First Alumnae Trustees Reflect on Years of Service

In the early 1990s, the Blair Board of Trustees achieved a milestone in the history of women at Blair by welcoming its first alumnae members, Anne Cramer ’75 (1992) and Melinda (Mitchell) Shumway ’73 (1993). In the ensuing years, both women have dedicated their time, offered their service and brought their voices to the table as Board members. 

Ms. Cramer is entering her 30th year of active Board service. During her tenure, she has been a member of the Covenant, Executive and Governance Committees, as well as Chair of the Governance Committee. In addition, she is an officer of the School, holding the position of Board Secretary. Ms. Cramer was the first woman to receive the Alumnus of the Year award (1998) and, later, she received the School’s highest honor, the Citation of Merit (2015). She also played an integral role on the Head of School Search Committee that selected Blair’s 16th Head of School, Chris Fortunato.

Mrs. Shumway was a member of the Alumni Association Board of Governors from 1979 until 1985 and was subsequently elected to the Board of Trustees, serving two terms from 1993 to 1999 and from 2000 to 2006. She served as co-chair of the Blair Fund in 2006. During her time on the Board, Mrs. Shumway was involved with many Committees, including Buildings and Grounds, Long Range Planning, Strategic Planning, and Education and School Life. She has also volunteered her time engaging her classmates for their 35th, 40th and 45th reunions.

Below Ms. Cramer and Mrs. Shumway share thoughts about their service and memorable moments.

Anne Cramer '75

Anne Cramer ’75: “I was asked by [former Assistant Headmaster for Finance and Development] Dennis Peachey ’62 to be a member of the Alumni Association Board of Governors, then I was invited to be on the Board. The notion of being a Trustee was exciting for me. Traveling back to campus for meetings several times a year, meeting students and being able to see family who lived close by made it extra rewarding.

When I joined, the Board was very focused on fundraising, both for the annual fund and the School’s endowment. With Jack Bogle ’47 as Chair and such an extraordinary leader, it was hard to figure out what role I had as a younger Board member. With my legal background and understanding of governance, my role evolved to help the Board improve governance process, from the nomination procedures to the evaluation of the Head of School. I also encouraged the selection of Board candidates who would diversify the Board, especially by opening the opportunity for Board service to more women and younger alumni. I am proud of my role as part of the Head of School Search Committee for Blair’s 16th Head of School, Chris Fortunato, and also of my advisory role as a School officer.

A moment I remember most fondly from my first years on the Board took place while Jim Howard, who was the Headmaster when I went to Blair, served on the Board. I have the highest respect for Mr. Howard, and I would describe him as a larger-than-life person. He was dignified and formal. During a Board meeting, architects presented the plan for a major campus redesign. The biggest change was removing the road from the center of campus and creating a road on the outer edge. Mr. Howard’s reaction to this new design was out of the norm for him, as he exclaimed an emphatic ‘Wow!’ We were all stunned, but his reaction truly showed the Board’s excitement for the future of the campus and School.

Seeing the campus change and grow over the years has truly been amazing. To this day, I am very honored to be a member of the Board of Trustees, and I look forward to seeing the School continue to excel in the years to come.”

Melinda Shumway

Melinda (Mitchell) Shumway ’73: “The opportunity to become a Trustee arose during my time as an Alumni Association Board of Governors member. At that time, I made the case for more women on the Board, as well as bringing on Trustees who could contribute to the growth of the School and provide a younger perspective. Being asked was a true honor.

When I joined, the Board consisted of an older generation making decisions for a younger generation. I felt I could be a voice for the women and girls of Blair. I was able to give a unique perspective as an alumna and a parent. In addition, several of my friends’ children were applying to boarding schools, and I was able to give my viewpoint from that perspective.

As part of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, I contributed different insights to the new changes on campus. When the design for Annie Hall was presented, I offered a perspective to make sure the exterior aesthetic not only matched the existing architecture of the campus but that it also appealed to the eye. I was a strong proponent of the new gym, now located in Hardwick Hall; it took some time to get the Board behind that project. It's not easy to raise money for a gym, and although the faculty was definitely in favor of it, the Board took some convincing. I knew we were one of the last schools in our tier that hadn't addressed athletic facilities. Additionally, I met with the Girl Scouts to get the conversation going again about the sale of the property adjacent to campus. This conversation opened the door for Blair to purchase what later became the Siegel Property. 

My fondest memories have been watching Blair’s growth over the years, and this includes the Siegel Property coming to fruition. However, anytime I think about my time on the Board, I remember the late Chairman Emeritus Jack Bogle ’47 and the many heartfelt, moving stories he shared. I always get sentimental thinking back about those meetings.”

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