After a national search, the WRA Board of Trustees and Head of School Search Committee unanimously selected Suzanne Walker Buck as WRA's 32nd Head of School. After months of excitement and anticipation, the WRA community now has its new leader on campus. Buck will be the first woman at the helm of the school, making history and marking a new chapter for Reserve.
After graduating with an anthropology degree from Connecticut College and Master's degrees from Columbia and Harvard Universities, Buck chose to make boarding schools her life's work. Buck has held posts at Fay School (CT), New Hampton School (NH) and most recently served as the rector at Chatham Hall, an all-girls boarding school in Virginia. Buck's engagement with boarding schools is rich with experience. She serves on the Boards of The Association of Boarding Schools and the Enrollment Management Association and she is a graduate of both the Fay School and Miss Porter's School (CT).
She says she knew as early as the fifth grade that the world of boarding schools held a magic spell and could always foresee returning to work in such an extraordinary environment.
"When I went to boarding school, I knew I mattered," she said. "I thrived in the boarding community. My teachers were so inspiring! I just felt it was always such an amazing opportunity to be guided by professionals who honored my individuality and encouraged my growth and interests. Transformative. This is perhaps the only word that comes close to describing the boarding school experience."
Buck will reside on campus in Pierce House — a historic residence built in 1855 that sits on the north end of WRA's 190-acre campus — with her husband Johnny Buck, who also attended boarding school, and their 12-year-old daughter, Halsey. One of Buck's first actions on campus is to make sure Pierce House serves the WRA student body. Events like movie nights are in the works and a new gathering space for students has already been created, stocked with everything from student artwork to Gatorades.
The Bucks look forward to opening their doors to WRA students and giving Halsey (who will be a middle school student at Old Trail School) the surrogate brothers and sisters she has come to expect after growing up in boarding schools.
Johnny Buck joins the WRA faculty in the Fine & Performing Arts Department teaching Foundational, 2-Dimensional Art and Environmental Art. Additionally, in the winter, he will be hosting his ECHO, Upcycling, in which students will reuse and repurpose otherwise unwanted and unused materials in creative and innovative ways.
The Bucks exude infectious energy and warmth, and they promise to be a visible part of Reserve's close culture. They're known for taking walks across campus, attending games and performances, eating meals in the dining hall with students, hosting study hours and game nights in their home and meeting as many people in their community as possible. In fact, Buck has chosen to have a second office in the epicenter of student life inside Seymour Hall — the academic heart of campus — where she plans to start each day.
Buck's vision for WRA is rooted in joy, and Buck is both a student and an example of it. Her pursuit and embodiment of joy is not simply for the sake of feeling happy, positive or fulfilled (though what could be better?). Buck knows that beyond its face value, joy has strategic underpinnings for education that align with progressive research in psychology and neuroscience.
The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), says, "If you were to ask students for a list of adjectives that describe school, it's doubtful that 'joyful' would make the list. Yet the hearts and minds of children and young adults are wide open to the wonders of learning and the fascinating complexities of life."
Buck's plans, unified behind the pursuit of joy, will touch every corner of campus. From a curricular standpoint, this means furthering an academic program that encourages the thrill of collaboration, discovery and forward-thinking.
"Joy is not the antithesis of rigor," she said. "It is central to learning and I see it in many places at WRA. "There is so much innovation across the curriculum and Reserve's programmatic offerings. The Integrated Studies and Design (ISD) Department and classes like Compass give students the chance to create, soar and stand out. And our Cancer Immunology course? What a tremendous offering and partnership with the Cleveland Clinic. The Wang Innovation Center was created expressly to spark joy and discovery."
Another of Buck's early priorities is a road trip that is being dubbed "The Buck Stops Here" tour. It will take Buck across the country to meet WRA alumni and prospective students. The very first stop will take place very close to home in the backyard of Pierce House. The tour continues through the fall with stops in several cities including New York City and Chicago.
The 2019-20 school year at Western Reserve Academy begins on Monday, August 19. We can't wait for this exciting chapter. Welcome Bucks!