimes, people behind the scenes are making more happen than others can imagine. Tracy Schooner is perhaps one of the best examples. The Assistant to the Head of School is not one to pat herself on the back, but her courtesy, consideration and seemingly effortless efficiency is well known across campus. These are among the many reasons Schooner was selected as this year's recipient of the Leonard S. Carlson award.
The award is named for Leonard S. Carlson, who showed exemplary service in the Business Office until his retirement, and is given to a staff member who has shown a profound commitment to the school, an unwavering work ethic and a merit that warrants recognition.
As the assistant to WRA's Head of School Christopher D. Burner, Schooner controls the ebb and flow of traffic into his office, balances his travel schedule, daily commitments and whatever appointments he may have with various alumni, parents, students, faculty and more.
Working so closely with our Head of School means she knows Burner better than most, and she is enthusiastic in praising the man she calls her boss, colleague and friend.
"Chris is a very good listener," she said. "People may not realize this, but he listens to everything and will surprise you. You could have a conversation one day and a year from now, he might bring it up again. I've seen him do this with alumni, parents, students — and now that I've noticed it, I have started looking for it. It's very considerate. It puts people at ease."
Additionally, Schooner is a devoted liason for the Board of Trustees. On the weeks when the Board is in town, Schooner is in charge of more than 30 people's time on campus and makes sure each minute passes smoothly and efficiently. Over the years, she has gotten to know the various members well and says she enjoys interacting with such a talented, esteemed group.
When Trustees are not on campus, Schooner will continue to communicate with different members and provide any updates and resources they may need.
Because she is one of the key coordinators of several major school events, Schooner is part of some of the very best memories students have of Reserve. She organizes the kick off and finale of the school year, with August's Convocation in the Chapel and the late May Commencement ceremony on the Chapel lawn. She is responsible for details big and small — she even orders the very diplomas handed to our graduating Pioneers!
"Here's the thing," she said. "If you put it all on paper, it looks like a lot! But I would not be able to do anything or make it look as easy as sometimes people say — if I didn't have the help of so many people."
She keeps careful record of her responsibilities and you'll often see her with a yellow pad in hand, crossing items off her list and taking careful notes. Organization is key in her role, and she was taught this when trained by her mentor — and mother — Fran McHugh, after she retired in December of 2014.
Prior to this, Schooner worked in the Communications Office as the website manager and before that, in the John D. Ong Library as a part time assistant. She feels lucky to have her mother as her predecessor and has relied on her careful organization, something she tries to emulate in the role.
On the day of the start of school meeting for faculty and staff, Schooner was happy to see a Chapel full of faculty and staff after the slow and relaxing summer months. There had been a slight change to the usual routine of that morning; ordinarily, she would receive a copy of Burner's remarks, and he would ask her to jot down any updates or notes for his reference. This means that she usually knows the Leonard S. Carlson award recipient ahead of time, but this year Burner changed the format.
"He just had a series of bulleted talking points, and he only had a mark for the Carlson award," she said. "I honestly didn't really think about it."
This meant when the news of her recognition was announced, she was genuinely taken aback.
"I was floored!" she said. "So surprised and so eternally grateful. I am joining the ranks of some people and colleagues that I really, really think the world of, and I cannot believe I am part of that group."
She says it is an incredible privilege to be added to the plaque of names bearing this honor and considers herself lucky to work at a place like WRA.
"After hearing about WRA from my parents and sister, Erin McHugh Saif '97, then actually working here and raising my children, Caitlyn '16 and Garrett, throughout many years on campus, I am fortunate that Reserve has provided such a wonderful backdrop to our lives," she said. "And what isn't there to like? It's a beautiful place, and everyone is so kind, respectful, and helpful. Each staff and faculty member on campus just really wants the best for everyone else, with the student experience as the ultimate goal. It's such a great place to work.