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retirement tribute sarah buchanan

A Retirement Tribute to Sarah Buchanan

Anne Stringham
Anne Stringham, former Ensworth Director of Communications, has written about her friend and long-time colleague, Sarah Buchanan, who concluded her time at Ensworth this year.

From All Sides: Dedicated Educator Sees Ensworth from Many Perspectives

Remember the ancient tale about the blind men who are asked to describe an elephant? Each one examined a different part of the elephant—trunk, legs, tail – by touch and described the animal as long and snake-like, thick and tree-like, skinny and rope-like. Well, one long-time educator has an in-depth knowledge of Ensworth like few others could attain—from a broad range of perspectives gained over the past 32 years. You could say that Dr. Sarah Buchanan knows the reality of the animal – the Ensworth Tiger of course, not an elephant! – from its head to its tail.

As Dr. Buchanan concludes her time at Ensworth, it is astounding to consider the many roles she has played, the numerous hats she has worn, and the myriad ways in which she has helped to make Ensworth the teaching and learning environment it is today. Dr. B began her career at Ensworth in September 1989 in the Pre-First Grade (now Kindergarten) classroom, helping the youngest Tigers get off to a great start. She later became Lower School Division Head with responsibilities for faculty and students in Grades Pre-First through Fourth. Her perspectives on the programs and people of the school community were deepened by the enrollment of the three sons she shares with husband Bob Buchanan, giving her the parent-of-Tigers experience. The Buchanan alumni include Buck ’91, John ’92, and Edward ’97.

As the school continued to grow and serve more students and their families, Dr. Buchanan’s roles likewise expanded. Her most recent service has been as Associate Head of School and Director of Enrollment Management, overseeing K-12 Admissions and Financial Aid. Along the way, she has served as a team member or co-chair of numerous school accreditation teams for the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS) and has delivered many presentations at SAIS conferences. She has provided leadership and coordination for Ensworth’s own self-studies and accreditation events, as well.

Dr. Buchanan led a faculty development program in Beijing, China in 2008 as the school began the addition of Mandarin into the World Languages curriculum and developed a partnership between Ensworth and the World Leadership School that has provided summer service learning trips around the world for Ensworth’s middle and high school students since 2005. Recognizing faculty continuing education as essential to providing an excellent student experience, she has continued her own academic journey, following up her B.A. in Mathematics from Vanderbilt University with a Master’s in Mathematics and, ultimately, a Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instructional Leadership from Vanderbilt. She taught as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt from 2006 to 2011.

From teaching to recruiting faculty to helping guide faculty and curriculum development to overseeing the admissions program for Ensworth’s thirteen grades, with healthy doses of scheduling, service learning, and parent communications, right down to crosswalk greeting in the mornings, Sarah Buchanan’s involvement across Ensworth’s many aspects is incredible. But beyond the titles and responsibilities, it is Sarah’s dedication and sincere care and concern for the people of Ensworth—students, teachers, staff, alumni, and families—that have distinguished her career.

Former Head of School Will Moseley: “Sarah is a true professional in every sense of the word. She is one of the most talented, dedicated, and inspirational educators I have ever known, and I am grateful to have had the privilege of working with her. Her contributions begin with her unconditional love for Ensworth, enhanced by her can-do attitude and willingness to take on all challenges and opportunities, and capped by her unwavering commitment to the kids. Ensworth is truly a better place as a result of her many years of service.”

Former Headmaster Kirk Walker: “The first time that I met Sarah, I could tell that she was smart and insightful. I soon learned that she also had an intuitive sense of people (both children and adults) as well as a generous heart. Whatever tasks she was asked to do, her gifts always shone through. Her spirit and her efforts always made Ensworth better.”

Rebekah Capps, Director of Admissions K-8: “Sarah’s loyalty and deep love of Ensworth motivated her to care for this place in a way that made it better. She was never afraid to push for improvement because she believed in our program and its potential. As a colleague, Sarah always had my back. She offered support, gave honest feedback, and allowed me the freedom to do my work to the best of my ability. Her departure will leave a void that is hard to fill. I am forever thankful for her friendship and guidance.”

Former Head of Lower School Bruce Libonn: “Pity the poor school without Sarah Buchanan on the faculty…who willingly undertakes any job that needs to be done…who carries the institutional memory of the school as lived experience and uses it to calmly face any and every challenge in the life of a vibrant community…whose door is always open to colleagues who need to vent, express a question or concern, or seek advice on how best to help a student in need.

My own family’s first firm step toward the adventure of life in Nashville, a place where we knew no one, came through a call on a Saturday afternoon in wintry Connecticut. When I answered the phone, I was astonished to hear Sarah ask if I had any questions or concerns about Ensworth and say that she would be happy to discuss them. I remember thinking ‘What kind of school is this, where someone calls - on a weekend – to follow up? It’s the kind of school I want to join.’

Sarah’s service to Ensworth, to its children and its adults, has often been quiet, offered in ways that not everyone may notice. I have no doubt that this pleases her. She has been content to be a strong support behind the scenes. Those of us who have worked closely with her know, however, the depth of that strength and support for this place that she loves. I am so grateful to have had the chance to know her, to work with her, and to call her my friend.”

Ricky Bowers, Associate Head of School and Athletic Director, spoke about Sarah in an end-of-year faculty meeting, gathering descriptions of her from several long-time colleagues:
  • “Sarah will get the work done…Give it to Sarah…
  • Sarah can do it … Sarah will do it.”
  • Boss Lady-Always positive and present
  • Might show up at any trip just to be supportive
  • Loyal, devoted, committed…Inspirational educator
  • Unwavering commitment to the kids…Unconditional love for Ensworth
  • Selfless team player, consummate utility fielder, jack of all trades
  • Takes care of everyone…Kind
  • Unflappable, Wise, Tireless, Devoted
  • Steady, Steadfast, Solid, Selfless
  • Sounding board, respected confidante
  • Sarah gives…Below the radar…Does not want the credit
Ricky Bowers continued: “Without Sarah’s love and care and humble demonstration of the Ensworthian kindness, I really wonder how things would be different. She was living our Vision Statement before we wrote it. I know personally of examples of what are likely thousands of behind-the-scenes acts of ‘the highest principles with the greatest love.’ So, Sarah, on behalf of all of us you have loved and cared for in your own private, intentional, humble, and generous way, we thank you, we appreciate you, we love you, and we will most certainly miss you.”

Head of School David Braemer: Schools are about people and great schools are about great people. Suffice it to say, Sarah Buchanan is one of those great people. Every major initiative at Ensworth in the last 32 years has been positively impacted by Sarah through her vision, commitment, and leadership. Even more significant than what she has accomplished during her tenure at Ensworth is how she has gone about doing it. With grace, humility, and a strong sense of purpose, Sarah has modeled ideals that are core to who we aspire to be as a school. In the process, she has served as a daily reminder to all of us about what it means to be intellectually curious, to use one’s talents to the fullest, to be a person of integrity, and to be a contributor to society. Without question, Ensworth is a more caring, more engaging, more inspiring school because of Sarah, and I know that I am a better educator, leader, and person as a result of the time I have spent working with her. I cannot thank Sarah enough for all that she has done for Ensworth and for all of us who have had the privilege of being her friends and colleagues.
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